1997 Inductee - Rodolfo Vega Garcia

1997 Inductee - Rodolfo Vega Garcia

Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1997

In olden times artisans and artists traveled the countryside teaching their crafts to the young and learning from each other. Rudy has done very much the same thing. From his years in the Peace Corps in Ecuador in the 60’s to his most recent travels to the Amazon jungle, Mexico and Arizona, he has used those experiences to teach others. “I have traveled throughout Mexico collecting art, books, cultural artifacts, and of late, interviewing artesanos on video so I can share the experience with my students.” He says with pride. “I once spent the summer helping an archeologist…in the Amazon jungle. We lived with the Shipibo tribe. He excavated and I drew the pots. I glued together artifacts so he could photograph them for the Museum in Lima Peru. No, I did not keep a single one!”

One of his Peace Corps friends, Julio Escobedo helped him find a job in Stockton in 1965. “I wrote up a course for Stockton Jr. High School called ‘comparative cultures’ because I saw the need arising with the influx of immigrants from Mexico and Vietnam, and the unfair treatment of Blacks and other minorities in the 1970’s. I became a cultural presenter and did presentations for schools and civic groups.” He went on to become the president of the Association of Mexican American Educators, organized the MECHA club at Edison, joined the Comite Patriotico and helped young women prepare for the Miss Hispanic scholarship competitions. Rodolfo was one of the first organizers of the first Latino graduation celebration. “We held it in the basement of an abandoned jewelry store on Main Street. There were twelve participants,” says Rodolfo.

Rodolfo is also one of the founding members of the San Joaquin County Arts Council and was Executive Director twice. He currently works with the Artistas Del Valle, a group he founded. He is also a member of the Mexican Heritage Center, an organization he helped start. “We continue to offer art exhibits and hope to some day find a home and establish a Cultural Center because it is a tragedy that we do not have one with the number of Mexicans in our community.”

Creating art is one way he helps others. “I have always helped in one way or another all candidates in politics who helped the Latinos in our community. I continue to donate my art to political and educational causes.

Rodolfo has been active in the Latin American Club, as scholarship chairman. He has been the department chair and mentor teacher for the Foreign Language Department at Franklin High School. Teaching school brings him back to where he got his start. He credits former teachers Richard Valenzuela and Eugene Grigsby for changing his life. “Richard became my greatest inspiration. I learned for the first time what a compassionate teacher can do to inspire young people. It was then that I decided to become a teacher. Eugene taught me the value of humanity through art which continues to guide me.”

Rodolfo retired from teaching in 2000, where he was the chair of the World Languages Department at Franklin High School. He continues to teach part time for Stockton Unified School District.