Back in the saddle: Educator comes out of retirement to help teachers

MERCEDES — It didn’t take long after Dr. Roland Arriola, 69, retired to figure out that going from high tech education to green thumbing wasn’t his cup of tea.

The excitement of growing fruit and vegetables in his backyard didn’t quite match the joy he experienced in developing and promoting world-class science, engineering and technology educational programs.

“Even though green thumbing was fun, I found that it didn’t give me the heart-pumping excitement I got from opening new avenues of educational attainment for young men and women,” said Arriola, a longtime vice president at UT-Pan American.

“It was at that point that I decided to get back to doing my life’s work.”

“I decided that I needed to get back to doing what I loved,” Arriola said, “and I got together with some very smart people to launch the Texas Valley Communities Foundation (TVCOF), a nonprofit organization that would help to empower and transform communities through education and innovation.”

Through a concerted effort, Arriola and his team were able to bring Ivy League and other nationally-renowned university programs to the Valley. Through an affiliation with Harvard University, math teachers from area schools are able to complete a graduate degree in Mathematics for Teaching at the Texas Graduate Center, a component of TVCOF.

Raised in a loving family of 10 — their father generated income as a salesman — Arriola said his parents were the role models who not only sacrificed on behalf of their children, but imparted words of wisdom they have never forgotten.

“I remember how I looked up to my mother, and she would keep saying, ‘Mijito (my little son), you just have to finish your education, you have to do this’,” Arriola said.

“They are so busy trying to keep their families fed, working hard, but we still have to find a way to provide them with training on how to help their children be successful in school.”

Ten years after retiring from his post as vice president of external affairs for UTPA, Arriola continues to impact thousands of student’s lives through his innovative ideas in education.