TEXAS MEXICAN INDUSTRIAL INSTITUTE
TEXAS MEXICAN INDUSTRIAL INSTITUTE. The Texas Mexican Industrial Institute, a school for boys from grades 6 to 12, was established in Kingsville in 1912 by the Texas Mexican Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church to ensure an educated Texas Mexican ministry and membership. Two years before, in 1910, the Texas Mexican Presbytery and the presbyteries of Fort Worth and Western Texas had convinced the Synod of Texas to establish the school for boys. The school was part of the Presbyterian Church's plan to provide educational opportunities to its entire Mexican constituency. Still, another decade would pass before the Presbyterian School for Mexican Girls would be organized. Nonetheless, eight girls were part of the first class of the institute but left within the year because conditions at the school were considered too "primitive" for them. The boys' school was thus the first of several educational programs that the Synod established for Texas Mexicans beginning in the 1910s. This development was a product of the Presbyterian Church's expansion of its missionary work in Texas in the late nineteenth century. By 1892 a call to establish a "distinct Mexican Presbytery" was made, and in 1907 the Synod of Texas approved its establishment. Three Texas Mexican members of the church, Elías Treviño, Reynaldo Avila, and Margarito Rodríguez, joined church leader Robert D. Campbell in making the petition to take this step. Treviño would later serve on the first board of directors of the boy's academy. The Synod agreed to provide money to build the school through its executive committee on home missions since it considered the project a part of its "missionary" work. Land was donated by the King Ranch and the Kingsville Chamber of Commerce. According to one source, a two-story house and two barns were turned into the first school buildings on a 29½ acre campus. Forty-nine students and one teacher comprised the first class. James W. Skinner was appointed the first president. After his death in 1931 S. Brooks McLane assumed the school leadership.
Skinner was seriously committed to educating students into examples of "a disciplined Christian manhood" and altered traditional educational concepts to ensure this. Any part of the curriculum failing to meet this requirement was cast into "the scrap pile." His philosophy relied on "work and daily life," and the school's success was attributed to his program of a combination of one half day of classes and one half day of work. The "Tex-Mex," as it came to be known, stressed English proficiency, public speaking, and participation in public programs as well as self-confidence and leadership building skills. To bolster its Christian perspective, Bible studies were also taught. Daily life for the students at the "Tex-Mex" meant working on its 200 acres of farmland, which included a dairy, gardens, a citrus orchard, poultry, beef, cattle, and hogs. Some chose to work in its woodworking, metal working, printing, and machine shops. Presumably students could also learn other trades, such as construction, plumbing, welding, sheet metal work, leather work, and shoe repairing. The emphasis on work resulted in students' contributions to the school and the Texas Mexican Presbytery. For instance, they built almost all the permanent buildings on the campus with the assistance of their teachers. The students also published Spanish language publications in their printing shop. Five years after its beginning a storm destroyed part of the school, and after it was rebuilt the number of students climbed to seventy-five. By 1949 the school had added a "teacherage," infirmary, and library.
In 1956 school was merged with the Presbyterian School for Mexican Girls, which had been established in Taft in 1924. This new coeducational institution was named the Presbyterian Pan American School. With this new era the focus changed from a primarily vocational program of studies to a college preparatory one and eventually enrolled more international students, principally from Mexico. Moreover, especially in the 1980s, the background of students attending the school changed to the middle to upper middle classes of Mexico. Mexican Americans continue to attend the school, but in much smaller numbers, and they are generally poorer than their classmates. The school still emphasizes a spiritual approach in its curriculum and requires that all its students work. Some of them tend the eighty cattle on its expanded 700-acre ranch.
Robert Douglas Brackenridge, and Francisco O. García-Treto, Iglesia Presbiteriana: A History of Presbyterians and Mexican Americans in the Southwest (San Antonio: Trinity University Press, 1974; 2d ed. 1987).