Dr. David Garza

Every year, Dr. David Garza gives to The University of Texas System. He does so because he understands what institutions of higher education contribute to society: a broader, better vision of humanity.


Living a Broader Life

Dr. David Garza grew up deep in South Texas during a time when the roads were dustier, the distance between towns seemed greater and opportunities for advancement were self-created, especially if you were of Mexican-American descent. Such challenges could help a young man develop some grit, however; such was the case for David Garza.

In his senior year of high school, for example, Dr. Garza received a National Merit Scholar Letter of Commendation; he was the only Mexican-American of the four students to have earned this distinction. Imbued with confidence, Dr. Garza decided he would begin his college studies at Cornell University in Albany, New York. For many reasons, that plan proved to be unrealistic. Dr. Garza was not to be deterred, however. “I said, ‘Okay, forget about Cornell, but I want to go to The University of Texas at Austin and see what happens.’”

What happened is that he became a doctor—a cardiologist, in fact—and the decision to attend UT Austin would lead Dr. Garza to become a loyal donor to the UT System; his college experience expanded his perspective. “It opened my eyes to a society that transcended the limits of demographics,” he states. That new world view helped pave the way for personal and professional growth, and Dr. Garza has expressed his gratitude for this transformation by giving consistently for well over a decade to the UT System, securing him membership in the Chancellor’s Council.

While Dr. Garza’s initial gifts may have been expressions of his gratitude, his continued philanthropy reflects loftier motivations. “Why do I give to the UT System? Because I think we need institutions [of higher education] that stress the whole, broad vision of human society.”

Dr. Garza’s vision of what his life could be began when he left his hometown to attend UT Austin. Upon graduation, with decent grades and high MCAT scores, he was accepted to several medical schools in Texas, but he wanted to fulfill his dream of studying out of state. His premed advisor suggested the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine. Dr. Garza graduated from that institution in 1974 and then completed his residency in internal medicine at Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas, where he met his wife-to-be, Stephanie, a North Carolina native who was doing her residency in gynecology. After marrying in 1977, the couple would eventually land in Corpus Christi, where they expanded their family by two: their son, Dan, was born in 1983 and their daughter, Veronica, was born in 1985.

The pace and stress of working in a medical practice began to wear on Dr. Garza. So, after 13 years of performing angioplasties and other invasive heart procedures, he applied for and was accepted to UT Austin’s School of Law. “I guess it was my midlife crisis,” he says. Dr. Garza loved being back in Austin and having access to everything that makes Austin unique. After graduating from law school and passing the state bar, however, he decided that medicine would be his vocation; he returned to cardiology and joined the staff at St. David’s HealthCare in Austin in 1997. Now, Dr. Garza stays in town throughout the week, but home is a ranch in Gonzales that he and Stephanie bought some 10 years ago (see sidebar).

Although he prefers his rancher’s attire of faded jeans and a worn straw hat, Dr. Garza will don a suit and tie for the Chancellor’s Council Annual Meeting & Symposium. The May 2013 meeting, in fact, set the stage for a reunion: Dr. Roger Rosenberg was in Austin to share his latest findings in Alzheimer’s research with Symposium attendees. Long ago, Dr. Rosenberg was Dr. Garza’s faculty advisor at UC San Diego; he was also the head of the neurology department at Parkland while Dr. Garza was a resident there. “I hadn’t seen him in over 30 years,” says Dr. Garza. “We got to talk and reminisce . . . life goes by quick.”

Dr. Rosenberg is now a professor at UT Southwestern and is dedicated to finding a cure for Alzheimer’s disease. He represents the caliber of faculty that the UT System institutions strive to recruit and retain. Donors like Dr. Garza support that effort by helping to advance the Chancellor’s initiatives, which benefit the UT System as a whole. “I give to the Chancellor’s Council because of the breadth of The UT System and because higher education can no longer be sustained through grants from the government,” says Dr. Garza. He likens his yearly gift to paying taxes, which he is more than glad to do. “It’s like what Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., once said, ‘Taxes are the price you pay for a civilized society.’ I give to the UT System because I believe it is one of the last opportunities I have as a citizen to ensure that our civilization will endure.”