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Ricardo Romo, Ph.D. UTSA President. Photographer.

This piece ws originally published in the San Antonio Report. The photo is by Al Rendon, the words are by Dr Ricardo Romo.


When I went to UCLA and saw everything that was happening in East L. A. in the 1970s (inequality, riots, protests), I decided to document some of it. I viewed myself as strictly a documentary person, not a photographer. I just kept thinking, “People will want to know what this looks like.”

All of a sudden it’s 40 years later and as I look at my photos, I’ve captured many (social and physical) artifacts that have since been destroyed or replaced.

I never would have thought to have an exhibition of anything, but folks came to me – Al Rendon and others from Fotoseptiembre – and encouraged me. I thank them for inspiring me to review my work. I started out to simply document and it never occurred to me that you could flip to the other side – to the creative side of photography. You look at it differently, and see that it captured a particular moment.

In administration, we have what we call “the stretch.” We say, “We can raise 50 million dollars.” But then we ask, “Where’s the stretch? If we can raise 50, why couldn’t we raise 75? What if there was a stretch – what if we really pulled?”

In photography, the same thing happens. You see a scene, take a picture, but then ask yourself, “Where’s the stretch? What if you just happened to wait a little while longer, what if you just look at it a little differently?”

That’s where I believe creative work and administrative work come together – in the stretch.

This past year, we graduated 5,700 students. About 80 percent stay in San Antonio. We have a sizeable number of individuals who are going to step up to the plate and do phenomenal things – it depends on how much passion and how much interest they have in what’s going on.

We had two young men play for us yesterday – a terrific bass player, Travis Merriweather, his twin brother, Rustein, plays piano. Travis had an internship at the White House this summer, preparing briefing books for Michelle Obama. I listened to those guys, and I closed my eyes, and I felt like I was at a jazz festival in New York.

I can’t help but think when I meet graduates like Travis that they’ll have an impact, not just on music or politics, not just locally. I’m seeing them as they graduate, at 19, 20, 21 years old. It will not be long – 20, 30, 40 years from now – before they start having a major impact on society as a whole.

Dr Ricardo Romo

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