Alex — 27 January 2011, 16:54
The scholarship Myrka Gonzalez & David Ochoa created helped me to achieve my goal going to college. Their stories are a real inspiration.
Ready to Give Back / Couple spreads wealth across LI Published: March 20, 2002 7:00 PM By Bart Jones. STAFF WRITER
He was one of the first Chicanos to graduate from UCLA Law
School. He won two Emmys as an WNBC producer. And he founded a cable TV company
in East Los Angeles that was the nation’s second largest minority-owned
telecommunications company for most of the 1980s.
For a guy who grew up in a Mexican-American migrant farm family of 15
children that moved up and down California picking tomatoes, prunes and
apricots, David Ochoa has not done badly.
Last year his Buena Vision Cable Co. was sold, and Ochoa made a few million
dollars. Now he and his wife, Myrka Gonzalez, a Cuban refugee whose uncle
spent 16 years in Fidel Castro’s jails as a political prisoner, want to give
some back to the community.
The Suffolk County couple have created a $1.25 million endowed scholarship
fund for Latino students at Dowling College in Oakdale, where Ochoa is vice
president for development.
They also donated what eventually will amount to $1 million to the
Congregational Church of Patchogue, and $500,000 to the Suffolk County Boy
Scouts. Beyond that, they gave immediate cash gifts of $25,000 to the Urban
League and $30,000 to Hofstra Law School to create a Latino student scholarship
fund in Gonzalez’s name. She graduated from the school in 1982.
The larger sums have stunned the recipients. “The amount is rather unique,”
said Dowling President Albert Donor. “People don’t give a million dollars
every day” to an institution.
Ochoa and Gonzalez are making the larger donations through an increasingly
popular philanthropic mechanism: prepaid life insurance policies.
The policies will grow to their full values over the next 15 years or so
and be fully paid out after the couple passes away. Before then, however, the
institutions can draw on them “like a line of credit,” Ochoa said.
The insurance policy at Dowling won’t kick in until 2003, so the couple
also made a cash gift of $40,000 to start the scholarship immediately. The fund
will finance the studies of several students a year, Ochoa said. Hofstra
should be able to do likewise, partly because the couple may increase their
All told, the two spent about $300,000 to buy the insurance policies and
make the immediate cash gifts. Dowling honored them Friday at a luncheon.
Ochoa, 58, said the donations are meant in part to send a message to fellow
Latinos that giving is important. They also are meant to show the majority
culture that Latinos often are generous.
“We’re sharing the gift that God has given us,” Ochoa said. “We have a
civic responsibility, all of us, to improve the human condition.”
Ken D’Apice, executive director of the Suffolk County Boy Scouts, said the
couple’s donation will help the organization survive long-term. “We think in
terms of not just the next year or two, but the next 25, 50, even 100 years,”
Ochoa and Gonzalez know all about adversity and how a helping hand from
groups such as the Boy Scouts can change a life.
Gonzalez’s parents were professionals in Cuba who fled in 1962 after they
became disillusioned with Castro’s revolution.
They were allowed to depart with almost nothing other than the clothes on
their backs. “You were leaving the country. You were a traitor. That’s how you
were perceived,” Gonzalez said.
When they arrived in Miami they were so poor that Gonzalez, her sister and
their parents shared the family’s sole bed. Her father slept sideways, propping
his feet on a chair.
A month later the family moved to Jackson Heights, where another sister was
born. She had to sleep in a drawer at first.
They eventually made their way to Long Island, where Gonzalez graduated
from Newfield High School in Selden, SUNY Stony Brook and Hofstra Law School. A
former Hempstead Village prosecutor, today she has her own private practice in
Ochoa was the first in his family to go to college, attending Whittier
College in Whittier, Calif. An anti-Vietnam War protester in the ‘60s, he
worked with farm worker activist Cesar Chavez and helped try to shut down East
Los Angeles’ public school system, which he says was permeated with racism and
ineptness. After graduating from UCLA Law School in 1970, he taught law and
worked in Latin America for a few years.
When he returned, he produced programs at WNBC-TV/4in New York for consumer
affairs reporter Betty Furness and won two Emmys. That helped lead him to
found Buena Vision.
He said he was reading a magazine article one day titled “Blacks are
Missing the Cable Revolution.” He recalled thinking, “Well, if blacks are
missing the cable revolution, Latinos, Hispanics, we didn’t even know there was
He and some friends from UCLA set up their cable company in heavily Latino
East Los Angeles, and found it was wide open territory. Business took off.
Ochoa was the company’s chief executive officer and chairman. He left in 1984
for a career in higher education, and later met Gonzalez on Long Island after
he joined Dowling.
Last year Buena Vision was sold for $43 million. Ochoa, still a major
shareholder, made out handsomely.
The scholarship fund he and his wife created at Dowling from the company’s
sale already has its first recipient, Jose Torres, a freshman who came to the
United States from Mexico at age of knowing not a word of English.
The scholarship “is helping people who can’t afford to go to college or
even buy the books,” said Torres, 18, a Huntington resident and 2001 Walt
Whitman High School South graduate.
Ochoa and Gonzalez said the donations and funds are just the start of their
efforts.”This is our first gift,” Ochoa said. “This is our down
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