Alfredo de los Santos

Alfredo de los Santos, February 20, 1936 – March 8, 2020

Dr. Alfredo de los Santos
Student Researchers: Jesus Aldaz, Valeria Hernandez, & Kendall Schwartz

“Don’t count other people’s socks.” This is a quote Dr. de los Santos would use throughout his career among using many other quirky little sayings. It means to focus on your own work, other than worrying about other people and what they think and do. Alfredo de los Santos did just that.

Dr. de los Santos shares one of his favorite sayings.

Dr. de los Santos is a husband, father, and perfect example of accomplishing something when you put your mind to it. He accomplished many things in the Maricopa Community College District during his time as Vice Chancellor of Educational Development for 21 and a half years. Before moving to Arizona in 1978, he was founder of El Paso Community College. He is now retired, and it is easy to see he made a great impact for those who worked with him.

Alfredo grew up on a ranch near Laredo, Texas and spent his childhood and some of his young adult life in Texas. There he went to school, attended junior college after graduating high school, and attended University of Texas at Austin where he earned three degrees. In order to pay for his education and support himself, he became a migrant worker and traveled to Cambria, Wisconsin in the summers. He also worked in the library as an assistant, as well as on his family’s ranch.

Dr. de los Santos recalls childhood memories.

After founding and becoming President of El Paso Community College, de los Santos applied to be Chancellor of the Maricopa Community College District. Instead, he was made Vice Chancellor and made several key changes once he got to work. One of the first challenges and opportunities he faced in his first year as Vice Chancellor was to navigate a divided state political system to introduce a controversial plan for a community college in South Phoenix.

Dr. de los Santos paints backdrop of the educational and political climate in 1970s Maricopa County.
Dr. de los Santos remembers a crucial phone call with Arizona politicians.

Early in his Maricopa career, he spearheaded movements to unify the class courses, names, description, and prerequisites so that transferring credits to universities became much easier. He was among the first in the country to devise an electronic way to transfer credits between community colleges and universities which unified and strengthened the curriculum. After winning the Urban Systemic Initiative grant from the National Science Foundation, the Maricopa District established relationships with the Phoenix Public K-12 schools. His goal was to help prepare teachers to teach math and science at a higher level. Under the program, scores from the urban public schools increased drastically. de los Santos was also passionate about international education. He was among the first to organize educators and faculty to travel to China, and for Chinese educators to come here through the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

Dr. de los Santos thinks back on how he revolutionized the college credit-transfer process.

Alfredo championed early applications of technology during his time with Maricopa, making it a priority to incorporate it into the district system. de los Santos did this by purchasing microcomputers for the faculty and district office employees to use, as they were trained to use them. In the 1980’s, computers were new to education, so de los Santos paved the way for technology in higher education.

Alfredo de los Santos in his home, Fall 2018

The Maricopa Community College District and South Mountain Community College have Dr. Alfredo de los Santos to thank for all he has done for the district and schools. His work was instrumental
and led to the success of the district as he provided the leadership that was crucial and needed.

Alfredo de los Santos died in his home on March 8th, 2020. He was a trailblazer and an innovator, and though he will be missed, his contributions shaped the world of higher education forever.

Student Researchers: Jesus Aldaz, Valeria Hernandez, & Kendall Schwartz, Fall 2018