Members of the San Antonio Catholic community, Our Lady of the Lake University (OLLU) faculty, and students of the school’s Mass Communications department gathered on Thursday afternoon to celebrate the university’s new Verónica Salazar Media Center. The new facilities provide state-of-the-art media production equipment that will expand undergraduate and graduate programs in communications, journalism, and digital media.

The center was established by a $1.1 million gift made by Verónica Salazar-Escobedo, an OLLU trustee, and her husband Ruben Escobedo, two prominent philanthropists in the San Antonio Catholic community. Salazar graduated from OLLU in 1965 and has remained involved in improving the university.

Since 2000, 10 OLLU alumni have been awarded 24 regional Emmy Awards for news anchoring, reporting, photographing, and producing for the department.

OLLU President Diane Melby welcomes everyone to the dedication.
OLLU President Diane Melby welcomes everyone to the dedication. Credit: James McCandless / San Antonio Report

OLLU President Diane Melby said that Salazar led the way as a woman and a Latina in news, and continues to pave the way for the next generation with her donation.

“She presents a model to our students for all that is possible for them to pursue and dream,” Melby said.

Michael Laney, the university’s College of Arts and Sciences dean, said that the new equipment and technology purchased with the gift will enhance the work of students who are already doing top notch work.

“This idea was first talked about with the Escobedos over lunch in April 2015. We listened to their hearts and shared how we could extend their vision,” Laney said. “They visited and toured our studio. They interacted with the students who were energized with zeal and vitality but were hampered with obsolete equipment and aging technology. They were then moved to act.”

He added that this gift was just an extension of decades of service and giving back from Salazar-Escobedo.

“This work and our conversations were just an extension of a larger platform of work that had begun years ago, built on the shoulders of a giant,” Laney said. “Verónica Salazar had already distinguished herself with a 35-year legacy of service in her role as a columnist and vice president of community relations at the San Antonio Express-News. She made a career of spotlighting successful role models for young Hispanics whose hopes and dreams seemed out of reach.”

Laney said that the gift would uplift college-bound Latinos and Latinas who are seeking career opportunities in media and lacked access to this type of program before.

The new media center is an effort to create boutique media programs in order for OLLU students to compete nationally and produce the best for the media industry, Salazar said.

“We wanted OLLU to become a model and to produce the best communicators that you can in any field,” she said. “And to be the best journalists, you have to be credible. Remember, it’s not just a sound bite. You’re exposing the life of someone.”

Salazar’s experiences in the industry, she said, bolstered her commitment to helping minorities excel in media programs.

Veronica Salazar talks about the importance of giving Hispanics the opportunity to succeed in media.
Verónica Salazar talks about the importance of giving Hispanics the opportunity to succeed in media. Credit: James McCandless / San Antonio Report

“Working for the newspaper, I realized that media is very powerful. I was very concerned that there were no positive articles in the newspaper about Hispanics,” Salazar said. “Everything you read about Mexican-Americans was derogatory. And I didn’t like that because I came from a family that worked together. My parents taught us to love people and use things, not to use people and love things.”

Before blessing the facilities, Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller praised Salazar and Escobedo for their longstanding philanthropy and vision.

“I’m very grateful to the Lord for the gift of Verónica and Ruben,” he said. “Their influence and example continue to be felt by working tirelessly and using their talents in serving the common good.”

Those in attendance then watched a live broadcast of the Lake Front News, showing off the new facilities from only a few rooms away.

Attendees watch junior mass communications student Chan'Cellore Makanjuola broadcast live from the new production studio.
Attendees watch junior mass communications student Chan’Cellore Makanjuola broadcast live from the new production studio. Credit: James McCandless / San Antonio Report

After the press conference, Escobedo told the Rivard Report that the changing media landscape must include the Hispanic community.

“We live in a society, unfortunately, that does look at one’s ethnic background,” he said. “One of the messages that we want to send forth is that your opportunities are limited only by your own skills and ambition.

“If nothing else, you will be able to say, ‘If this dummy can do it then so can I.’ We need to encourage our young people of all racial backgrounds.”

Former intern James McCandless is a recent St. Mary's University graduate. He has worked with the San Antonio Current and Texas Public Radio.