1996 Inductee - Richard C. Valenzuela


1996 Inductee - Richard C. Valenzuela

Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1996

Every community has people with varying degrees of commitment to the ideal of helping those in need. A few dedicate themselves to the degree that their whole lives center around it. Such a man was Richard Valenzuela. His community involvement was such that you could literally say he gave up his life working on behalf of his fellow man. The Stockton community realized that Richard could be called on when something needed to be done and he would give of himself, regardless of the sacrifice.

As a tribute to Richard’s devotion to bilingual education, Stockton’s Mexican American community requested that a school be named after him. Stockton Unified School District’s Richard Valenzuela Elementary School fittingly provides a bilingual education.

Despite that honor, he is best remembered for his human touch. “I remember Richard as a dedicated human being who encouraged youth and adults. He had a wonderful sense of humor and was a gentle, caring and intelligent friend” stated Dr. Margarita Wulftange. Richard led the Association of Mexican American Educators as its president and was involved in California Teachers of English to Speaker of Other Languages and TESOL.

Richard was active in the Community Service Organization. In 1971 he received an award for his service in the Confederacion de Organizaciones Mexico Americanas (COMA). The Lions Club, Phi Delta Kappa and the Symposium of Mexican American Affairs were also important to him. He was appointed to the State Department of Education’s Mexican American Advisory Committee by then State School’s Superintendent Wilson Riles.

Mr. Valenzuela started his career in education as an elementary and secondary teacher in the Phoenix School District. He served as an art instructor, adult educator, Spanish and Special Education teacher. His involvement in the Hispanic community included writing educational articles for EL SOL, the Spanish newspaper.

In 1968 Richard became Stockton Unified School District’s first Director of Bilingual Education. “His devotion to bilingual education and its potential for the betterment of the Mexican American community held a high priority in his life,” recalls his friend, Dr. Gracie Madrid. “In the last five years of his life he devoted himself to championing bilingual education in SUSD and throughout California. Richard developed such an excellent bilingual program in Stockton that the program was used as a model for bilingual programs throughout the nation,” added Dr. Madrid.

Richard was born in Patagonia, Arizona in 1924. After graduating from high school he enlisted in the Marine Corps and fought in the Pacific. After being discharged in 1946 he enrolled At Arizona State University. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree in education in 1950 and his Masters degree in School Administration in 1951. He married Betty Valenzuela and had four children, Yolanda, Richard, Thor and Brian.

Richard died on April 3, 1993 while attending the first Annual International Multilingual Multicultural Conference in San Diego, California.