Sylvester “Syl” Perez: Highlands Spirit Award

Sylvester Perez

Sylvester “Syl” Perez

Long after he graduated from NMHU, Sylvester “Syl” Perez took over the helm of the NMHU Athletic Alumni H Club team. He was recognized as a Distinguished Alumnus and is a member of the H Club Hall of Fame. Perez received his doctorate in Educational Administration from Texas A&M University. He was an educator for over 40 years serving as a teacher-coach and administrator before finishing his career from public education as School Superintendent for the San Antonio Independent School District. He later taught Higher Education for the University of Texas at San Antonio.   

Perez arrived at NMHU as a transfer student from St. Philips College, a Historically Black College in his hometown of San Antonio. A Major League Baseball scout knew of NMHU’s stellar reputation in baseball and recommended him to Coach Jim Marshall.  

“I had never flown or really seen snow, much less mountains,” Perez said. “But when I was flying in, I asked the man sitting next to me, ‘Sir, is that White Sands?’ and he said, “That’s snow!’” 

In 1971, Perez set a home run record that would stand for 29 years while being named NAIA All-American. He later played in the Jayhawk League in Kansas and the Shenandoah Valley League in Virginia where he was named Valley League All-Star. Baseball and athletics have been very instrumental in Perez’s life.  

“There are many lessons in sports that cannot be taught in the classroom, like sharing common goals, supporting one another, failing, and having to bounce back from adversity,” Perez said. “This has helped me, and many others, develop and continually grow.”   

In 1972, Perez graduated and was a student teacher at both Robertson High School and Douglas Elementary.  

“We had tremendous professors in the education department. These professors taught us both content and pedagogy, along with helping us develop great lessons,” Perez said. “My professors challenged us academically while maintaining a caring environment.”  

Perez is a strong supporter of NMHU welcoming students from all backgrounds—a mission supported by the school’s open-enrollment policy.  

“Highlands is a unique environment that is rich in diversity and cultures” Perez said. “America’s colleges and institutions could learn many lessons from HU as it is a shining example of what higher education aspires to be today.”  

Perez credits all his professors while mentioning Dr. Lynn Perrigo for sparking his ongoing interest in history.  

“I am still a history buff. In today’s world, we must continue to teach and learn true history,” Perez said.  

President Minner, who nominated Perez for the Highlands Spirit Award, commended him for his dedicated support for the university.  

“I love working with him. He’s given me lots of good advice over the years,” Minner said. “I feel very strongly about him in the most positive way.”  

Perez is honored and humbled by the award and is forever grateful to the school that continues to support students from all backgrounds.  

“Open enrollment universities like Highlands provide students with opportunities to reach higher levels and prepare them for successful lives.”