DR. MANUEL SARMIENTO ENVERGA
Founder – President (1909 – 1981)
Dr. Manuel Sarmiento Enverga was born on January 1, 1909 in the coastal town of Mauban, Quezon. He was the youngest of seven children of a middle class family.
At six he went to the Mauban Elementary School where he graduated with the highest general average in 1921. In spite of his father being stricken with paralysis, the young Manuel continued his high school education at the St. Bonaventure Academy on a full scholarship owing to the recommendation of the parish priest, Fr. Policarpio Trinidad, who saw in the youth great promise.
On his sophomore year, Manuel moved to Manila to live with his sister Josefa where he continued studying at the National University. After high school, he enrolled in the liberal arts program of the University of Santo Tomas at the same time studying music at the University of the Philippines’ Conservatory of Music.
Malaria cut his musical studies short and forced him to go on a long vacation in Guinayangan, Quezon where he applied for a homestead grant in Barrio Hinabaan. Nevertheless, he gave up the land grant to his friends when his father died and his mother became blind to go home to Mauban to take up family responsibilities.
The setbacks motivated Manuel to persevere. He returned to Manila, took up law at the Philippine Law School and passed the Philippine bar successfully where he obtained the highest grades in International and Remedial Law.
He started a family on April 10, 1940 when he married Rosario Lopez, the daughter of an affluent family in Lucena City. Their marriage was blessed with four children: Wilfrido, born on May 4, 1941, three-term congressman of the First District and governor of Quezon Province; Jazmin on November 8 two years later, vice president for administrative affairs of the Manuel S. Enverga University Foundation; Naila on April 14, 1947, acting president of the MSEUF, and Manuel, Jr., a businessman, on October 27, 1951.
By the time the Second World War broke out, Atty. Enverga had a flourishing career in law and was part owner of a school in Manila. The war forced him to evacuate his family from Manila to Lucena and eventually to Mauban. He resumed his law practice when the Japanese left the country and at the same time continued his studies at the School of Foreign Service in the University of the Philippines.
In 1947 shortly before his graduation, he represented the Association of the Philippine Academy of Foreign Affairs in the Inter-Asian Relations Conference in New Delhi, India where he talked about national movements for freedom. His arguments influenced Asian leaders to a great degree to assert their rights and sovereignty from colonial interference. In this conference, he met with the great Indian leader Jawaharlal Nehru, his sister, Russian ambassador Lakhsmi Pandit, and the future Indian Premier, Indira Gandhi.
Former partners were trying to persuade him to reestablish their old school in Manila. Seeing that many young people could not go back to school due to economic difficulties, he declined their offer and instead put up the Luzonian Colleges on January 14, 1947 to help his province mates send their offspring to school after the war destroyed their means of livelihood.
The Luzonian Colleges opened in the summer of 1947 to 102 students, mostly war veterans, after the Securities and Exchange Commission granted its charter on February 11, 1947. Founder-president Enverga delegated the management of the school to his trusted team composed of Tobias Y. Enverga, Jose M. Eleazar, Atty. Ramon Yngente, Rosario M. Atienza, and several teachers recruited from Tayabas High School while he was in Manila although he would be a hands-on administrator whenever he went home to Lucena.
Meanwhile, law practice in Manila and association with legal luminaries Justice Felix V. Makasiar and Atty. Jose L. Gamboa gave Atty. Enverga the opportunity to handle celebrated cases in Philippine jurisprudence. This motivated him to enroll at the University of Santo Tomas master of laws program. In 1948 UST rector Rev. Fr. Aniceto Castanon recommended him for the doctor of laws program at the Universidad Central de Madrid that he finished sobresaliente (with the highest honors).
After graduation, he would tour Europe and the United States on his way home and he would marvel at the tradition of endowments of philanthropists and captains of industry to maintain the culture of excellence in higher education and cultural institutions. This inspired him to nurture the idea of setting up a foundation to run the Luzonian Colleges.
Even as he nurtured plans for the school he founded, the siren call of local politics lured him in no time. In 1953, he ran for congressman and won in the first district of Quezon under the Nacionalista Party. He represented his district from 1954 to 1969, an unprecedented four terms in 15 years of a colorful political career. Repeatedly cited outstanding congressman by the Philippines Free Press, Congressman Enverga campaigned relentlessly for the reexamination of the national policy towards socialist countries. He moved for congressional approval for the country to establish trade relations with socialist countries, a stand that made the United States’ Central Intelligence Agency shadow his movements on suspicion that he was a communist. Clearly, he was a man ahead of his time and no sooner was he vindicated that sole dependence on the American market for Philippine products was costly for the Philippine economy.
He was struck down by heart attack in 1969 but survived for the next 12 years to strengthen the school, shepherded it to attain university status, and saw it transformed into a great seat of learning in Southern Luzon. He devoted the remaining years of his life to expanding the University and training its human resources for the challenges of the next generation.
When he passed away on June 14, 1981, he had attained his vision of a university with relevant academic programs, energized faculty, and strong community ties.