BROWNWOOD – October 10, 2013 – Reverend Elso Garcia of Houston, a 1962 Howard Payne University graduate, received the Dr. José Rivas Distinguished Service Award during the university’s 2013 Homecoming Weekend. Rev. Garcia was honored during the Hispanic Alumni Breakfast, as well as during the Homecoming Parade.
Rev. Garcia was born in 1931 in the mountains of Cuba. In 1954, he came to the U.S. and was ordained to the ministry.
“During the summer of 1958, I met José Rivas at Alto Frio Baptist Encampment,” Rev. Garcia remembered. “At his insistence, I went to study at Howard Payne University while serving as pastor of the Misión Bautista in Ballinger. In 1961, José Rivas performed my wedding with Rachel Grijalva of San Antonio. During our time in Ballinger, with Rachel as teacher, we developed a very successful kindergarten for Hispanic children who could not speak English. The school opened the door for us to most Hispanic homes in the community.”
Upon graduation from the university in 1962, he enrolled at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth. For the following two years, Rev. Garcia and Dr. Rivas were roommates at a duplex in Fort Worth while Dr. Rivas was working on his master’s degree and later on his doctoral degree. In December of 1964, the Garcias’ second son died and Rev. Garcia left the seminary.
“In the midst of my sadness, I discovered that Dr. Nat Tracy, professor in the religion department at HPU, and Dr. Rivas were starting a group called the Conference On Spiritual Renewal and I became part of that group,” Rev. Garcia said. “This experience changed the course of my life, the lives of my family and the lives of many other people with whom I have become involved through the years.”
Rev. Garcia went on to pastor churches in Austin and Houston, as well as serve in a variety of other ministry efforts. He and his wife have been married for 52 years. They have two children, Gershom and Sylvia, and four grandchildren.
Photo cutlines: Rev. Elso Garcia received the Dr. José Rivas Distinguished Service Award during the university’s 2013 Homecoming Weekend. He is pictured riding in the Homecoming Parade.
Rev. Elso Garcia (right) receives the Dr. José Rivas Distinguished Service Award from Dr. Rudy Camacho, chairman emeritus of the HPU Hispanic Alumni Fellowship Association, during the Hispanic Alumni Breakfast at HPU Homecoming 2013.