GateWay Community College alumnus honored by AACC

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Jan 27, 2014, 4:30 p.m.

GateWay Community College is proud to announce that the American Association of Community Colleges has recognized GateWay alumnus Elias Provencio-Vasquez with the 2014 Outstanding Alumni Award. AACC is the primary advocacy organization for the nation’s community colleges. The award recognizes community college alumni who have excelled in their field and given back to the community.

Dr. Elias Provencio-Vasquez

GateWay Alumnus, Dr. Elias Provencio-Vasquez

“We are proud that GateWay was a part of Dr.  Provencio-Vasquez’s life and the foundation it provided him to do such wonderful things in the healthcare industry and for education,” said GateWay President Steven Gonzales.        

As a teenager, Elias Provencio-Vasquez discovered his passion for taking care of others while working in the kitchen of a local hospital.  He was a high school student, washing dishes and delivering food trays. During that time, he was able to watch the nurses interact and treat patients, and he knew instantly that was the work he wanted to do. 

“I was one of eight children,” said Provencio-Vasquez, “and was the first in my family to go to college.”

His early life experiences inspired him to make a difference in other’s lives and drove him to go to GateWay Community College nearly 40 years ago. Today, Provencio-Vasquez is the Dean of the School of Nursing at the University of Texas-El Paso.

He credits his experience at GateWay Community College as laying the foundation in his career and life.  He earned his associate of arts degree in psychology in 1975 from GateWay, and entered the workforce as a nursing clerk at Maricopa Medical Center in Phoenix.

“This experience ignited my desire to continue my education and to dedicate myself to the medical profession,” said Provencio-Vasquez.

When he returned to GateWay to pursue a nursing degree, only three men, including himself, were in the program, and he was the only minority.  The faculty were all Caucasian women, and it was their encouragement and support that Provencio-Vasquez credits with his drive to stay-in-school. 

“They were not only faculty, they were my mentors who never stopped believing in me,” he said. 

After graduating in 1978 he continued on with his education and experience to become the first Hispanic male in the United States to earn a doctorate in nursing.

He has dedicated much of his career to minority women and the link between the health and well-being of mothers to the health and well-being of their children. He has also implemented several programs throughout the country to conduct home-visits for mothers of low birth weight babies and those with a history of substance abuse during their pregnancies.

In 2010 Hispanic Business Magazine recognized him as one of the Top 100 Most Influential Hispanics. He also received the March of Dimes Excellence in Perinatal Nursing Award for Neonatal Nursing and many other accolades throughout his career.  In addition, he has served on many professional nursing associations.  

Provencio-Vasquez will receive his award in April at AACC’s annual convention in Washington, D.C.