By Shane Healy
The Society of Jesus first brought Catholicism to Guam in 1668, and, although expelled about a century later, Jesuits returned to the island in 1968. But that didn’t preclude a “Jesuit presence” on the island—some of which came in the form of Marquette University (MU) alumni—several years before that.
Carlos Camacho was Guam’s first MU graduate in 1952. Returning home with a degree from the school of dentistry, he served as a captain in the army dental corps and spent years in private dental practice. His brother Luis Camacho followed him, earning a bachelor’s and dental degree from MU as well.
Another professional avenue appealed to Carlos Camacho, however, and, after serving as a senator in the Guam legislature, he was appointed governor of Guam. Then, when Congress passed the Guam Elected Governors Act in 1970, Camacho succeeded in becoming the first elected governor of Guam.
Four of Camacho’s sons also graduated from Marquette: Carlos, Felix, Francis, and Victor.
Felix Camacho says that his choice to attend Marquette stemmed in part from family, but also from the strong alumni community on Guam that continues to this day. “I knew that several prominent local leaders graduated from there,” he explains. “They have all contributed their talent and service to the island and are all leaders in their respective fields.” Felix Camacho became a prominent leader himself after following his father into politics and serving two terms as governor. He received an honorary doctor of laws degree from MU in 2004.
Felix Camacho’s younger brother Victor Camacho went to MU in the 1990s, a time when about 40 students from Guam were in residence. Victor Camacho, executive director of Sanctuary Inc., an organization that helps Guam’s youth struggling with homelessness and drug abuse, says his education at MU was “remarkable.” “I learned to take every life experience as a learning opportunity,” he says. “It was a chance to grow daily and carry out [Jesuit values] with a career in service to others.”
The Camachos are just a few of the MU alumni who have gone on to be “men and women for others” in their careers as attorneys, engineers, businesspeople, speech therapists, journalists, teachers, social workers, and more.
One example is Frances Marie Tydingco-Gatewood, whose work has elevated her to the position of associate justice under the leadership of the chief justice of Guam. “My first philosophy professor [at MU] actually convinced me to go to law school,” Tydingco-Gatewood recalls. “My experience was really outstanding. The nice thing about Marquette is having all these priests and teachers who really care about your future and want to see you succeed.” Even now, about 45 years after graduating, she stays in touch with other MU alumni.
Edward Duenas was Guam’s first MU alumnus to receive the all-university merit award, and his college roommate Juan Tenorio received the College of Engineering’s distinguished alumnus award shortly thereafter. Among Duenas’s achievements were serving as press secretary to the first governor, Carlos Camacho, and playing a key role in coordinating the governor’s historic Christmas visits with Guamanian troops in Vietnam. He also spearheaded a move that earned US veteran status for two groups of Chamorro men who contributed to military efforts during World War II. (The Chamorro people are the indigenous people of the Mariana Islands, which includes the US territory of Guam.)
After serving as director of Guam’s Department of Public Works, Tenorio established an engineering firm, the first formed by a Chamorro engineer. His firm handled major designs and project management in Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and Micronesia. Having served in the active army for several years, Tenorio was also instrumental in establishing the army reserve on Guam and in Saipan, and he commanded Guam’s 411th engineers battalion before retiring as a colonel.
Both award winners sent their daughters to Marquette as well.
Juan’s eldest daughter, Juanita “Tico” Tenorio, who graduated in 1986, recalls when she and her sister Lisa met MU’s director of admissions, Leo Flynn We [put him] in contact with our dad who, along with other alumni on the island, flew Mr. Flynn out to Guam to recruit students. The initial trips were so successful that Marquette started sending him to Guam every year. When I was leaving Marquette, there were about 30 to40 students attending.”
Today, the numbers are lower—in fall2019, there were six students from Guam at MU—but there is still enthusiasm on the island about the university. According to the Marquette Club of Guam (established in 1999), the university has more alumni on the island than any other US mainland university. Perhaps the great-grandchildren of the first voyagers to the Midwest will continue the trend.