In 2012, nearly 100 years after Sul Ross State University opened its doors, Dr. Miriam Muñiz Quiz earned the distinction as the institution’s first Hispanic female professor, one of many facts that made her a role model to her students.
Born into a family of educators, Miriam completed a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education with a specialization in Reading from what was then Pan American University in Edinburg. In fact, her grandmother held a degree from Pan American and taught in Harlingen ISD into her 70s and both of Miriam’s parents also earned degrees there.
She worked as a middle school reading teacher and took a year-long break to serve as a missionary in Brazil before returning to the classroom in various positions. She also worked with technology companies, eventually taking a position in the San Felipe Del Rio Consolidated Independent School District as the Technology Curriculum Director/Coordinator.
Following the birth of her daughter, Miriam felt like she wanted to offer her more. She contacted two universities regarding their master’s programs, and only one responded to her—Sul Ross State University. She completed her Master of Education in Education Administration, and then she and husband Fernando Quiz moved their growing family to Las Cruces when they were both named Kellogg Fellows for the Hispanic Border Leadership Institute (HBLI) at New Mexico State University, a prestigious program designed to prepare Hispanics to serve as educators in U.S.-Mexico borderlands. Miriam and Fernando took their commitment to serving to heart and returned with their PhDs to Del Rio. Both started work at SRSU under a federal grant before they were hired as faculty members.
Miriam invested in her students, offering them not only academic support, but also help in navigating institutional policies and providing emotional encouragement. She took the time to learn the challenges her students faced and the sacrifices they made to complete their degrees. She said her students were energizing and she enjoyed open class discussion where she would talk about anything. She told her students they did not have to agree with her, but insisted they let her know what they thought and encouraged them to change her mind. The veteran educator challenged students to question their professors and to not simply accept everything they said. She pushed students to “be that squeaky wheel. Empower yourself. Be the difference.”
She continued, “I love my students. I will put them up against any other students at any institution. They will reach what we expect of them.”
Miriam said she is finding it difficult to let go, saying she loves SRSU’s Del Rio campus, but must trust the next generation. She is convinced the best is yet to come. Miriam continues to be a student herself and retirement plans include attending art school where she will explore using different media.
Miriam’s colleague Dr. Gina Stocks shared this remembrance. “I have had the privilege of working with Miriam for 17 years, but it took most of that time for me to develop the courage to look her in the eye and engage in conversation. She is quite a formidable force, and from the point of view of a junior faculty, she was very intimidating. I had not had the opportunity to be in the company of strong, educated, confident, opinionated women, so for many years in the beginning of my career, I kept a safe distance and tried to reconcile everything I had been taught about my role as a daughter, a wife, a mother and of course, a faculty member. The things I observed from afar was that Miriam exemplified a devoted wife and loved her children fiercely. She never compromised her beliefs about teaching and learning and if you were lucky enough to be called ‘friend’ she would defend you without limits. Our time together as colleagues grew and when observing closely, I noticed that her commitment to students looked different than mine. She was the faculty member that was meeting at unconventional times to fit individual student’s schedules, she held gatherings at her home to feed students and most definitely, if a student needed someone to answer a late-night call, Dr. Muñiz’s number is the one they would dial. Every student had the resolve that if she could help, she would. In addition to all the valuable content and personal experience she was willing to share with the students, Miriam will be remembered, and most importantly, respected for the unconventional ways she served the students of this area. It has been a privilege to call her colleague, but it has been life-changing to call her friend.”
“It has been my honor and my privilege to serve our students,” Miriam said.
It has also been SRSU’s honor and privilege to employ a distinguished faculty member who committed herself to the academic and personal success of her students.