The son of an iconic Del Rio educator will be addressing the San Felipe Del Rio Consolidated School District Monday night. He will be presenting a petition to change the name of Lamar Elementary School to Irene Cardenas Cardwell Elementary.
David Cardwell stated he will be addressing the school board, asking them to transfer the name of Mrs. Irene Cardenas Cardwell Elementary, currently given to the school located at 1009 Ave. J and formerly known as East Side Elementary, to Lamar Elementary School, 301 Waters Ave. in the historic San Felipe Barrio.
“I hope to make my presentation on Monday, I am also going to show all the awards that Mrs. Cardwell received during her lifetime. They will be on display in the room across the hall from the auditorium,” Cardwell said.
Cardwell said he expects to have the room ready and available for viewing by 4 p.m. and to keep it open until the end of the school board meeting.
Cardwell said he will be making a preliminary presentation, emphasizing the ties of his mother to the historic Barrio San Felipe. He said his mother was born and raised in San Felipe and that’s where her heart always was.
Irene Cardenas Cardwell, born April 9, 1909, was the daughter of Serapio Cardenas, who came to Del Rio with his parents from Nuevo Leon, Mexico in 1886. He met and married Petra Trevino Cardenas on Jan. 29, 1907. Irene was the second of nine children born to the couple.
“We think that the legacy of my mother has been moved from place to place, first it was at Travis Elementary, a school she practically built up with the help of PTA, and then it was at East Side,” Cardwell said.
“Bringing her name to San Felipe would be not only very important for us, but also for the barrio,” Cardwell said. He also said he will be asking the school board to consider changing the name of the school from “Irene C. Cardwell” to “Irene Cardenas Cardwell” to reflect her maiden name and her family.
Irene Cardenas Cardwell, who passed away in 2008 at the age of 99, was a renowned educator who touched and influenced the lives of countless individuals.
She graduated from Del Rio High School in 1927 and received her Teacher’s Certificate that same year from Sul Ross State Teacher’s College, now Sul Ross State University in Alpine, Texas. She went back to college and received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education from Sul Ross State Teachers College.
She taught first grade in the San Felipe Independent School District for over 31 years, she was an elementary school principal for 14 years and served many years as a presidential appointee to the National Advisory Council for the Education of Disadvantaged Children in Washington D.C.
Being a Democrat, she was appointed to this position by then President Richard Nixon at the recommendation of U.S. Republican Senator John Tower.
The highlight of her distinguished career in education was the renaming of her beloved Travis Elementary School to Irene C. Cardwell Elementary School on April 9, 1999, the day of her 90th birthday.
She was also passionate for her community and church, serving in many organizations including March of Dimes, Cancer Drive, United Fund, Val Verde County Tuberculosis Association, Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish Council, San Felipe Cemetery Association, Diamond Jubilee Committee, Boots and Bows Club, LULAC Council 353, Val Verde Memorial Hospital Women’s Assembly, Val Verde County Library Board, Girl and Boy Scout Clubs, Civic Music Association, Old Folk Home and HAND Helping A Neighbor Directly.
She organized HAND in 1972 to assist in building and remodeling the homes of the indigent in the community. Habitat for Humanity started in 1976.
Her accolades include recognition by U.S. President Harry S. Truman in 1948 for her contributions to the Selective Service System, she was named a Yellow Rose of Texas by Gov. Dolph Briscoe, honored by Gov. Ann Richards for her services to the Texas communities, awarded the “Services to Disadvantaged Children” award by U.S. President Richard M. Nixon, named a “Noble Woman” by the Texas House of Representatives, awarded the Archbishop Frances Furey Bronze Medal for her services to her church, recognized as a “Notable Woman” by the American Association of University Women, inducted into Kappa Delta Pi, an education honors society, recognized and given life membership by the Texas Congress of Parents and Teachers, recognized by the U.S. Department of Justice INS, Lions Club “Citizen of the Year” award, Knights of Columbus Community Service award, honored by the San Felipe Ex Students Associations of California, San Antonio chapter, Laughlin AFB. Merit Service Award.
She was also recognized by Casa de la Cultura for her outstanding service to the community at the 10th Annual Woman’s Day Conference and in 2007 was named a “Woman of Distinction” by the El Camino Girl Scout Council.