Biography | The First University President
Atty. LUIS F. SAMSON: The Man behind a dream, a vision, a destiny
The philosophy of the University of Luzon, “Perecias y valias” (skills and values) is aptly reflected in the character of its first University President.
An intellectual and an educator, an accountant and a lawyer, a decorated and battle-tested war hero, a successful businessman, a selfless public servant and civic leader, a loving husband and a progressive father, an ingenious visionary who knows how to turn dreams into reality. Many consider Atty. Luis F. Samson a legend, an icon of excellence in the city of Dagupan.
The late Atty. Samson was able to keep his legendary wit, intelligence, and acumen well into his 80s. These traits allowed him to lay the groundwork in 1948 for what would become the University of Luzon.
His life story is as colorful as his personality and the institution he has established.
Atty. Samson was born on October 10, 1916 in Dagupan City to Martin Samson, a carpenter and Maximina Fulgencio, a fish vendor. The young Luis was remembered to be a simple and quite boy who valued education, in a time when education was considered immaterial to a person’s success.
He fought against poverty to complete his education. He had a burning desire to become an engineer, a dream influenced by an Uncle who was then the District Engineer of Dagupan.
To fulfill this dream, he sold fish in the market with his mother and an aunt. To make ends meet, he endured walking under the scorching sun to Lingayen, a good 14 kilometers from Dagupan to attend his classes at the High School department of the Dagupan Institute (now University of Pangasinan). He also had to make do with only two sets of school uniform, which he had to wash on a daily basis and he had to wear an old wool jacket to hide their worn appearance.
But in spite of his sacrifices, his father’s income was still insufficient, and it was only through the gracious support of an aunt that he was able to finish his high school education.
There were very few schools in the mid-30’s and most of them were located in Manila. But his family, realizing the young man’s potential and ambition, contributed their meager savings to send him to the Mapua Institute of Technology to take up Civil Engineering in 1936.
But only after a year, they realized that the cost of producing an engineer was too much for the family’s income, and the young Luis was forced to stop schooling. Instead of giving up, he turned to his own strength.
Through self-review, he passed the Civil Service 2nd Grade Examinations in 1936 to secure a job. His first employment was that of a Ferry Boat Collector in the Calmay-Dagupan route when the connecting bridge was destroyed. He received a pay of 50¢ a day, a portion of which he gave to his family while saving some for his plan to continue his education.
On the basis of his eligibility, Luis Samson was finally able to secure a job at the General Auditing Office in Manila in 1937. Realizing the high pay enjoyed by certified accountants in the office, he re-evaluated his dream to become an engineer.
He enrolled at the Far Eastern University to take up Bachelor of Science in Commerce, major in Accounting. Working during the day and attending classes at night, he was able to earn his degree in 1941.
To augment his income, he took and passed the 1st Grade Civil Service Examinations in 1939, again through self-review. This was the highest civil service eligibility at the time, and brought him a reward of an increase in salary to P 60.00 a month.
The War Hero
Luis Samson is a patriot. When fate gave him the chance to prove his love for his country, he rose up to the challenge.
A few months after taking and passing the CPA examination in 1941, he was commissioned Third Lieutenant in the Philippine Army and USAFFE and was assigned as Intelligence Officer of the 32nd Infantry, 31st USAFFE division.
As a young officer, he participated in many battles, but the battle of Bataan on April 9, 1942 stood as his most memorable one. On this day, the Japanese launched a massive offensive, and during the ensuing encounter, Lt. Samson received a bullet wound in the head.
After receiving first aid, his comrades decided he had a better chance of survival if left in the mountains of Bataan. Sadly, most of his fellow soldiers were herded by the Japanese to join the infamous Death March. Almost all of them did not survive.
While Luis was then listed as a casualty, his desire to survive was too great, even for death. With the help of peasants and sympathizers, he recovered and was able to escape to join the guerilla movement in Manila, and later in Pangasinan.
“When I was injured, I almost gave up,” recalled Atty. Samson. “I talked to my Senior Officer then, Capt. Cesar Fernando, and handed him my wallet which contained all of my salary from the army, making him promise to hand it over to my wife.”
“Though we never saw each other again, Capt. Fernando, not knowing that I am still alive, summoned my wife to Manila and very solemnly informed her of my apparent demise while handing over my wallet with my pay. My wife recalls that when she informed him that I was still alive and with the guerrillas, Capt. Fernando wept while muttering prayers to the Almighty for my safety,” Atty. Samson reminisced.
Planting the seeds of a University
After the nightmare that was World War II, together with his family and friends, Luis Samson took to the task of helping rebuild a ruined community.
Believing that education is key in the recovery of the Philippine nation, and knowing his own strengths, it was the academic community that he immediately joined.
He became an Instructor of Accounting in the Dagupan Colleges (now University of Pangasinan) in 1946, rising to the position of Dean of the College of Commerce in a year’s time. It was his exposure to the academe that gave him the knowledge and skill to concretize his dream of establishing a University in his lifetime.
Guided by his personal philosophy of skills and values, Luis Samson devoted his time to laying the groundwork of his dream. He believed he had to prepare, and where better to start than with his own education. Therefore, he took up Bachelor of Laws at the Dagupan Colleges and completed it in 1951, immediately taking and passing the Bar Examinations in 1952.
