By: Suzann Svatek
Rafael A. Ledesma Schoowe, Ph.D., class of ‘68, ‘70 and ‘80 was named the 2012 Outstanding International Alumnus by Texas A&M University and The Association of Former Students.
Ledesma graduated from the university with a bachelors and masters in animal science and a Ph.D. in adult and extension education.
He has heavily influenced the lives of people in Brazil, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic and many other Latin American and Caribbean countries.
Ledesma said that as a student from a small Caribbean island, he didn’t even know that research universities like Texas A&M even existed.
“I didn’t know that something like this existed,” Ledesma said. “I was coming from a very small community, the Dominican Republic.”
After high school Ledesma took an interest in agronomy, a change from architecture, an area he originally wanted to study.
“I had the opportunity after I graduated high school to get a scholarship to a school in Honduras, Universidad El Zamorano”. At Zamorano, Ledesma studied agronomy.
“One day my friend told me that they were looking for someone to go study at Texas A&M, and I had already read and saw what A&M is and there was already a Texas A&M mission from the government supporting agriculture for extension research,” Ledesma said.
After a few exams and a long and anxious waiting period, Ledesma found out that he was accepted to Texas A&M as part of a USAID funded program.
“It was a dream come true,” Ledesma said.
Ledesma said he loved the university and couldn’t see himself going anywhere else.
“One thing I would like you to know is my ties with A&M,” Ledesma said. “There was no doubt that I was getting my masters here. Then about six years later I came for my Ph.D. I could have gone to some other place but I like it here.”
After his studies at A&M, he continued conducting research and began using what he learned to teach other countries about agriculture.
“In 1981 I got an offer to be a consultant for a research program in the livestock extension department in Honduras,” Ledesma said. “Going to a country that I love and starting my agriculture career there was something that made me want to go even more.”
Ledesma had an agreement with Texas A&M to work on developing international and distance education opportunities in central and south America.
“We did an agreement with A&M to establish a distance education throughout the Americas,” Ledesma said. “For that I did some work here in research and I did some training at a university in Barcelona.”
“We went to about 19 countries to assess the telecommunication in these countries and to see the possibility of establishing distance education centers and universities there,” Ledesma said.
The project developed training material and classes for people across Latin America.
He said that in his type of work, you don’t get paid a lot of money, but that it doesn’t matter what amount of money you make, it is about what he does.
“In this type of international work you don’t make much money, but you feel that all you live for is to help these people.”
“I never thought doing what I do was going to get me this award,” Ledesma said. “You have to know that this award is something that a person like me would never think about it.”
Ledesma said that this award was for everyone that helped him get to this place in his life and everyone that did this work with him.
“This recognition that I am humbly receiving is made possible by all of the people that helped me get here,” Ledesma said.
“This recognition is not mine, it is for all of my classmates that came from that group,” Ledesma said. “I think a lot of them are more worthy than I am”.