A Fighting Spirit: How An Aggie Veterinarian Persevered Through An Age Of Conflict With Selfless Service

Dr. Gilberto Treviño headshot, black and white image
Dr. Gilberto Treviño

Aggie veterinarian Dr. Gilberto Treviño ’52 was a man who never stopped trying to improve the world around him in all facets of his life, described in his obituary as a “teacher, student, fisherman, fisher of men, hunter, rancher, farmer, doctor, writer/author, scientist, coach, singer, comedian, civic leader, world traveler, soldier, war hero, builder, artisan, and best friend.”

Treviño first attended Texas A&M University with the plan of majoring in chemical engineering. These plans were cut short when, as a 19-year-old junior, he was drafted for World War II.

Eight months after receiving his notice, Treviño joined the 9th Marines 3rd Marine Division in combat, serving as a private first class in the Pacific theater.

His unit earned a Presidential Citation for extraordinary heroism for its service during the battle of Iwo Jima, but the battle took a toll on Treviño. He was wounded on Iwo Jima when a mortar exploded and damaged his hearing, but he declined to report the injury so he could stay and support his unit.

By the end of his life, Treviño was completely deaf without hearing aids as a result of this injury.

In 1946, Treviño was discharged at the rank of private first class and soon returned to Texas A&M, changing his major to study veterinary medicine.

In May of 1952, while waiting in line at his graduation to receive his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine after six years of study, a messenger delivered another draft notice with orders to report to Corpus Christi Naval Base and support the United States’ efforts in the Korean War.

Although Treviño had previously served during WWII, his newly received DVM led to new responsibilities for his service in the Korean War. He served as a food inspector until his discharge in 1954, when he returned to El Paso to pursue his passion of veterinary medicine.

Overcoming Challenges Of The Time

Born on Jan. 11, 1925, in Laredo, Treviño grew up on the Texas-Mexico border in a Spanish-speaking community and faced his fair share of discrimination. In a 2007 interview with Dr. Maggie Rivas-Rodriguez, he said that the reduced racial tension he found in the Army made it a more welcoming place.

“Racial bigotry is slowly being erased from this country, [but] not entirely. There is still too much of it,” Treviño said. “I don’t use my ethnicity as a club. I use it as a means for showing other people that any Hispanic can accomplish the same things as any Anglo—maybe a little bit better.”

His drive to succeed led him to return to Texas A&M as an instructor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVMBS) and earn his Master of Science degree in Veterinary Medicine and Surgery, majoring in dermatology. 

“He was a superb teacher and surgeon, just outstanding,” said Dr. Garry Adams, a senior professor in the CVMBS’ Department of Veterinary Pathobiology (VTPB) and a longtime colleague of Treviño’s.

“He did great work and was recognized for what he had done because of the quality of his work, not because he of the color of his skin or because he came from a certain area,” Adams said. “There was, and I’m sure there still is, bigotry, but in spite of that, he was successful.”

Despite his success as a professor, Treviño volunteered for the Army in 1959, serving again during the Vietnam War.

After he left active duty, he kept busy by contributing his spirit of selfless service to the veterinary field.

Treviño was the first Army veterinarian selected to be trained as a pathologist. In 1963, he was sent to Michigan State University, where he earned a Ph.D. in pathology, and later became a Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Pathologists.

He was also the first military liaison officer to Emergency Programs representing the Department of Defense. During his final assignment, he established the U.S. Army Forces Command (FORSCOM) Animal Disease Eradication Plan.

He retired from active duty as a colonel in 1976 after 27 years of service.

“He had an ability to speak with knowledge, with information, and to provide a compelling debate for moving a project, an idea, or a program forward. That was very inspirational to me, the ability to lead even when it’s a difficult project, to be prepared and ready, and to be compelling in providing information for making a decision.”

DR. GARRY ADAMS

Returning To His Roots

After his retirement, Treviño returned to Texas A&M, this time as director of the Institute of Tropical Veterinary Medicine and a graduate pathology professor at the CVMBS. 

“What I saw in him was this organization of skill and the ability to speak and encourage engagement across the border, internationally and locally, because he was innately very bright,” Adams said. “He really wanted to move things forward in an organized way.”

In this position, Treviño inspired future veterinarians and advocated for animal health through a One Health approach to veterinary medicine.

“He had an ability to speak with knowledge, with information, and to provide a compelling debate for moving a project, an idea, or a program forward,” Adams said. “That was very inspirational to me, the ability to lead even when it’s a difficult project, to be prepared and ready, and to be compelling in providing information for making a decision.”

In 1981, Treviño retired from the CVMBS and became a professor emeritus. He returned to his hometown of Laredo, where he served as a relief veterinarian and raised cattle. During this time, Treviño also began a custom mesquite furniture business.

“That deep character carried him through the rest of his life,” Adams said. “He was crystallized in that crucible of survival and decided if he was ever to survive this situation, he was going to do something, and he did. He fell into his unique pathway to serve in his capacity, to lead in his capacity, to be an example and a model in veterinary medicine.”

Treviño passed away in March 2011 at the age of 86. He was survived by his wife, Christine, a daughter, and a son.

Treviño’s legacy serves as a reminder of the resilience of the Aggie spirit and the drive to improve the world around us, protect what we believe in, and dedicate our lives to a greater cause.

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For more information about the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, please visit our website at vetmed.tamu.edu or join us on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter.

Contact Information: Jennifer Gauntt, Director of CVMBS Communications, Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences; jgauntt@cvm.tamu.edu; 979-862-4216


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