By Diane Echavarria

Gloria Villarreal Cortez ’63 BSN and husband Bill Cortez

How did you choose Incarnate Word College (IWC) for your education?

My dad chose it for me. He wanted me to be a teacher but that is one thing I rebelled on. I wanted to be a dentist but my dad said I could not pull teeth with my skinny arms so nursing was the next closest field.

I graduated from Ursuline Academy in Laredo and the nuns were very supportive of us continuing our education. Sr. Gabriel who was the principal at Ursuline wrote a letter of recommendation for me to Incarnate Word College.

Can you tell me about your family?

I have two brothers and four sisters and we all went to college which was not the usual case in my day. My parents were not well off but somehow they paid for all of us to go to college. I do not know how they did it. I knew I had to finish my degree in four years so I worked at it.

My husband, Bill, and I met in Laredo. He was a student at St. Joseph’s in Laredo and our schools had social events which brought us together and then he attended St. Mary’s University. I think we were lucky to grow up in Laredo. The cohesive community there gave us confidence to be whoever we wanted to be and that has stayed with us over all those years.

Are there any special teachers that stand out from your time at IWC – any particular memories?

I remember Sr. Margaret Patrice and Sr. Charles Marie. Sr. Charles Marie was always wonderful, kind and bright. We were told at the beginning of the BSN program that only 25 of our original group of 100 would graduate and they were right – that is almost the exact number that received their degree.

A memory I recall was being president of the sophomore class and a member of Alpha Chi Lambda.

How did nursing shape your life and what impact do nurses have in health care today?

Nursing was a wonderful career for me. I married during Christmas break my senior year and moved to Houston for Bill to begin law school. I worked at Methodist Hospital in medical/surgical and made rounds with Drs. DeBakey and Cooley. Since I was bilingual, the doctors wanted me to do rounds with them quite often. I met the Queen of Denmark and Elizabeth Taylor who were patients there. Nurses really spent more time face-to-face with doctors and in patient care than they do now I think.

After my daughter was born, I was a school nurse in the Houston Independent School District working with many migrant families. When we moved to St. Louis, I became certified to teach because they needed teachers to lead health science classes.

You currently reside in Georgia. How did a Texas girl land in Georgia?

Bill was transferred many times during his career in the transportation industry and we ended up in Georgia.

How did you and Bill come to found CorTrans Logistics?

Bill decided to move forward and form his own company building on his many years in the industry. I was working and could support us, so I told him to go for it. We have never borrowed and it has become more than self-sustaining. We have been truly blessed. It has been a lot of hard work but we are fortunate. I am now the vice president of human resources at CorTrans.

You seem to be gearing up when many at your stage in life are thinking about retirement. Do you and Bill have any plans to retire?

No, not yet. We have good health and now our daughter, Mariscela, is working with us. We employ about 30 people and they depend on us so we will continue to move forward.

What motivates you and Bill to make gifts?

We feel very blessed and want to give back. Education is one of the best investments anyone can make in their life and we want to help. Incarnate Word is special to me and scholarships are very important in helping students complete their education. Our parents truly fostered education and we want to do the same. We also support our church, the Archdiocese of Atlanta, Wounded Warriors, St. Vincent de Paul and the YMCA.

When you think about encouraging others to give to UIW, what thoughts come to mind?

Education has helped me personally and I believe it’s a blessing to help others reach their dreams and academic goals. I cannot believe the way Incarnate Word has grown over the years – from the new schools of pharmacy and optometry and more. Dr. Louis Agnese has done a great job. It has changed a lot in many wonderful ways. I am really impressed.