History & Traditions

Past Presidents

Dr. Robert S. Nelsen
Dr. Robert S. Nelsen
President 2010-2014
During Dr. Robert S. Nelsen’s presidency, student enrollment surpassed 20,000 for the first time in the school’s 87-year history, UTPA was elevated to “doctoral serving university” status, the University College was created, UTPA was invited to join the Western Athletic Conference, and a new $43 million Academic and Performing Arts Center was constructed.
Dr. Charles A. Sorber
Dr. Charles A. Sorber
Interim President 2009-2010
At the request of the U.T. System, Dr. Charles A. Sorber came out of retirement to serve as interim president of UTPA in 2009. An emeritus professor at UT Austin's Cockrell School of Engineering, Dr. Sorber had already served tenures as President of UT Permian Basin and Interim President at UT Arlington.
Dr. Blandina Cardenas
Dr. Blandina "Bambi" Cardenas
President 2004-2009
Under the leadership of Dr. Blandina "Bambi" Cardenas, UTPA made significant strides in classroom technology advancements and graduation/retention rates. On average 3,200 students received degrees annually during the Cardenas tenure. In 2008, UTPA awarded the 1000th Engineering Degree and the 100th Doctorate Degree.
Dr. Miguel A. Nevárez
Dr. Miguel A. Nevárez
President 1981-2004
In 1981, after a national search, Dr. Nevárez became the University’s first Hispanic President and the first Valley native to lead the institution. He led Pan American University through its historic merger with the UT system in 1989 and through a dynamic period of enrollment and campus growth.
Dr. Ralph F. Schilling
Dr. Ralph F. Schilling
President 1960-1981
Was appointed President by the Edinburg College Board of Regents in 1960. For the next twenty years Schilling led Pan American University through a period of rapid growth, admission to the state system and transition from college to university status.
R. P. Ward
R. P. Ward
President 1946-1960
President 1931-1943
Originally hired as the first dean of the faculty and director when the college first opened in 1927, he became president in 1931 and served in that capacity until his retirement in 1959.
H. A. Hodges
H. A. Hodges
President 1943-1946
Served as Interim President while R. P. Ward was on leave for military service during World War II from 1944 to 1946.
H. U. Miles
H. U. Miles
President 1930-1931
Served as President of Edinburg College for a year from 1930 to 1931.
H. C. Baker
H. C. Baker
President 1927-1930
Became the first president of Edinburg College after it was established by the Edinburg School District in 1927. Baker had served as the superintendent of the Edinburg School District prior to his appointment to the college.

Pan American University Board of Regents

William R. Parker
1972 – 1983

Moises V. Vela
1972 – 1983

Ruben R. Cardenas
1974 - 1979

John Lloyd Bluntzer
1975 – 1982

Enedina Guerra
1975 – 1982

David Farb
1976 - 1979

Ann LaMantia
1978 – 1983

Ricardo H. Hinojosa
1979 – 1983

Billie C. Pickard
1980 – 1981

Rodolfo E. Margo, MD
1980 – 1985

Kenton E. Schaeffer
1981 – 1987

Robert W. Shepard
1981 – 1986
1987 – 1989

Eddie Cano
1982 – 1987

Melvin J. Hill
1982 – 1985

Ramon Garcia
1983 – 1987

Natividad Lopez
1983 – 1989

Margaret L. McAllen
1983 – 1989

Lauryn Gayle White
1983 – 1989

Horacio L. Barrera
1986 – 1989

Homer H. Scott
1986 – 1989

Charles Villasenor
1986 – 1987

Noe Fernandez
1987 – 1989

Berta Perez-Linton
1987 – 1989

Shan Pickard-Rankin
1987 – 1989

UT System Board of Regents
from 1989 to present.

History & Past Presidents


UTPA Celebrating 83 Years of Success

UTPA Celebrating 86 Years of Success

The University of Texas-Pan American has a rich tradition of educational service and community engagement. In the past eight decades it has undergone six name changes, all reflecting growth, achievement and success.

The Transformation

1927-1933

Edinburg College was founded as a two-year community college governed by the Edinburg School District. The original building housed 200 students and today is listed as a historical site in the city of Edinburg, the county seat for Hidalgo County

 
1933-1948

Edinburg Junior College, as the only institution of higher learning in South Texas, experienced rapid growth in its early years prompting administrators to pursue the first name change.

