Before he was serving The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley and its legacy institution, UT Pan American, David Clower Jr. served in the U.S. Air Force, capturing notable people and moments as a photographer.

Clower, who is the supervisor for UTRGV’s Printing Services operations in Edinburg, was stationed at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California and at the former Carswell Air Force Base in Fort Worth, took photos of rocket launches and tests, distinguished visitors and other newsworthy events on base.

He originally trained to work as a computer programmer in the Air Force but, when he began basic training, he was told there was no job available for him in that field and he was given a list of other career options for which he could receive training.

Clower said he noticed that the training location for photography was in Pensacola, Florida.

“So I was like, ‘The beach? Florida? You can’t beat that at all,’” he said. “I had no clue, didn’t know anything about photography, but Pensacola sold me.”

Photography is life

Clower said he enjoys photography because it allows him to tell a story through pictures. He still works in photography, shooting photos for the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, Rio Grande Valley FC Toros and covering other sporting events.

“If you ever go back in history, you see an iconic picture that tells a story,” he said. “People can relate with a picture. I wanted to have those pictures that lived on in history that someone would see and never forget.”

His work as a photographer landed him a small role as an extra on the movie “Rocket’s Red Glare,” which starred Robert Wagner, Marilu Henner and Danielle Fishel. Parts of the film were shot at one of the bases where he was stationed. Some of his photographs also are featured in the film.

“Robert Wagner pushed for a small part for me in the movie,” he said. “I got to be a photographer … I played myself, basically.”

Clower, who was born in Arkansas and raised in Waco, Texas, said he is grateful for the opportunities he received while serving in the military. He was deployed in 2001 to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and has traveled to France, Germany, Hawaii, Italy Japan and Panama during his time of service. He also credits his military experience with giving him the skills to communicate with others and work on creative projects.

After leaving the military 13 years ago, Clower moved to the Rio Grande Valley and worked as a videographer for KGBT-TV CBS 4 News for about a year before moving over to then-UT Pan American.

Clower also dabbled in graphic design while serving in the military, so when the athletics department needed someone to design promotional items, his wife, Cris De Leon, who used to work for athletics at UTPA and now works for UTRGV Information Technology, recommended her husband for the job.

“I was always interested in graphic design and, in the military, we had to put templates together, so we used (Adobe) Photoshop and I became really intrigued by how it worked.”

His first project was a media guide and a poster for the UTPA men’s basketball team for the athletics department. He was offered a job with Print Services and worked his way up to become the supervisor for the Edinburg Campus.

“I love being able to be a part of the growth of this wonderful higher learning institution,” Clower said. “I believe the pieces we print may influence the decision of a young kid that hasn’t made up his or her mind. I want to be a contributor to the success and growth of our university.”

Going the extra mile

Roberto Cantu, executive director for UTRGV’s Auxiliary Business Services, said Clower is an invaluable team member.

“David has worked tirelessly to advance the university’s image by providing excellent and cost-effective printing services that help contribute to the success of UTRGV,” Cantu said. “The skills he acquired while serving our country in the Air Force easily transferred to the higher education environment.”

Clower said his favorite aspect of his job is working with clients.

“I love talking with people and, a lot of the time, the conversation will go from job related to how they are doing, how is their family doing,” he said. “I get to know a lot of people. This job has allowed me to make friends.”

One office that has relied heavily on Clower’s patience and skill is UTRGV’s Marketing and Creative Services. Elisa Flores, account services manager for Marketing and Creative Services, said Clower and his team have been invaluable in helping them meet their clients’ needs for marketing materials.

“He’s a team player, always doing whatever he can, always going the extra mile and making you feel like a valued customer,” Flores said. “He’s a great colleague and I consider him a great friend.”

Flores said she recalls one project they worked on together during the transition from the legacy institutions to UTRGV – printing certificates for the Graduate Medical Education department, which was still under The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. They had a short time frame to complete the project, and part of the work had to be done on the Brownsville Campus, and then be sent back to Edinburg to send to San Antonio.

“He and his team went above and beyond in getting the foiling for it done,” she said. “The clients were so happy with the final product. He did what he needed to do to make it happen.”

Veterans Services at UTRGV

There are about 124 UTRGV employees who have identified themselves as veterans and more than 800 veteran students enrolled at UTRGV.

UTRGV offers a variety of services for veterans, including the:

· Military and Veteran Success Center assists in certifying education benefits and offers support to veteran students.

· TRIO Veterans Upward Bound delivers college preparation services and other assistance to veteran students in Cameron County.

· Veterans Business Outreach Center provides assistance to veterans and other members of the military in creating, developing and maintaining businesses.

· UTRGV-VA Telehealth Counseling program offers confidential telehealth counseling to veterans who are enrolled in VA benefits and are eligible to receive services.