“ Once A Tiger Always A Tiger “

From the archives of the mother of Laredo schools, we present one of Laredo’s best-kept artistic marvels, a legend in his own time, a self-made achiever in the best sense of the word. What follows is perhaps the best example of achievement at its finest, a person who undertook arduous challenges, never telling himself they were impossible, but rather seeing them as difficult obstacles that needed to be overcome. He is person who took advantage of every opportunity presented and fashioned, against all odds, a brilliant career; he removed any doubt of the Hispanic potential and its significant impact and contribution to the world of Fine Arts and Education. His accomplishments will benefit generations to come. The pioneering spirit of Dr. Neo Gutierrez will serve as an inspirational beacon that will shepherd generations of children towards success. Once A Tiger, Always A Tiger!

The following is based on answers submitted by Dr. Neo to questions asked as part of the induction into the Raymond And Tirza Martin High School’s Tiger Legends.     

                                                                                                                                       Rolando S. Lopez   Editor Laredo Hall Of Fame  

  Born Ireneo Gutierrez Jr., to Ireneo and Emma Ramirez Gutierrez, descendants of Bernardo Gutierrez de Lara  in Zapata County. As a child attended Zapata schools, later moving to Laredo and attending McDonnell Elementary. At age 13, he graduated L.J. Christen; in 1952 at age 16, he graduated with honors from Martin. While in high school he was a member of the Martin High and ROTC Bands and wrote for the Martin High School paper The Laredo Journal.

 

  Upon graduation he received The Laredo Rotary Club scholarship and The John Hay Whitney Fellowship Award from New York City, all expenses paid to University of Texas in Austin, Texas.  He was one of 8 Mexican American students throughout Texas selected by this NYC Foundation for this honor. The foundation wanted to know what would happen if you educated a student from a minority ethnic group.

  In 1955 at 19 he received his Bachelor Of Journalism and in 1958 his Master of Arts in Dance from Teachers College, Columbia University, New York City, at age 21. After many years teaching he returned to school and received his Doctorate in Philosophy and Dance and Related Fine Arts in 1987 from Texas Woman’s University. Neo also attended Graduate Schools at UCLA and the University of Southern California in the city of Angels.  Among the unique dance teachers in his lifetime, he considers one of the most outstanding to be Eduardo Cansino, father of the world-famous Hollywood movie dance star, Rita Hayworth, who was trained in dance by her father. Neo studied with Mr. Cansino at the Galo Studio in Laredo in the mid-50's.  

     Among his many awards: 1st. Place in entire U.S. as Director of Beverly Hills-Acapulco Student Exchange Program. National recognition from National Education Association for designing and directing The Global Village Diversity Project at Beverly Hills as declared by the mayor of Beverly Hills, California. Dr. Neo was the first man in the state of Texas to receive a doctorate degree in dance, and the first teacher in Laredo, Texas to teach modern jazz dance. In 1997, when he retired from Beverly Hills High School after 32 yrs. on the faculty , the mayor of Beverly Hills named Dr. Gutierrez "Senor Internacional de Beverly Hills 1997."
 

                   

   After 45 years of teaching, Dr. Neo, as this down-to-earth master of a thousand talents prefers to be called, retired as a public school teacher in May 2000. In his long career he has been a dancer, choreographer, director, and producer of dance and television.  He spent 32 yrs. at Beverly Hills High School in Beverly Hills, California, and 3 yrs. at Churchill High School in San Antonio. He started teaching at age 19 at Christen Jr. High in Laredo, Texas, and also taught for Los Angeles City Schools and U.S. Army in Europe. He was on the faculty of the Dance Dept. at Texas Woman’s University in Denton, Texas, and he was the originator and director of the Pan American Dance Theater of Austin, Texas. He was director for televisions OTI in Los Angeles, and he was producer for The Luisa Triana Spanish Dance Co. of Los Angeles. He was also a dance producer for KUHT-TV, public broadcasting in Houston, TX.  In retirement now, he continues as a free-lance writer and an independent producer for City of Laredo Public Access TV, which he has done every year in December since Public Access TV started in Laredo. His television work in Laredo is done as community service, and he considers this his way of giving back to the community of Laredo, which he loves because this is where he was taught how to do things the right way.

  Neos first job was as a bus boy during the summer of 1951 at the Hamilton Hotel Coffee Shop. He worked seven days a week  for $11 per week, in order to buy school clothes for his graduation year, most days going hungry because the hotel did not allow workers to eat there. After graduation he worked for a summer as a bill clerk for Central Power and Light. “My work ethic was instilled by Gudalupe Ramirez, my maternal grandfather in Zapata, Texas, who taught everyone that you had to produce something in life (like work) or you would not make it,” he says.

  He adds: I attribute my success to family, friends, and freedom, a sense of truth, compassion, and respect for everyone. Obey the law, study, organize, and work hard, and within the law, never fear anyone, especially people in power. Failure is never an option (in other words, we all fail at one time or another-but the winners are the ones who, after they fall, get up, they dust themselves off, and try and try again, until you get there). Always aim for the highest objective, so that even if you don’t make it all the way to the top, you will still accomplish something significant. Always have a plan of action short-term and long term, to make your objective reality. And use your imagination, think always of what can be, and know that ‘si se puede’, as Dr. Armando Ayala, California University professor often says.  Ayala was Drum Major when Dr. Neo was a freshman at MHS.

     As far as mentors, he recalls his journalism teacher, Mrs. Anne Novak as the one that lit the light within, the one who inspired him. Mrs. Novak and Miss Lupe Cabrera were responsible for getting his “life-saving” scholarships to UT Austin.     

     He adds: It’s a totally different world now. I recall no fences at MHS, so we must enjoy our freedom, but always, always be vigilant. Violence has made fences a must, as well as locking our doors at night. I grew up at the corner of Convent and Callaghan, I never knew what barrio it was, but it was so much safer back then.

     He Concludes: "My fondes memories at MHS are of playing with the Band and writing for the Laredo Journal; trips to the Battle of Flowers, and competitions at Kingsville."

Once a Tiger, Always A Tiger     

 

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