Feb. 12, 2008

A Scholarship Called Serendipity

Rafael Anchía ('90) calls it serendipity that his father accompanied him to a college fair at the Miami Expo Center in 1985. Dad struck up a conversation with an SMU recruiter who spoke his first language, Spanish, and informed his son, "This is an excellent university."

Rafael Anchia with his wife, Marissa, and their daughters, Sophia and Maia. Praised by Texas Monthly as one of the best legislators in the 2007 session, the magazine speculates on Anchia someday becoming the first Hispanic governor of Texas.

And when SMU called their home in Florida several months later to offer Anchía a scholarship, Dad accepted for the son, putting him on a path to grad­uating cum laude from the Hilltop in 1990 with majors in anthropology, Ibero-American studies and Spanish.

Although all four schools Anchía applied to accepted him, SMU offered the most generous scholarship. "This was a big, big deal," he recalls. "I didn't have my sights set on anything more than going to our state university. I thought that was pretty terrific."

But there would be even more good news for Anchía, who went on to earn a law degree from Tulane University.

Now a Dallas lawyer and state representative, he was named one of the 10 best legislators for 2007 by Texas Monthly magazine. "If the Legislature were a stock market, Anchía would be Google," Texas Monthly concluded.

Anchía represents the future as the son of immigrants who became a lawyer with a blue chip firm, the magazine stated, also noting that he emerged last spring as a top floor debater against a bill that would have required voters to present a government-sponsored form of identification at the polls. Anchía argued that the bill was directed at a voter impersonation problem that does not exist and would have resulted in disenfran­chising minority and low-income voters. The bill died after passage in the House but lack of support in the Senate.

At SMU, Anchía remembers putting a lot of pressure on himself. "On many different levels, I wanted to show that a public school kid from a new immigrant community (in Miami) could not only compete but excel," he says. While an undergraduate he joined Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity and says he continues to enjoy an extensive social and business network in Dallas because of that experience.

"I would rank my academic preparation at SMU with any education I could have received anywhere else," he says. He has strong memories of the classes he took under linguistics and bilingual education expert William Pulte, associate professor of anthropology, and clearly relishes the opportunity to work as a legislator on community projects with Pulte.

Anchía continues the relationship with his beloved alma mater in numerous ways. He returns often to campus to speak to student groups and says he is pleased to see the increased diversity of the University. He serves on the advisory panel of SMU's Clements Center for Southwest Studies in the Clements Department of History, the President's 21st Century Advisory Board and the Executive Board of Dedman College. Anchía and his wife, Marissa ('07), who earned her Master of Liberal Studies degree from SMU in May, still worship at the 9 a.m. Catholic mass at Perkins Chapel, and they baptized both their daughters at SMU.

"So we feel quite invested in the University," he says.

This story first appeared in the fall/winter 2007 edition of SMU Magazine.

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