EDINBURG - The 32nd annual Fiesta Edinburg kicked off Thursday night with a formal dinner honoring University of Texas-Pan American President Miguel A. Nevárez as the inaugural "Don Fiesta."
As part of the two-hour ceremony, Nevárez received a colorful sash and a personalized commemorative Fiesta Edinburg wine bottle.
"The University of Texas-Pan American serves South Texas, but it lives in Edinburg, Texas," Nevárez said. "We are a family that is working together, and I'm proud of the accomplishments we've made. I'm proud of Edinburg, and I'm proud to serve this community as president of the best University you can find anywhere in the state."
A McAllen native, Nevárez has served as UTPA president since 1981, the longest current tenure of any president in the UT system. His career at the University began in 1971 as an assistant professor, associate dean of men and acting director of testing and counseling. Prior to his appointment as president, Nevárez was the vice president for student and university affairs and a professor of elementary education.
"We're celebrating a very special individual in our community," said Elva Jackson Garza, Edinburg Chamber of Commerce president. "He is recognized throughout our community, South Texas and the state for his leadership and commitment to provide the best educational opportunities for all."
In addition, Nevárez has served on numerous committees, such as the Leadership Steering Committee and the Rio Grande Valley Chamber of Commerce board of directors. His honors include being named "outstanding educator" by President Reagan in 1985 and inclusion in Hispanic Business Magazine's "100 Influential U.S. Hispanics" in 1986-87.
Nevárez has a bachelor of science degree in agriculture from what is now Texas A&M University-Kingsville and a master of arts degree in elementary education from Michigan State University. He earned his doctorate in science education from New York University in 1972.
"This event is more reflective of the relationship between the University and the community," Nevárez said. "It's been a very good partnership, and we've worked on several projects together. There is a lot of trust, cooperation and mutual respect for each other."
The UTPA mariachis performed during the Don Fiesta Gala, which included an auction of Dallas Cowboys memorabilia and the sale of commemorative wine bottles. Proceeds from the sales will go toward a scholarship fund for the UTPA Department of Music.
Don Fiesta was initiated this year as a way to officially begin the weekend-long celebration and recognize an outstanding community individual. Rolando Ayala of International Bank spearheaded the concept and said Nevárez was a natural choice.
"We wanted to do something special and honor someone we've never really honored in the city," Ayala said. "Several names came up, but I thought who better than Dr. Nevárez? He's been here for so long, and the University has done so well. He's done a lot for the community, and it was an easy choice."