 
1948-1952

Edinburg Regional College was moved from the original four-acre site to 186-acre campus a few blocks west. During the 1950's and 1960's the campus was purchased in parcels at a cost of $677,000.

 
1952-1971

Pan American College made its transformation from a junior college to a four-year university in the early 1950's. The name Pan American was selected to reflect the institution's desire to bridge the cultures of North and South America and to reflect the cultural and ethnic diversity of the university.

 
1971-1989

Pan American University saw the student population diversify during the 1970’s reflecting a predominantly Mexican-American population. The Wall Street Journal article credited Dr. Miguel Nevarez with creating a Hispanic middle class for the South Texas region.

 
1989-Present  

The University of Texas-Pan American was established in 1989 after the successful and historic merger of Pan American University with the University of Texas System.  Today UTPA is one of the fastest growing universities in the UT System with a current enrollment of close to 19,000 students.  The institution is poised to become a learner-centered doctoral research institution.

Traditions

Commencement Traditions

UTPA Memory Stole

UTPA Memory Stole

Former President Dr. Blandina Cárdenas initiated a new commencement tradition with the wearing of Memory Stoles in fall 2004.

The stoles, in the school colors of green and orange, are emblazoned with the UTPA official seal and make a bright addition to the all-black graduation gown.

Candidates wear the stoles around their necks throughout the graduation ceremonies. They are then encouraged to present the stole to a special person that most inspired, mentored or helped them in their personal quest for knowledge.

Ceremonial Mace

Ceremonial Mace

In the medieval times, a mace was a symbol of authority and was carried before or set near a high official when official ceremonies or sessions were being conducted. Today, the chair of the Faculty Senate carries the mace to lead the academic procession at commencement and other special ceremonies, such as the installation of the president. UTPA’s walnut mace measures five feet in length.

Presidents Medallion and Chain

Presidents Medallion and Chain

The president of the University wears a medallion as a symbol of the office. The medallion, a gold-plated replica of the University seal, hangs from a chain of 18 gold-plated links that have three arch-shaped cutouts to reflect a major architectural motif of the University. Seven of the links are engraved with the names of the past and present presidents of the institution and their years in office; the rest are reserved for future presidents. Thus, the chain and the medallion symbolize the continuity of the institution by “linking” its past, present, and future leaders. The medallion and chain were designed and made by Jerry Bailey, a former faculty member in the Department of Art.

UTPA Traditions

UTPA traditions

Midnight Madness

Every fall semester, UTPA celebrates Spirit Week, a weeklong event where students, faculty, and staff come together to show their Bronc pride. The highlight of the week is “Midnight Madness”--an event that signals the start of the basketball season.

Carnival of the Great Pumpkin

Carnival of the Great Pumpkin

The Carnival of the Great Pumpkin celebrated its debut at Pan American College in 1966 and has been an annual tradition ever since. The carnival is open to students, faculty, staff and the local community. Everyone is invited to celebrate a safe and fun-filled Halloween event with games, food, and contests.

Homecoming

Homecoming

Students, alumni, faculty, staff, and the community are invited to celebrate Homecoming each February. As part of the weeklong celebration, events such as the Yard Art, Battle of the Bands, Bronc Olympics, a Tailgate Party/Pep Rally, burning of the UTPA letters, a men’s basketball game, and the UTPA Homecoming Reunion are held throughout the campus.

Campus Landmarks

Bronc Statue

Bronc Statue

UTPA’s 2000-pound “Bronz Bronc” by renowned Santa Fe sculptor Veryl Goodnight was unveiled in November 2002 to welcome visitors to The University of Texas-Pan American. In June of 2009 it was named one of 10 famous western horse sculptures by Cowboys & Indians magazine.

Jody Ramsey Courtyard

Jody Ramsey Courtyard

When UTPA’s baseball field, Jody Ramsey Stadium, was demolished in 2007 to make way for an expansion of the College of Education, the University created the Jody Ramsey Courtyard to preserve the memory of a very special Pan American University baseball player who was tragically killed on Feb. 24, 1973 while working as a laborer on the construction of the new stadium. The site of the Courtyard was part of the original baseball field.