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TV anchor honors mother at UHV commencement (video)

By Carolina Astrain
May 11, 2013 at 12:11 a.m.
Updated May 12, 2013 at 12:12 a.m.

Ernie Zuniga gestures to the crowd as he delivers the commencement address to graduates at the University of Houston-Victoria graduation ceremony Saturday at Faith Family Church. Zuniga is a UHV alumnus, a Victoria native and is currently working as a news anchor in San Antonio.

Ernie Zuniga found himself in familiar clothing Saturday morning.

The morning news co-anchor for KABB Fox 29 San Antonio was once again robed in his alma mater's black and red colors to speak at this year's graduation ceremony.

In the mid-90s, Zuniga transferred to UHV from Texas A&M after accepting a job as a weekend sports anchor for Victoria's KAVU-TV Newscenter during his sophomore year of college.

"I was so passionate about it," Zuniga said. "I immediately dropped out from A&M and moved back into my parents' house and was able to transfer my credits and enroll at UHV."

Zuniga graduated from UHV in 1998 with a Bachelor of Arts in communication.

For Zuniga, coming back home this weekend struck a particularly sensitive chord.

Sunday will be Zuniga's first Mother's Day since his mother, Martha A. Zuniga, passed away in August.

"I feel like this is a nice way to honor her," Zuniga said backstage before the afternoon ceremony. "There were a couple of times I got choked up during the morning ceremony."

His mother earned a Bachelor of Science from UHV in 1975 and later received her doctorate in education from Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi and Texas A&M University-Kingsville in 2004.

Three months before she died, Zuniga retired as the Victoria school district's bilingual district coordinator.

In his Saturday commencement speech, Zuniga echoed his mother's words from her doctoral thesis: "Students whom we educate come in many forms, shapes, sizes and hues. In educating these youngsters, I see myself as a sculptor of their minds. ... I believe in educating the whole body academically, spiritually and morally, as well as respecting all human beings and expecting the same in return."

Zuniga described his mother as a lifelong learner who sparked his desire to give back to his community through words.

When Zuniga got his first job in broadcast at KAVU-TV Newscenter in Victoria, he was a student at St. Joseph High School.

"He had such a great appetite for learning and tremendous attitude," said KAVU Sports Director Don Brubaker. "He was a team player that wanted to succeed from the get-go."

Zuniga's former high school journalism teacher, Nancy Peters, remembers him as a quick and articulate student who was always willing to shoulder responsibility.

"If someone messed up, he was willing to take the blame because he was in charge of the news program," Peters said. "He did not shirk responsibility."

At the start of his speech, Zuniga emphasized the ironic twist of his invitation to speak at commencement with his B- average from when he was a student at UHV.

"UHV showed me what can be possible with an education," he said. "You can come from a little Victoria and do huge, giant things."



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