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Colom Remembered for Work, Humor and Dedication to Students

BROWNSVILLE, TEXAS – MARCH 31, 2014 – The University of Texas at Brownsville is remembering Dr. Luis V. Colom as a visionary, a mentor to students and colleagues and his commitment to research and the university.
Colom, the Vice President of the Division of Research and Dean of the College of Nursing and Dean of the College of Biomedical Sciences and Health Professions, lost his battle with cancer on Thursday, March 27 at his residence surrounded by his loving family.
A service celebrating Colom’s life is planned for 6:30 p.m. Thursday, April 3 at the Student Union’s Gran Salon. The service will include tributes to Colom along with his favorite music and foods. In keeping with the spirit of the celebration, please wear bright colors.
“He was a visionary,” said Maria Villalon, Special Projects Coordinator in the Division of Research. “His leadership and guidance in the Division of Research was genuine and from the heart. His passion for research was felt from the first moments you interacted with him. His spirit lives here in our university in its research buildings, halls, walkways and the hearts of all that had the privilege to meet him. We will miss him dearly.”
Colom’s presence loomed large in the Biomedical Sciences and Health Professions Building with his second floor laboratory and his office across the courtyard in the Division of Research.
Osiel Perez, 20, a sophomore biomedical sciences major from Brownsville and a graduate of Lopez High School, said he would remember Colom’s humbleness, mentoring and uplifting yet constructive criticism.
“When I needed guidance as a freshman, he opened doors to a whole new world for me,” said Perez. “He gave me the amazing opportunity to be part of his Alzheimer’s research laboratory and help change the world. Through this lab I was further introduced to the new biomedical program, to which I applied and got accepted. He was a man who portrayed character, enthusiasm, leadership and above all, love for his friends and family.”
Miriam De Leon, 20, a junior biomedical sciences major from Matamoros, Mexico and a graduate of Saint Joseph Academy in Brownsville, said Colom’s enthusiasm for research motivated her to work in his neuroscience laboratory.
“In his lab, we are one big family and always watch out and care for each other,” said De Leon. “Not only was he a loving and nurturing father to his kids, but to all the students in his lab. I have never met a person with the unique and special qualities and virtues that he possessed. I have truly been blessed to have the opportunity to meet and work with such an extraordinary and wonderful man.”
Dr. Maria Teresa Castañeda, a Research Assistant Professor in the Center for Biomedical Studies in the Department of Biomedicine in the College of Biomedical Sciences and Health Professions, worked in Colom’s laboratory. Colom hired Castañeda shortly after he joined UTB in 2001 and was an influence in her finishing her doctoral degree in biomedical sciences from Universidad de Granada in Spain.
“His work speaks for itself,” said Castañeda. “Even throughout the last moments of his treatment, he dedicated heart and soul into his work, his research and the university. I remember that he would always greet and receive students warmly. He motivated them to persevere and pursue their dreams with optimism. Even on the occasion when the student did not have the drive or the abilities to succeed, he would still believe in them and say, ‘Everyone deserves a chance.’”
During his time at UTB, Colom was an Associate Professor, Interim Department Chair, Professor and Chair of the Department of Biological Sciences, Director for the Center for Biomedical Studies and Chair of the University Research Council.
Brissa Leal, 24, a 2012 UTB alumna in biology and currently working on a doctorate in physical therapy at Texas Woman’s University in Houston, had Colom as an instructor and worked in his laboratory.
“I owe him so much of what I have accomplished in my career,” said Leal. “I am truly honored and grateful for his caring advice, for always pushing me forward, for believing in me and especially for his encouraging hugs. He is one of those few professors who truly make a difference in a student’s life. I will truly miss him.”
Dr. Hugo Rodriguez, Assistant Professor in the Department of Biomedicine, said Colom always fought for the betterment of his students, staff and the university.
“Luis was one of the people that just gave and gave everything without expecting anything in return,” said Rodriguez. “He was one of those people who were simply kind, sincere and affable who truly loved life. It is very difficult to know that I can’t go to his office today and sit for a little bit, to take a bottle of water from his min-fridge or steal his almonds. But I also know that today that is suffering is gone and he’s no longer suffering. Today there’s peace.”
Dr. Eloisa Tamez, Associate Professor in the College of Nursing, said she admired Colom’s brilliance, humility and optimism and his way of making people feel comfortable.
“He persevered until you could arrive at a workable solution and find some peace,” said Tamez. “I frequently would run into him at the HEB on Central Avenue. He would be going all over the place looking for things as he was obviously not very familiar with the layout. He will be missed.”
Colom has also held research and academic positions at the University of Uruguay, the University of Calgary in Canada and the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston
Colom was a native of Uruguay. He received his Doctor of Medicine from the School of Medicine at the University of Uruguay and his Doctor of Philosophy from the Faculty of Science at the University of Uruguay.
Funeral arrangements are being handled by Sunset Funeral Home in Brownsville.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests memorial gifts to support student scholarships in memory of Colom be made to The University of Texas at Brownsville, 1 West University Blvd., Brownsville, Texas 78520. To give online, click here.


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