In the mid to late 40’s, specialization in education was the trend in higher education. Business and industry was especially promising in a post-war era. Hence, Atty. Samson trained his sights in starting with an educational institution specializing in Business and Commerce.
Gathering his friends, Vice-dean Basilio Fernandez, Servillano Romasanta, and the future first elected mayor of Dagupan City, Liberato Reyna, they designed the blueprint of the Luzon Colleges of Commerce and Business Administration or LCCBA.
On March 15, 1948, with several others who shared their vision, the first stockholders meeting was held. During this historic meeting, Atty. Samson was elected President, a position he has held to date.
After three months of preparation, LCCBA finally opened its academic doors on July 8, 1948 to 243 enrollees in Commerce, Secretarial and Steno Typing.
“We started by renting rooms at the Galvan Bldg., along the old Torres Bugallon Ave. (now AB Fernandez Ave.), then at the Villamil Bldg. along the same street,” Atty. Samson recalls. “Fortunately, our foresight for greater things led us to invest in a swampy tract of land along Perez Blvd., which now houses the institution,” he added.
LCCBA moved to its new location in 1950 at the same time opening up new degree programs – Education, Liberal Arts and High School.
When the first batch of its Accounting graduates took the CPA examinations in 1952, they registered a 100% passing rate, a feat that surpassed even the most established schools in Manila at the time.
Basking in the glory of this success, and expecting the word to spread and attract students, Atty. Samson spearheaded the renaming of LCCBA to Luzon Colleges in 1952. From the initial enrolment of 243 as LCCBA in 1948, Luzon Colleges held as many as 16,000 students in 1983.
From then on, Luzon Colleges carved out a name for academic excellence not only in its pioneer fields but also in the fields of Engineering, Architecture, Nursing, Education, Criminology, HRM, Medical Technology, Midwifery and Graduate Studies. It has produced thousands of professionals who are gainfully and successfully employed and self-employed individuals here and abroad — from bank tellers to bank managers, from instructors and teachers to professors, deans and principals, from engineers and architects to contractors and builders, from government employees to government executives, from policemen to police officers, and others who are likewise successful in their chosen fields.
The values cultivated by Atty. Samson in his lifetime are aptly reflected in the curricula and instructional system of the institution he founded. As such, all graduates it has produced had the distinct mark of being well-grounded in terms of competence and character. These professionals were not only experts in their area of specialization, but also, and more importantly, morally and spiritually upright.
The Corporate Family Man
The reason for Atty. Luis Samson remaining president of this educational institution is quite simple. He is well loved and respected by all. He treats his co-workers as part of his own family.
Throughout the years, he made sure that his employees are well taken care of financially. He also ensured their continuous academic development through mechanisms for subsidized training and higher education. Employees, in turn, reciprocated this gesture by performing their responsibilities with utmost efforts.
Time and time again, he has demonstrated that humility is the key to success. Always fair and sincere in his management style, he earned the admiration of his peers and subordinates and most of all, the students who passed through the portals of the institution he helped build.
Whenever his busy schedule permits, he consults with the academic and non-academic personnel and students, graciously sharing advice and his personal guidance.
His personality and values rubbed off his children and quite characteristically, they followed his footsteps in valuing education.
His eldest, Romulo (deceased) was also a Lawyer-Accountant. His second child MacArthur, an Engineer is now the Executive Vice-president of the University, while the third, Aurora Samson-Reyna, an M.A. holder from the New York University and a Ph.D. candidate, is the Vice-President for Academic Affairs. The fourth child, Gloria Samson-Beltran is an educator also with an M.A. from the New York University, while the youngest, Luis Jr., an A.B. graduate is the Secretary of the Board of Trustees of the University.
“I am very proud of my children. They paid tribute to my sacrifices by excelling in their own fields and priming themselves for their eventual takeover of the responsibility of providing quality education under the University of Luzon,” Atty. Samson explains.
He is also very proud that all of his 19 grandchildren and 26 great grandchildren were reared in the same manner by their parents. His only disappointment is that his dear wife Josefa, who died in 1972 and his eldest child Romulo, who died in 1988, will not be able to join him in his crowning glory. He believes, however, that wherever they may be, they are surely beaming with pride at the fruit of his labors.
Twilight of a man, Dawn of a University
Even as his career was winding down, Attorney Luis F. Samson never wavered from the beliefs that guided him throughout his life. Over the course of more than 50 years, he battled incredible odds and challenges, but he ultimately prevailed and won thanks to his dogged determination and unwavering commitment to the achievement of his lifelong dream.
The educational establishment that he founded began with just a few students meeting in rented classrooms, but it has since grown into a formidable and preeminent power not only in the academic landscape of Northern Luzon, but also across the entirety of the Philippines. After making extensive improvements across all of its institutional domains, the University of Luzon is now prepared to take on the prestige and responsibilities that come along with its title.
“Having realized my lifelong dream, I am still up to the challenge of steering the ship, with my family and colleagues ready and capable of taking over, should time catch up with me. The destined dawn has come, along with the people of Northern Luzon, let me bask in its glorious sunlight.”