(KINGSVILLE, TX) — As the first academic year of studies at the Texas A&M Health Science Center Irma Lerma Rangel College of Pharmacy draws to a close, its namesake was recognized Friday with a bronze statue dedicated in her honor.

The formal dedication followed an August ribbon cutting for the first stand-alone professional school south of San Antonio, located on the Texas A&M University-Kingsville campus. Named for the late District 35 Rep. Irma Lerma Rangel, chair of the House Higher Education Committee, it is the only accredited or “pre-candidate” pharmacy school named after a Hispanic.

The A&M System Board of Regents transferred the Irma Lerma Rangel College of Pharmacy to the HSC in March 2006. It has received approval from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and “pre-candidate” status from the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education.

A groundbreaking on the approximately 63,000-square-foot, $14.5-million facility – featuring wireless access and research laboratories – took place in March 2003, and the college officially was named after Irma Lerma Rangel in October 2004. The six-foot-tall statue of Rangel was placed in front of the building in mid-January.

“Today’s dedication is a testament to the vision and legacy of the late Representative Rangel,” said Nancy W. Dickey, M.D., president of the Texas A&M Health Science Center and vice chancellor for Health Affairs for the A&M System. “The statue represents [Representative Rangel’s] passion for making a difference for the residents of South Texas, but it also represents the love and respect that family members held for Representative Rangel – and their goal to keep her vision and legacy alive.”

The first Mexican-American woman elected to the Texas House of Representatives, Irma Lerma Rangel was born in Kingsville in 1931 and graduated from Texas A&M University in 1951. She served as a teacher for 14 years at schools in South Texas, California and Venezuela before attending law school.

In 1969, Irma Lerma Rangel graduated from St. Mary’s University School of Law in San Antonio and became one of the first female Hispanic district attorneys in the state. She then returned to Kingsville as a partner in a local law firm for 20 years, from 1973 to 1993.

Irma Lerma Rangel was elected to the Texas House of Representatives in 1976 and during her 26-year tenure was dedicated to the rights of women and minorities. She was chair of the Higher Education Committee from 1995 to 2003. After a long battle with cancer, she died in March 2003 at age 71.

The $55,000 statue of Rangel was designed by Laredo artist Roberto Garcia Jr. According to Kingsville Dr. Jose Ugarte, who helped organize fundraising efforts, it depicts her holding legislative bills and wearing her favorite dress, necklace and ring. It was funded with private donations and the sale of smaller versions of the statue.

The Texas A&M Health Science Center provides the state with health education, outreach and research. Its six components located in communities throughout Texas are Baylor College of Dentistry, the College of Medicine, the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, the Institute of Biosciences and Technology, the Irma Lerma Rangel College of Pharmacy, and the School of Rural Public Health.

— Blair Williamson