Defining “scrappy”: Antonio Ledesma’s journey to success

Antonio Ledesma sits at his desk in the Human Services Department at MSU Denver surrounded by his years of excellence. Salt and pepper in his hair, he glides his chair into a comfortable spot and gazes at his wall of awards.


MSU Denver Human Services professor Antonio Ledesma in his office in the West Classroom on March 6. Ledesma was one of the first students to attend MSU Denver when it opened in 1965. Photo by Lauren Cordova •

Ledesma in 1965 was one of the first students at MSU Denver when it was known as Metro State College. Ledesma has been utilizing his professional experience to prepare future Roadrunner alumni for over 20 years.

While in school, he entertained the idea of majoring in criminal justice and psychology, but finished a degree in English literature. His undergraduate career, like many students, was not as linear as expected. He attended for one year, withdrew for a short period and returned to finish in 1972.

One night, during his break, while in his favorite pool hall Ledesma had a conversation with an immigrant from Greece. The man told Ledesma that he wished he had had the opportunity to get a college education so that he didn’t have to work so hard just to support his family in a new country. That single conversation changed Ledesma’s plan for his future.

At the time, he said that, “the majority of us were working, not unlike today. There wasn’t any financial aid then, so I worked my way through college, all over the city.”

Ledesma held janitorial and food service positions, worked as a tour guide for the Denver Post and held other jobs during his undergrad, even across campus.

“I worked every aspect of a college position,” Ledesma said.

He started out as a clerk typist for the school, then worked in financial aid and in the counseling center.

After finishing his bachelor’s, Ledesma went on to finish two masters degrees in counseling psychology, clinical social work and then a doctorate in human communication.

As he finished his doctorate in 1988, a job opened at MSU Denver within the Human Services department, marking the beginning of his teaching career. He accepted another position in 1994 teaching graduate students at the University of Denver for six years, but was drawn back to MSU Denver.

“A crucial reason that led me to return to MSU centered around diversity,” he wrote later in email.

Both of Ledesma’s parents were Mexican immigrants and he is proud of the progress MSU Denver has made increasing their diversity, especially amongst the Latino community. He notes
that MSU Denver is close to meeting the population required to receive federal funding as a Hispanic Serving Institution.

Over the many years of educating himself and gaining clinical experience, Ledesma has developed and applied philosophies that are a part of his instruction.

“I never wanted to simply teach. I wanted to teach out of experience,” he said.

Others notice this in him as well.

“He brings passion. He cares about the students,” said Annie Butler, the Human Services Department Chair at MSU Denver.

This sentiment also reflects Ledesma’s reasoning for teaching at the undergraduate level and especially at MSU Denver.

“Many of them, it’s the first time someone in their family has gone to school,” Ledesma said.

He enjoys bringing his experience to others who are grateful just to get a college experience, as he was.

He currently teaches multicultural courses and other courses within the Human Services department, but doesn’t consider himself just a teacher when it comes to the multicultural course.

“I don’t think I teach that course, I think I facilitate that course,” Ledesma said.

He has been involved with MSU Denver’s multicultural course requirements since they were initiated in 1992 and although he was unsure of teaching them at first, it has proven to be a good fit for him.

Ledesma still maintains clinical experience. He notes that much of the clientele in the human services field is female and that he wanted to make an impact on males seeking therapy.

“One of the best experiences I’ve had is helping men to realize what a relationship is, and to be more comfortable in a relationship,” Ledesma said.

Although Professor Ledesma has been educating for 29 years, he wants to continue clinical work and teaching. Even though the idea of retirement has come across his mind, he would like to
stay connected to the university, possibly as a therapist.

“It’s been a calling. I wound up with four degrees. At one point I was in college 17 years, in one 21-year block, but I really wanted to understand the phenomena of what I now teach,” Ledesma said.

Author: Matthew Miller

One Response to "Defining “scrappy”: Antonio Ledesma’s journey to success"

  1. María Sáez  March 21, 2017 at 4:13 pm

    Tony was my professor at MSU Denver, as well as University if Denver! Changed my life. Thank you Tony! María Sáez


Leave a Reply