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A match made on Sixth Street

Giving News

Martin and Rosana Lizárraga

By Angela Curtis

Not all knights ride white horses. This one drove a yellow Bug.

It was lunchtime, and Martin Lizárraga was driving down Austin’s Sixth Street when he saw trouble.

A determined young woman in a red dress was looking for something — her bus stop, it turns out — and didn’t notice the strange man who was following her. Immediately, Martin knew he had to do two things: rescue her from her pursuer, and get her phone number.

“For me it was love at first sight,” Martin recalls of that September day in 1985. “I told my sister I was going to marry this girl.”

Two years later he did. It was the same year he graduated from The University of Texas with a bachelor’s in communication. His lady in red, Rosana, graduated in 1991 with a bachelor’s in nursing.

The Lizárragas still live in Austin. They’re the parents of two children, 13-year-old Catalina and 9-year-old Alejandro. Martin works in the financial-services industry after spending 10 years working for the College of Communication’s career-services and survey research offices. Rosana is a certified telephone triage nurse for the Seton Call Center.

Martin and Rosana’s ties to the University are continuing through their children’s generation and beyond. Catalina and Alejandro take music lessons through the University’s Piano Project as well as UT’s String Project, where Catalina studies the viola and Alex the cello. And Martin and Rosana have bequeathed money to the University in their will, splitting their bequest between scholarships in the School of Nursing and the College of Communication.

Why scholarships? Martin and Rosana saw the impact of scholarships firsthand. Rosana was still in nursing school when the couple were newlyweds, and scholarship money helped them make ends meet.

“I saw what scholarship money could do when Rosana was in Nursing,” Martin says.

During Martin’s decade working in the College of Communication he also saw that many students depended on scholarships to attend UT.

Rosana learned the value of education at an early age. She grew up in the Philippines, the eighth of 14 children. Her father worked abroad as a professional engineer to help finance his children’s education, and all 14 went to college.

“When I was growing up, my dad said, ‘Wealth can be stolen from you, but if I give you an education, nobody can steal it from you.’?”

Rosana learned another lesson growing up. She holds her thumb and forefinger so close they’re almost touching. “When I was young, my mother taught me even if you only have this much, you should share it with other people less fortunate.”

Martin agrees. “Yes, your family is important, but you’ve also got to set something aside for good causes.”

Martin and Rosana see higher education as one of those causes.

“Public colleges still need help,” Martin says. “The money’s not all there.”

The logistics of giving came to Martin during an estate-planning class. The instructor, an attorney the Lizárragas would later hire to create their will and trust, asked whether the couple wanted to set anything aside for charity.

“Our first response was, in addition to our church, we wanted to remember the School of Nursing and the College of Communication,” Martin says. “The College of Communication changed my life, my perspective.”

Martin and Rosana smile when they talk about the day that started their lives together. Rosana had interviewed for a new job during her lunch break and was trying to figure out where to catch the bus back to work. Martin happened to drive by in his yellow VW Bug and noticed what Rosana did not: A man was following her.

“I knew it didn’t look right,” Martin says. “I tell our children I was Superman flying over the city and I saw this lady in red who was being chased by a bad guy.”

Martin offered Rosana a ride. Rosana didn’t know Martin, but she was late for work and by this time had realized she was being followed. Martin was clean-cut and handsome, and he seemed the safer choice.

“I just took my chances,” she says.

They met on a Tuesday, and he asked her out for dinner on Thursday. By then, Martin was already in love. Rosana liked him enough to accept, but it wasn’t love. Not yet.

“It took me awhile,” she says.

Credit Martin with persistence.

“I’m not ashamed or shy about it,” he says with a smile. “I made her fall in love with me because of my charm and wit.”

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