Laura F. Cavazos
A sixth-generation Texan who was born on a ranch, Lauro Fred Cavazos rose from humble surroundings to become a prominent scientist and educator. Cavazos was born on the King Ranch, where his father worked, but he aspired to be more than a ranch hand. He attended Texas Technological University, now Texas Tech, where he earned his B.A. (1949) and M.A. (1952) in zoology.
In 1954, Cavazos earned his Ph.D. in physiology from Iowa State University. After earning his doctorate, Cavazos taught anatomy at Texas Tech and later at the Medical College of Virginia and Tufts University in Massachusetts. He was appointed dean of the School of Medicine at Tufts. Cavazos became an authority on anatomy, and he authored numerous books and journal articles on the subject.
He became involved in a number of organizations, including the American Association of Anatomists, the Endocrine Society and the Histochemical Society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Pan American Association ofAnatomy, and the World Health Organization. He has also served as editor of a number of medical journals.
He became committed to education, and in particular to the cause of educating Hispanic students. His concern was that Hispanics have traditionally suffered disproportionately high dropout rates, based on their overall student numbers in U.S. schools.
In 1980, Cavazos returned to his alma mater, Texas Tech, as the president of the uni¬ versity and its Health Sciences Center. He was the first Hispanic, and the first graduate of Texas Tech, to hold these titles.In 1988, U.S. president Ronald Reagan made Cavazos the first Hispanic American to serve in a presidential cabinet by appointing him Secretary of the Department of
Education. While serving in this post, Cavazos continued to emphasize the importance of educating Hispanics and other minorities. Through his leadership, the President’s Council on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans was formed to create scholarships for Latino youths.
President Reagan chose Cavazos because of his credentials and his strong dedication, although the two men belonged to different parties—Reagan was a Republican and Cavazos a Democrat. It is rare for a president to select people for his cabinet who belong to the opposing party. Cavazos performed so well in his post, however, that Reagan’s Republican successor, George Bush, reappointed him.
In 1990, Cavazos resigned from the Department of Education and returned to teaching. He continued to serve as an adjunct professor at Tufts School of Medicine, and he worked as an educational and business con¬ sultant. In 1993, Cavazos joined the board of directors of Luby’s Cafeteria, Inc., a Texas franchise. He retired from the board in 1999.