Only in rare instances does one feel such a profound sense of grief that comes with the passing away of an individual who might not have been a family member or a friend, but whose work, good deeds and personal warmth touched many people in a special way. The death on August 26th of Patricia Rojas-Ungár triggered a deeply profound grief among those whose paths have intersected with hers during her brief but extraordinarily productive life, which ended at the age of 47, and even for those who did not know her, but knew of her.
Her work in official Washington comprised some 20 years—more than a decade of them as vice president of public affairs at the U.S. Travel Association, which she left to join the Outdoor Industries Association. Then, last year, Rojas-Ungar joined Strategic Marketing Innovations, a firm that supports companies, universities, and academic institutes secure federal funding for research and development, and technology procurement. as vice president of government affairs.
In Washington, she was but one of small number have who worked in both Houses of Congress.
Rojas-Ungár was a Professional Staff Member on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee for Senator Joseph I. Lieberman (ID-CT). Her work on the Committee focused heavily on legislating and overseeing the implementation of a variety of travel security programs including Global Entry, the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative and U.S. VISIT. She was also involved in the development of travel security provisions included in legislation to implement the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission.
Rojas-Ungár brought valuable knowledge of the U.S. House of Representatives with her to in her work for Representative Lucille Roybal-Allard (D, CA-34) and for former Representative Ken Bentsen (D, TX-25).
It was during her tenure as U.S. Travel’s top government affairs official that the organization arranged for a first-ever White House meeting with a sitting President, Barack Obama. It was also during her tenure at U.S. Travel that Congress passed and President Obama signed into law the Travel Promotion Act of 2010, which resulted in the creation of Brand USA. There were countless other achievements that were part of her job—significant enough that she became a point person in Washington for those seeking to establish contacts, or to ask her to come and speak to their group.
She was no stranger, of course, to the many travel-related organizations that populate Washington, D.C. Her work with them and at their conferences and meetings meant that she made scores of trips to cities throughout the U.S. explaining issues that confront the U.S. travel and tourism industry. Here, she is taking part in one of those events—a seminar at Connect Travel’s 2018 RTO Summit in New York City:
In our nation’s capital, acknowledgment and honors quickly came her way. Rojas-Ungár’s efforts earned her unanimous recognition as an effective and respected lobbyist. As recently as last year, she was named a top lobbyist by the news publication, The Hill. She was also recognized by Washingtonian Magazine, CEO Update and Association Trends. In 2011, she was named by the Washingtonian as one of DC’s “Top 40 Under 40.”
Her life, her achievements and the example she set for others were not limited to a professional sphere. Alma Patricia Rojas-Ungár was born December 2, 1973, in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, to Elvira Guerra and Jaime Rojas. Patricia earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Texas at Austin in 1996 and a master’s degree in social work from the University of Houston in 2001. Early in her career, Patricia worked helping children in Brazil, then continued on in Houston working with inner-city youth at I Have a Dream-Houston as a project coordinator.
Somehow, midst all the tumult, the challenges and never-ending demands of work, Patricia Rojas-Ungár found time to find love and become a mother, to husband Michael and twins Vivienne and Noah. And she continued to excel.
So now, Patricia Rojas-Ungár has left us. As the British poet Shelley would have written it slightly differently in Adonais of his friend John Keats, who died at an-all-too-young age, had she been the loss:
“She is made one with Nature: there is heard
Her voice in all her music, from the moan
Of thunder, to the song of night’s sweet bird;
Hers is a presence to be felt and known
In darkness and in light, from herb and stone …”
Shortly after the passing of Patricia Rojas-Ungár, Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association, shared information with INBOUND on contributing to a fund in her honor which will assist with the future education needs of her young children, Noah and Vivienne. A close family friend of Michael and Patricia’s has established a GoFundMe page for this purpose. U.S. Travel and many of its staff, as well as Dow and his wife, Linda, have already made contributions. For those who may wish to do the same, you may do so at the following link: https://www.gofundme.com/f/support-the-ungar-family