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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.