Island University Provost and Alumnae Honored by YWCA

YWCA Women In Careers Recognizes Islander Provost and Alumni

Dr. Clarenda Phillips, TAMU-CC Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs, stands alongside YWCA Women In Careers award winners and Islander alumni.

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – The YWCA Corpus Christi gathered to honor women leaders of the Coastal Bend at their annual Y Women in Careers Awards Banquet. A YWCA tradition since 1979, the award recognizes a group of standout women making real change in their careers and the lives of others, inspiring women and young girls of all ages.

This year’s seven honorees included Dr. Clarenda Phillips, Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs along with Islander alumnae Maricela Cuevas ’01, Paulette Guajardo ’00, Julie Pina ’92, ’08, and Esther Bonilla Read ’77. They join the ranks of more than 300 women who have been inducted into the YWCA Y Women in Careers Hall of Fame.

“As women, we understand there are going to be obstacles, there are going to be those who say we don’t belong but having a community of support like those here tonight is how we continue to make a difference,” said Phillips.

The ceremony, emceed by local news personality Barbi Leo ’98, celebrated each new inductee with a video detailing their journey through their career and education, and included a special message to the future generation of women. Following the video, each woman took the stage to give thanks to family and friends who encouraged their dreams.

Phillips, who joined the Island University in 2018, reflected on her journey through higher education, noting that the path was not easy. She said the hurdles provided the motivation she needed to succeed, and along the way, she hopes to have created paths for other women of color to be seen and heard.

“My prayer every morning is to be of good use – to embrace my unique purpose and build others up and to enable dreams and create more spaces where people of color can see themselves represented,” Phillips said. “In higher education, there is always room for opportunity and to create new pathways for success. My hope is to open those pathways and to fight back against those who’d like to make us invisible and silent.” 

Cuevas, vice president of QSROnline, earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from TAMU-CC. She shared her road to success, detailing the humble beginnings of QSROnline, a restaurant software company she founded alongside her husband, and the impact that her childhood had on her adult life.

“Each of the women being recognized tonight were chosen by others who felt that they’ve gone above and beyond – and most of all, who have never given up,” said Cuevas. “I’ve never given up, I’ve never quit. I grew up as a child in a neighborhood that could have plagued my future, but I saw my dreams and I didn’t stop.”

Guajardo, who graduated from TAMU-CC with a Bachelor of Business Administration recounted her road to becoming mayor of Corpus Christi, while Pina, who earned both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in nursing from TAMU-CC, told the audience about her journey through health care and how the support of the community made it all possible. Pina now holds the much-respected role of Chief Nursing Officer at Driscoll Children’s Hospital.

Read, who was honored with the YWCA Lifetime Achievement Award, is a former teacher, and current author and lecturer who graduated from Corpus Christi State University with a Master of Arts. She said while the award was quite the honor, the real reward is giving a voice to unheard veterans in the Hispanic community with her newest book “After the Blessing.”

“While I’ve had the privilege of working to help others, really, all I was doing was having fun and following my heart,” Read said. “Everything I did, from being in the classroom to writing my book, brought me joy beyond anything I could have imagined.”

Additional 2022 Y Women in Careers honorees included Missy Medary, presiding judge of the 5th Administrative Judicial Region, and Gloria Garcia Taylor, executive director of Communities in Schools of the Coastal Bend.