Southwest Airlines’ commitment to supporting education initiatives encompasses various facets such as leadership and mentoring – and college access is at the forefront. We are proud to feature Dr. Adela de la Torre, a respected leader who is the ninth President (AND first woman President) of San Diego State University. Her vision, dedication and commitment to higher quality education is strengthening and engaging the college community. We are proud to feature a strong leader who is a guiding light for students and faculty and enhancing education through vision, diversity and leadership. We want to champion her efforts and are proud to help empower the SDSU community to thrive.
Adela de la Torre, Ph.D., President of San Diego State University, grew up understanding the value of education. Her grandmother took her to UC Berkeley, when she was a young child, telling her, “Adelita, aquí es donde vas a estudiar.” (Little Adela, this is where you’re going to study.) Years later, she did just that, earning a bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate at the university. “Anyone who knows a Mexican family knows you listen to your grandma,” Dr. de la Torre recalls.
She became the first Mexican-American woman to earn a Ph.D. in agricultural and resource economics from UC Berkeley. “That discipline was dominated by white men who had perspectives that reflected the prejudices that existed at that time,” she says. Instead of dwelling on the obstacles, she focused on her goals and the opportunities that presented themselves. “There weren’t any role models for me, but I did have one faculty member who made me see that I would be a good economist. That made the difference.”
Dr. de la Torre developed her philanthropy and leadership philosophy from the family traditions she experienced as a child. “For as long as I can remember, my grandmother always had an open home. With humble resources, she managed to have a hot meal, a clean room, and a welcoming smile for anyone who needed a place to stay. Neighbors, relatives, or friends knew that if they ever needed a friendly face, a hearty meal, or a place to rest, they could come and knock on her door,” she remembers. “Without my grandmother’s prayers, love, and commitment, I never would have earned my bachelor’s degree, let alone my advanced degrees. Both my grandmother and mother are my biggest inspirations to be exceptional and to be generous.”
From the beginning, President de la Torre’s presidency has been marked by her deep commitment to serving others. When she first joined SDSU she made a pledge to fund a $250,000 endowment to provide support for SDSU students experiencing extraordinary financial challenges. The gift will help any student who needs to complete an academic semester while navigating an unforeseen financial hardship.
On April 2nd, de la Torre will be honored with the Leadership Eagle Award by The Latino Leaders Network for her outstanding contributions to the Latinx community.
“I view myself as a servant leader, putting my needs second to the needs of the community,” she says. “I am grateful for this recognition. My hope is that my legacy provides inspiration and a pathway for young women and administrators of color who would like to be in leadership roles in higher education one day.
As SDSU’s first female and first Latina President, she embraces her own influence as an economist and visionary leader who has championed the Mission Valley project, the historic campus expansion that proposes to extend access to 20,000 more students. It calls for 1.6 million square feet of academic and research facilities, a stadium, accessible housing for students, faculty and staff, and the general public, and a river park. “The plan is fully informed by the needs of San Diego, faculty and students,” she says. “It will be life-changing for this region.”
The 15-year expansion plan is set to start this year and is part of de la Torre’s vision for SDSU’s future, which also includes valuing more than just high GPAs when it comes to student success. “I am proud of SDSU,” she says. “From the beginning, it has been a transformational force for San Diego. It has broken through barriers and expectations. Our students do the same each day. What a privilege it is to give back and to create opportunities for generations to come.”