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Walking the Walk: Remembering Ed Welty

Whenever I start thinking about just throwing in the towel (which thoughts seem to come with increasing frequency these days), Ed Welty comes to mind.

Ed was one of those souls who skipped the talk-the-talk part and just walked-the-walk. To one degree or another, I suppose most of us could say the same of our walk in the Way of the Right, the True, and the Good, but Ed’s version took him to Tijuana, Mexico, where in 1962 he founded the Panamerican Institute.


Today, the Institute is a fully-accredited technical-secondary school but it had a far humbler origin. Ed had the idea that one way to support Mexico and its people (in whom he believed very deeply) was by equipping young people with marketable skills they could use to secure jobs in Tijuana businesses, skills like English and typing.


Typing. How to teach young people typing? Ed arranged to use someone’s patio as the classroom, rounded up three old typewriters, placed them on a board supported by two buckets, and the Panamerican Institute was underway.


Eventually, the Institute would move from that home to a building, still in use today, and it would expand its offerings to include two tracks, one still equipping young people with marketable skills and one now leading to the university.


If anyone dreamed dreams and saw visions, Ed was one such person. He saw the school as not just preparing young people for jobs but for leadership—today, PAI students; tomorrow, Mexico’s leaders.


Ann and I still support the Institute with a monthly contribution toward a student’s education. It is a small thing we do, especially when I conger up the vision of Ed making his periodic visits to our churches in the Greater Los Angeles area where we were living at the time. He never seemed to have (or want) anything of his own, the clothes on his back and an ancient Karmann Ghia were the eternal trademarks testifying to his limited interest in the things of the world.


Ed was a large man in stature and how he fit behind the wheel of the sporty little car, whose sporting days were long over, was something of a mystery, perhaps second only to the more existential question of how he and that vehicle survived the congestion and the drivers on Southern California freeways. It was his Rocinante and like Don Quixote, he drove that candidate for the scrap yard all over the region as he made his appeal to the churches, happy for whatever morsels of support they might offer up. 


We pay lip service to self-denial and Jesus’ strange economy of losing ourselves in order to find ourselves (Matt. 16.25), but Ed tested it out, and I wonder if he found something about which the rest of us can only speculate.


The Panamerican Institute bears the fruit of his commitment.

1 thought on “Walking the Walk: Remembering Ed Welty”

  1. This brings tears to my eyes as I remember Ed as you do. Laura and Juana shared it with the board yesterday and her reply.
    Thanks for writing this wonderful tribute to a unique man.
    Love to you and Ann
    Ted and Marlene

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