BY Amanda Sotelo,
It was 1982. The United States President was Ronald Reagan, Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” album was released, E.T. The Extraterrestrial warmed the hearts of millions, a gallon of gas was 91 cents and Jose Salas began his career at Texas State Technical College.
The TSTC Welding Technology instructor was recently honored at TSTC’s Employee Appreciation Day for his 35 years of service to the college.
“I’ve had an amazing career and great opportunities at TSTC,” said Salas. “I wake up ready to work and leave fulfilled every day. TSTC has been good to me.”
The Harlingen native began as a part-time employee in the Central Receiving department at what was then Texas State Technical Institute.
When he took the job he had just withdrawn from Pan American University, now the University of Rio Grande Valley, where he was studying kinesiology, to help his brother manage the grocery story their parents had left them when they died.
“By 11 years old I had lost both my parents to health issues and it was my grandmother who raised us six kids,” said Salas. “So it was only right that I help my brother out, but I wanted more.”
So, a year later, he took a full-time opportunity with Welding Technology in the tool crib issuing tools, supplies and equipment to welding students and decided to enroll as a welding student as well.
“My father was a welding fabricator in the 1940’s so that’s where my interest in welding comes from,” said Salas. “This was a perfect match for me.”
Salas is proof that it is never too late to earn a degree and make your dream come true.
He didn’t earn his associate degree in Welding Technology until recently in 2004, nearly two decades after he started.
Working by day and taking classes by night, Salas took his time, even gaining other opportunities during his career at TSTC as a maintenance mechanic, welding lab assistant and full-time faculty.
“TSTC is the ‘Jewel of the Valley,’ that’s what I call it,” said Salas. “We are in the business of changing students’ lives and their journey becomes ours.”
Salas said his favorite part of his job is watching his students grow and lead successful lives and careers.
“It’s my students who keep me going,” he said. “People tell me I’ll never be rich doing what I do, but I always tell them that I don’t need to be rich. I’m happy, I’m making a difference and to me that’s rewarding.”
TSTC Welding Instructor Kenny Moore has known Salas for nearly 30 years and has worked with him for at least two decades.
Moore first met Salas as a welding student in the 1980’s.
“Jose would issue us our tools. His care for us as students was always evident in the way he would go above and beyond,” said Moore. “Little did I know that I would get to work with him someday and I’m so happy to be able to work side by side a man of integrity who still cares so much about his students.”
Moore added, “I hope our department and TSTC is lucky enough to have him around for a few more years. I couldn’t ask for a better guy to work with.”
The 60-year-old Salas said his goal is to hit 40 years at TSTC.
“I plan on staying around as long as I am able to and there is room for me,” said Salas. “I’m not done doing my job just yet.”
Salas added, “But when I do retire, I look forward to spending more time with my family, especially my wife Sylvia, who also retired from TSTC’s Business Office after 35 years.”
TSTC prides itself on being a great place to work and is listed as one of Harlingen’s top employers. For more information on job opportunities at TSTC, go online at: tstc.edu/about/employment.