TAMIU Professor Emeritus
Lecuona Dies at Age 86
Texas A&M International University was saddened by news of the passing this month of Dr. Rafael A. Lecuona, Professor Emeritus and member of the University’s faculty for over 30 years.
A Memorial celebrating his life will be held Monday, June 16 at 6 p.m. in the Student Center Ballroom. Community members, friends and former students are encouraged to attend.
The Dr. Rafael A. Lecuona Memorial Scholarship has been established at TAMIU to honor his memory and devotion to higher education. Donations can be mailed to the University’s Office for Institutional Advancement, 5201 University Boulevard, Laredo, TX, 78041 or online at http://giving.tamiu.edu
In 2002, in recognition of his service, The Texas A&M University System Board of Regents named Lecuona Professor Emeritus, an honor presented before his beloved students and fellow faculty members at that Spring’s Commencement Exercises.
Dr. Lecuona's involvement with the University began in 1970 when Texas A&I University at Kingsville opened a two-year, upper-level 'Center' of higher education in Laredo. This soon became officially known as Laredo State University, precursor to Texas A&M International University.
As one of the original founding faculty, Lecuona shared with his colleagues the burden of teaching and building what has become today a full-fledged, four-year university within The Texas A&M University System.
At that time, Lecuona was the sole Ph.D. in political science and offered all the essential courses within his area of expertise required for students to earn a Bachelor of Science in education, business, or liberal arts.
Lecuona's involvement with the University and the surrounding community was extensive.
As a faculty member and coordinator of the arts and sciences division for several years, he was an active participant in the development of most of the University's basic and innovative policies and programs such as faculty evaluation by peers, students, and administrators, faculty post-tenure revision procedures, the development of the political science Master's degree program. He was also a strong advocate for what is now the Western Hemispheric Trade Center.
TAMIU President Dr. Ray Keck said the University will always remember Lecuona's commitment to the growth of both Laredo and the University.
"His rare combination of hard work, energy, intelligence, and good humor made him an invaluable member of this faculty. He and his wife Diana have been stalwart and steady forces for good in this institution and community for a very long time. We repeatedly turned to Dr. Lecuona to head difficult tasks and complex committee assignments. His service was always stellar, and the University and our community were infinitely better places for his passion and commitment," Keck said.
Lecuona’s personal history was fascinating. A three-time Olympic gymnast for Cuba, he was the nephew of world-renowned Cuban composer Ernesto Lecuona, considered the Cuban Gershwin of the classics “Malagueña,” “Granada” and “Siboney,” among others.
The young Lecuona grew up in La Habana, loving sports. At 13, he became intrigued by gymnastics and within three years made the Cuban national team and headed to the 1948 Olympics in London.
He would later go on to the Helsinki Olympics in 1952 and the Melbourne Olympics in 1956. He was also a member of two Pan American teams, and three Central American teams, and won many Pan-American and state championships.
At the 1951 Pan American Games in Buenos Aires, he received a gold medal in the pommel horse event, and a silver medal overall, and in 1955 at the Mexico City Pan American Games, he earned a silver medal in the pommel horse.
His athletic prowess caught the eye of Florida State University recruiters who provided a full scholarship. He quickly learned English, and became a US Citizen. At Florida State, he was a member of the gymnastics team 1953-1956, serving as team captain in his last year, leading FSU to national championships.
AT FSU, he would earn a BBA, Master’s and Ph.D. in Political Science.
Lecuona was also a prolific author and published numerous research papers in such academic journals as The International Journal on World Peace. He was included in scholarly works such as Irving Louis Horowitz' Cuban Communism, and Khosrow Fatemi's International Trade and Finance: A North American Perspective.
He also enjoyed writing short stories, most of them fiction, including a published work entitled En Busca de Castro. After his retirement, he completed a long-planned book on his remarkable uncle, “Ernesto Lecuona: The Genius and his Music.”
He was enormously proud of his active association with two organizations related to the interests of his sons, as well as hundreds of young athletes from the area -- coaching the Del Mar Little League and the Laredo Swim Club.
Lecuona was pre-deceased by his parents and sister, Ilba.
He is survived by his wife, Diana Lecuona; sons, Mark R. Lecuona and Miguel R. (Barbara) Lecuona; and their mother, Joan Hagle Gates; grandchildren, Price Lecuona and Wren Lecuona; stepchildren, Monica (David) Jeffery; Jacqueline (Joseph) Dennington; step-grandchildren, Brittany Meloy, Katherine and Jennifer Dennington; and by his brother, Fernando (Linda) Lecuona and numerous nieces and nephews.
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