Photo of Francisco X. Dominguez ’89

Professional Background

  • Elected state district judge of the 205th District Court, handling civil and felony criminal cases in El Paso, Hudspeth, and Culberson Counties. 
  • Began legal career with New York Legal Aid Society – Criminal Defense Division, Manhattan Office, represented farmworkers and garment workers as a staff attorney with Texas Rural Legal Aid, Inc., prosecuted employment discrimination cases on behalf of the government as a trial attorney with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
  • Established my own law practice in 2002, Law Office of Francisco X. Dominguez, which later became Dominguez & Coyle, PLLC.

Q&A

What elements of your personal and professional life would be helpful to you in your service as a trustee?

My responsibilities as a father of two high school students and my duties as a judge define me at this stage in life. As a father, I try to set an example for my children to be engaged with their community and the world, to embrace our family’s strong work ethic, and to be passionate about everything they do. Those are values that I brought to Oberlin, and which Oberlin further cultivated in me. As a judge, I draw on the long history of Oberlin’s commitment to intellectual honesty, access and equity, and academic integrity. As a trustee, I will apply the skills that Oberlin allowed me to develop—to work hard, listen carefully, and to engage passionately and creatively in our efforts to remain relevant and competitive and to make our unique history a source of direction for the current generation of students.  

What do you spend your time working on and thinking about?

For over 20 years, I advocated on behalf of individuals who faced injustice in their workplace or in their interaction with governmental entities. Currently, my work requires me to be vigilant and to ensure that the lawyers and parties that appear before me are treated with respect and dignity, so that at the end of the process, they walk away knowing that they were heard and treated fairly, especially when they have an unfavorable outcome. Without the effort and work needed to achieve this, the promise of justice is nothing more than an empty concept. Oberlin taught me to work with purpose and to set goals that give meaning and fulfillment to my life. Oberlin also taught me that engaging in passionate and respectful discourse gives meaning and integrity to the outcome. I would like the opportunity to do that for the next generation of Obies.

What else do you want your fellow alumni to know about you as they consider how they will vote?

I was not as well prepared academically as many of my peers when I arrived at Oberlin. Nevertheless, the Oberlin community kept its promise of opportunity, stayed true to its commitment to diversity, and provided me with the mentors and guidance that allowed me to do the work to catch up. More importantly, my Oberlin family recognized that I had something significant to contribute as a Border kid, and allowed my voice to develop. I want to add to our effort to address the financial and ethical challenges that liberal arts education faces in the United States.long

What attracted you to Oberlin?

I was first attracted to Oberlin by its rich intellectual legacy, with its inextricable connection to the arts. As a kid from the U.S.-Mexico border who had extremely limited knowledge about liberal arts colleges, Oberlin stood out from the other schools because its promise and commitment to diversity and social change was more than hollow recruitment marketing. After visiting the campus, I had more than an attraction—I had a purpose. Oberlin’s intellectual rigor was evident on paper. The visit, however, revealed the passion that students have for life, for intellectual honesty, and for a better world. I knew instantly that this was the place for me.

What about Oberlin resonates with you today?

Oberlin is still relevant. During a campus visit to Oberlin about a year ago, my daughter attended a well-organized student activity that focused on the struggle of undocumented immigrants.While Oberlin has served as a refuge for people facing hate and discrimination throughout our history, its most important role has been to serve as an institution that educates and empowers students to become agents of change. One of the important challenges this generation faces is the task of protecting immigrants. We must continue to lead in meaningful ways against the growing attack on human and civil rights in our nation. Oberlin still nurtures the kind of leaders that espouse the values our world needs.

Tell us of one specific instance in which you wished to understand someone with different values from yours. What happened?

As a freshman in 1985, I worked at the Oberlin College Admissions Office performing basic clerical work. One of the first persons I met was Eleanor, a longtime admissions office employee who also ran a farm in Rochester, Ohio, with her husband. She is a salt of the Earth Ohioan who was as alien to me, at the time, as I was to her. Our political views were equally opposite. However, we overcame our differences because we connected at the most basic level—we had respect for each other’s work ethic, our love for family, and our loyalty to friends. We have remained friends for 32 years despite the distance. Our friendship gives me hope and reminds me that love and respect can overcome differences.

Service on the Oberlin College Board of Trustees represents a significant commitment of time and effort. What draws you to this service?

Gratitude and optimism motivate me to serve as a trustee. I am grateful that Oberlin took a risk on a kid like me. I benefited from an affirmative action policy that believed that some of us deserved an opportunity for an elite education, even if we did not meet all of the traditional academic benchmarks that privilege produces. I owe a debt to Oberlin for that investment. My gratitude to Oberlin engenders optimism that we will continue to be an institution that nurtures creative leaders that redefine paradigms.  

Share an Oberlin experience that shaped who you are today.

My activism at Oberlin shaped who I am today. One experience which had a unique impact was my service on the 4-4-4 Committee, which later became the 3-3-3 Committee. The 4-4-4 Committee initially consisted of four faculty, four college staff, and four students tasked with investigating and recommending action after the April 13, 1990, student protest on President Fred Starr’s lawn. The protest resulted in student arrests and gave rise to serious concerns about President Starr’s leadership. I was exposed to the delicate practice of gathering evidence and the intense deliberative process that followed. Through that experience, I developed negotiating skills and the ability to compromise in highly charged and sensitive situations.


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