College board member Gabriel Rivas dies from COVID-19 complications

Professional photographer was well-known for community activism

Del Mar College Regent Gabriel Rivas III died Wednesday, college President Mark Escamilla confirmed Thursday. He was 66.

Rivas, a longtime community activist, died of complications from COVID-19, his cousin Maria Elena Aguirre Mendez posted on Twitter late Wednesday.

“Gabe touched each and everyone in some form, way or fashion. He was a great civic leader to the city of Corpus Christi,” Mendez said.

Rivas was elected to his first six-year term on the college’s Board of Regents in 2000 and served four years as board president, according to Escamilla. He was also appointed to fill the District 1 seat after another board member’s resignation in 2007 before winning the seat for another full term in 2008. He was most recently elected to represent the district in 2018 and served as first vice chair of the board.

“Much of the growth and many of the accolades earned at Del Mar College over the past 20 years, in one way or another, were impacted by Regent Rivas,” Escamilla said in his email to college staff. “His passionate dedication and support for the College was evident in his spirit and tenacity to promote access to higher education for all.”

Rivas, who owned Gabriel Rivas Photography, was also a member of several other boards in the community. He was a member and past president of LULAC Council No. 1 and  was selected the council’s Man of the Year in 1984, 1986 and 1987 and Texas LULAC Man of the year 1986, according to his biographical information on the DMC Board of Regents website.

He was also a member of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and Board of Directors of the Amistad Community Health Center, and served on the city of Corpus Christi Charter Revision Commission, Landmark Commission, Sister City Committee and Human Relations Commission.

The family will hold a private funeral and plans to have a celebration of life for Rivas on May 9, 2021, which would have been his 67th birthday, Mendez said.

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