Commencement ceremonies Saturday at The University of Texas-Pan American brought out a wide range of emotions in students, from joy for academic achievement and success to sadness in leaving behind friends and the University.
Four commencement exercises occurred at the UTPA Fieldhouse, and of the 1,077 students eligible to graduate, 880 walked across the stage. The event included the first graduates for Master of Science degrees in social work and criminal justice and Master of Business Administration degrees for physicians.
This year's commencement was the last for students receiving an associate degree in nursing. The program was canceled because Valley students can now earn associate degrees at South Texas Community College. The University will focus on bachelor's, master's and doctoral degree programs and on a research agenda.
During each commencement, UTPA President Dr. Miguel A. Nevárez asked mothers in the audience to stand while the UTPA Mariachis played "Las Mañanitas," a traditional Mexican ballad, for Mother's Day.
George Muñoz, the third highest-ranking Hispanic in the Clinton administration, spoke to the College of Business Administration (105 graduates) and College of Science and Engineering (114 graduates) at 3 p.m.
Muñoz also addressed 192 College of Education graduates at noon, when state Comptroller Carole Keeton Rylander canceled due to family illness. He was joined by Patrick C. Oxford of The University of Texas System Board of Regents.
Muñoz, president and CEO of the Overseas Private Investment Corp., said speaking Spanish, being American and growing up in a multicultural environment gives Valley graduates an edge in the global marketplace.
"The world that awaits you is wonderful and full of opportunities," said Muñoz, who was born in Brownsville. "People all over the world are asking about the American way, its services and products. You will be able to bring the products and services of this great nation to the rest of the world from right here in South Texas or anywhere. The Valley is connected to the rest of the world through technology."
He also reminded graduates to remember their roots and UTPA.
"The beauty of it is that in the past - when your parents and I were going to school - we had to go away from home to get a good education," Muñoz said. "You're lucky because today you can get the best education at UT Pan Am. Come back and contribute to this great University and pave the way for the next generation."
Meanwhile, KRGV-TV news anchor Rick Diaz was the featured speaker during the 9 a.m. commencement for the College of Arts and Humanities (94 graduates), College of Social and Behavioral Sciences (51 graduates) and College of Health Sciences and Human Services (91 graduates). Diaz also spoke at 6 p.m. to 229 master's and four doctoral degree recipients. He told both groups of graduates to be persistent and adventurous.
"You now have an education, and that's something nobody can ever take away from you," said Diaz, news anchor on KRGV-TV's Eyewitness News at 6 p.m. and host of Con Mi Gente. "What you do with it, though, that's what's going to set you apart from everyone else.
"They say there are two things you should always fear - success and failure. But really, when you think about it, ... you shouldn't fear either one."