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The legacy of Northwest Vista College began with a dream. In the early 1990s, a San Antonio visionary and real estate investor, Charles Martin “Marty” Wender, and his wife Rene, walked amongst the mountain laurel, cypress and ash trees that covered the Westover Hills area along North Ellison Drive near Loop 1604, and imagined a college in that setting.
Wender, who has a reputation for building award-winning development ventures for his own Charles Martin Wender Real Estate and Investments company, has shaped San Antonio’s commercial and residential growth and brought thousands of jobs to the area.
During the late 1980s and early 1990s, the Westover Hills area attracted data centers, financial service entities, and other businesses and housing developments.
The key to the area’s growth was the planning, funding and development of State Highway 151, spearheaded at the time by Wender and other visionaries. They recognized early on that a vital element of economic development was an educated workforce. That realization has been at the forefront of the vision imagined by the Alamo Colleges District Board of Trustees and leadership.
In 1994, World Savings and Loan Association (now Wells Fargo) donated nearly 112 acres of land to the Alamo Colleges District adjacent to its property inside Loop 1604. The Alamo Colleges District, in turn, purchased nearly 26 acres and thus gained a total of 137 acres of land for future growth.
On April 18, 1995, the Alamo Colleges District Board of Trustees approved the establishment of its fourth college. By June, the newest college had a name to reflect its primary service area: Northwest Vista College.
Twenty-five years later, Northwest Vista College celebrates the realization of that initial dream in the faces of more than 18,000 students who represent all sectors of Bexar County and surrounding areas, including San Antonio, Helotes, Boerne, Castroville, Fair Oaks Ranch, Floresville, Poteet, Bandera, and many others.
The successful growth of Northwest Vista College has contributed to the progress of the Westover Hills area, considered the third largest employment center in San Antonio with medical, financial and data centers. Throughout the last 25 years, companies that have made the Westover Hills area their home have relied on Northwest Vista College to provide quality graduates and assist with employee training.
Northwest Vista College and its sister colleges within the Alamo College District were founded on the belief that all citizens deserve the opportunity for affordable quality education. Without the broad range of programs and services available at community colleges and the financial support provided to them, many students could not attend college.
It’s hard to image where we would be today if those who imagined Northwest Vista College hadn’t focused on their dreams and realized them. Those dreams may have seemed impossible at the time, but the visionaries prevailed.
In 2009, the Wenders created and endowed the Marty and Rene Wender Scholarship, which has benefited Northwest Vista College students, the majority of whom rely on financial aid and scholarships to support their education.
The current health and economic impacts of the coronavirus have made the journey of community college students even more challenging than usual. Food and housing insecurity coupled with the digital divide are challenges that our entire community is facing. Northwest Vista College faculty and staff have witnessed students prevail under the most unprecedented circumstances. There are only a few weeks left in this semester and many students will be graduating, transferring to universities, or taking on jobs to support their families. It’s inspiring to watch them hold tight to their dreams and persevere.