The names Dr. Ralph and Alice Goitia immediately conjure “education” and wide public service in Tempe and the state. The Tempe residents since 1965 have left a legacy in Tempe Elementary School District 3, where Ralph was superintendent from 1977 to 1989, and Alice taught and was the bilingual specialist for the Phoenix Elementary School District.
Ralph led the district through robust population growth that required new school construction and reshaping curricula to meet the explosion of new students to be served.
The couple was honored with the prestigious Don Carlos Humanitarian Award in 2011 for four decades of service and leadership in the community. Ralph was the elementary school district superintendent for seven years in Cottonwood, when State Superintendent Sarah Folsom offered him the post of Associate State Superintendent of Education in January 1965. The couple moved to Tempe, and Ralph mixed his state job with earning a graduate degree in public school administration. A few months later, Folsum died suddenly.  Ralph assumed the top state education post and served six weeks until it was filled by a permanent state superintendent.

Shortly after that, he signed a contract to become superintendent of the Phoenix Elementary School District. Despite calls for him to declare candidacy for the state superintendent post, Ralph chose to remain in the Phoenix post. Meanwhile, he earned his doctoral degree in education supervision and management from Arizona State in 1969.

After taking the Tempe superintendent post, Ralph put much of his energy into bringing up the curriculum’s grade level for Guadalupe children as was afforded in Tempe. The federal government was authorizing districts to work for educational equity in their schools. In particular, the English language program for non-English speaking students was added.  

Alice, who taught bilingual special education, later was director of a bilingual program, serving 4,000 students in 16 schools. 

As a member of the Rotary Club of Tempe, Dr. Goitia formed a committee to purchase used education furniture and educational material from area school districts to be picked up and delivered to Juarez, Mexico, by rented vans. They were largely what area districts were replaced with newer items, so they sold them at very reasonable prices to Rotary. “This was a hard-working, dedicated committee of Rotary that did this for five years,” he said. “It was heart-warming and emotional to see students’ joy when we showed up with the furniture and delivered them to the school. Students immediately selected and claimed their desks by cleaning and polishing the desks before placing them in a classroom.  And now they had their own desks in their classrooms.”

Ralph served 17 years on the Samaritan Hospital Board of Directors as budget chairman, plus two years on the Tempe Hospital Board.  Former Tempe Mayor Harry Mitchell appointed him to the city’s Merit Board where he served for four years.

Both Alice and Ralph were active with the Assistance League of East Valley. .The chapter was instrumental in the League partnering with the city’s Care 7 to furnish supplies for women and children brought to Care 7 after fires or trauma incidents in their homes. Alice initiated the involvement of the Assistance League of East Valley to secure a $10,000 grant for the city to buy a van to transport children and parents to Care 7.  Ralph has done pick-ups in the community of donations to the Assistance League’s thrift shop.  The Goitias volunteered with Tempe and other school districts to shop with children for school clothes and shoes at a store each year.

Alice received the City of Tempe’s All-America Woman Award in 1985 to recognize outstanding service to the community in the areas of work, education, governing, communications, and others.

Born in El Paso, Texas, Alice learned English at St. Anthony’s School in Flagstaff and graduated from high school in Flagstaff in 1952. After three years working for the military and civil service at the Army Ordnance Depot at Flagstaff, Alice attended Northern Arizona State College and graduated in 1959.  She taught commerce, Spanish, and physical education at Camp Verde, Arizona. She and Ralph were married in December 1959 and then moved to Cottonwood. After moving to Tempe in 1965, Alice went back to teach at Phoenix Elementary School District. She attended ASU and was certified for special needs education for elementary and high school. Alice, who was certified as a bilingual ESL teacher, also worked as (taught) English-as-a-second-language. Alice was promoted to the position of bilingual resource specialist for Phoenix. After 21 years, Alice joined Ralph in retirement from education1996.

Ralph was tapped to be the King of Tempe Oktoberfest.  He served on the board of Tempe Sister Cities.  The couple was the original coordinators of the Sister City student exchange program for Cuenca, Ecuador, where they established strong friendships.  They hosted visitors from Tempe’s Sister Cities. The couple worked together for Alice’s tamale cooking classes at the Hackett House.  They are recipients of the “Making a World of Difference,” a City of Tempe award.  Tempe Sister Cities presented them with the Circle of Distinguished Volunteers Award. One year, Ralph accompanied members of the Tempe High School basketball team on a 15-day visit to China. 

The Goitias were founding board members in 2007 of Tempe Dollars for Scholars in the Tempe Union High School District. The American Legion post in Tempe awarded Ralph its annual excellence award, and the Tempe Rotary bestowed its Merit Award for his work as International Service Chairman. In addition, Mexico’s Club Juarez Industrial Recognition Award was given for five years with Proyecto Exculita.  In 1983, Ralph earned a division award from the Tempe United Way.  In 2004, the Tempe Human Relations Commission gave the Goitias its sixth annual Diversity Award. Ralph served as president of the Maricopa County Superintendents Association for 1975-76.

–Lawn Griffiths