Tom Uribes, who was involved in hundreds if not thousands of stories during his 30 years as a public information officer at Fresno State, didn’t see what the fuss was about on Nov. 30.
“All I did was show up for work for 30 years, write a few stories, and take a few photos,” said Uribes, who officially retires on Thursday (Dec. 8). “There are amazing things being done at Fresno State.”
Coverage of those stories will continue without Uribes, who was originally hired by Frances Peña as a public affairs specialist to professionalize the publications used by the Fresno State Outreach Office. Eight years later, he became the university’s public information officer.
About 200 family, friends and supporters showed up at the University Dining Hall to fete Uribes. One person missing was his father, Zach Uribes, who celebrated his 96th birthday earlier in the day.
“I wanted him to see once and for all that I had a job,” joked Uribes about his dad, a U.S. Army Staff Sgt. who served in the Philipppines during World War II.
Uribes, 62, had originally retired in August but had his work extended three months.
His arrival at Fresno State, he said, “opened up a whole new world.”
Uribes, who attended Fresno City College and graduated from Fresno State, had worked for Fresno County, The Delano Record and CineVideo (a Madera company that packaged Mexican movies into VHS tapes).
He also started and published the magazine Sentimientos (1978-80) and El Tiempo newspaper (1980-82).
Among the highlights at Fresno State, he said, were getting two B-1B Lancer do do a flyover at a Bulldogs football game in 2007; and, dealing with the media crush in 2010 when student body president Pedro Ramírez was outed as being undocumented.
There are amazing things being done at Fresno State.
Uribes was sick the day of the B-1B flyover, but had his son, Michael, drive him to the stadium just in time to snap a few photos of the bombers.
Ramírez thanked Uribes for helping him through the media interviews, which included one with Don Lemon of CNN. “I would have been lost in 2010-11 when my undocumented status came out,” said Ramírez. “I was able to come to you for guidance.”
Uribes thanked his supporters, including local media.
“Thank you, all of you. You’ve been great to work with,” said Uribes, who began his journalism work as a sixth-grade student in Sanger and continued as high school newspaper, yearbook editor and photo editor.
“I’m grateful for everything you’ve done for students, faculty and staff,” said Fresno State president Joseph I. Castro. “I hope we can continue to work together in a lot of different ways.”
Castro praised Uribes’ “work ethic and exemplary work,” and his work in mentoring students.
“We’ve all benefited from working with you,” said Castro.
Fresno City Councilmember Paul Caprioglio presented Uribes with a plaque recognizing Nov. 30 as ‘Tom Uribes Day.’
“We wish you the best,” said Caprioglio.
Paul Castadio, Fresno State vice president for University Advancement, called Uribes’ retirement “a bittersweet moment.”
“The last three months he took me under his wings and educated me along the way,” said Castadio. “He’s a very positive person and has a positive attitude; but, he’s a tough negotiator.”
Castadio said the recent Day of Giving was successful because Uribes sold the event as news that local media needed to cover.
Shirley Armbruster, who was Uribes’ boss until her recent retirement, said one of Uribes’ greatest assets was teaching others. “He could have been a great professor,” she said.
Dr. Víctor Olivares, who works at the university’s Educational Opportunity Program, said Uribes “has never lost his roots.”
“He was ahead of his time” when he opened Sentimientos magazine, said Olivares. “He wanted to reshape the image of Latinos in the Valley,” he added.
Peña, who hired Uribes, remembered him years before he started working at Fresno State.
“I’ve known Tom for about 42 years,” said Peña, who recently retired. “It was the early to mid 70s, those turbulent years at Fresno State where there were demonstrations and protests to keep La Raza Studies and EOP.
“Tom was with us, but the was there taking pictures and writing and telling people about what was going on at Fresno State,” said Peña.