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Meet a Roadrunner: Fernando Ortiz Jr. aims to pursue his literary dreams

Fernando Ortiz

Fernando Ortiz

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(Jan. 7, 2015) -- Meet Fernando Ortiz Jr. At an early age, he charted the life he wanted to lead; journalist, academic scholar and author. At age 40, Ortiz is two-thirds of the way to reaching those lifetime goals.

Born in Connecticut, Ortiz moved to Corpus Christi with his family and then attended the University of Texas at Austin, where he was fortunate enough to work side-by-side with his future wife, Ayse, at the Daily Texan student newspaper.

After earning his history degree, Ortiz worked briefly for a Boston publishing company but returned home to be closer to his loved ones and girlfriend, now residing in San Antonio. He worked seven years at the Corpus Christi Caller-Times and climbed his way up from news assistant to a seat on the editorial board, a feat that had never been done before at the paper. All the while, Ortiz and Ayse commuted between cities to see each other.

In 2006, a junior copywriter position opened up at the San Antonio Express-News, and Ortiz jumped at the opportunity. On the job, he earned promotions up to senior editor, but after 11 years in the media business, he decided to take a buy-out offer and begin the next phase of his charted plan.

Ortiz enrolled at UTSA to pursue a master's degree in history. His writing experience and ability to edit and clearly express himself helped him land several positions as a grader, teaching assistant and research assistant. He enjoyed helping students write essays and improve their writing skills.

As a graduate student, Ortiz flourished and engrossed himself in his master's thesis, "Port in the Storm: Dr. Mario E. Ramirez, Hurricane Beulah and the Lower Rio Grande Valley."

The thesis focused on a revered physician who dedicated 60 years of his life to serving the impoverished and less fortunate in need of medical attention in Starr County. Ramirez' efforts were key to expanding health care for tens of thousands of Valley residents and helped open up medical educational opportunities for area students.

In September 1967, he used his skills to provide medical care to hurricane victims in the Rio Grande Valley and in Mexico when catastrophic rains hit the areas. He also was instrumental in mobilizing state and federal resources to provide aid.

"He believed, from the very beginning of his life, that he could make a difference, and after Beulah, government and military officials came to visit him to praise him for his effective leadership in a crisis situation," said Ortiz.

Ortiz credits his supportive wife and the UTSA history faculty for pushing him along the way.

Now that the thesis is complete and his master's degree is in hand, Ortiz is reviewing doctoral programs around the country and looking to publish his research on Dr. Ramirez and Hurricane Beulah.

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