An Edinburg family, a local senator and a retired professor were honored for their contributions and partnerships with The University of Texas-Pan American Tuesday, Nov. 19 during the 2002 Distinguished Alumni Awards Banquet.
As Alumni Association President-Elect Bobby Guerra explained, this year's winners were chosen for the positive impact they've had on others.
"Improving the quality of life... This is what we're all about at this institution," Guerra said. "It's what Dr. Nevárez has always spoken about - that this institution is making a difference in the entire Valley.
What a difference it made for the Granado family of Edinburg. Esequiel (Zeke) and his wife Adela - one time migrant farm workers - sent their six children to UTPA during the 70s and 80s. With their strict guidance, firm encouragement and loving support, all six graduated.
Oldest daughter, Belia (BA '75), accepted the Alumni Association's Distinguished Family award on behalf of her parents and siblings. She paid tribute to her hard working parents.
"Our parents experienced a way of life that included personal sacrifices and hard-core work. Both realized that the way to breaking the migrant worker cycle was education, not for themselves, for their children," she said.
Belia credited her parents' great sacrifice, the help of financial aid, grants and scholarships in making their dream a reality. Among the alumni are Esequiel (Zeke) Jr., (BBA '76); Juanita, (BA '78); Sonia, (BS '79); Javier, (BBA '83); and Robert, (BS '89). Both Zeke Sr. and Zeke Jr. also work at UTPA.
Zeke Jr. has been with the University since 1976 and is currently associate vice president for Business Affairs and Comptroller. Zeke Sr. has worked with UTPA Auxiliary Services for over 13 years.
"This is a very proud day for me and my wife. I used to tell my kids it's the fields or school," said Granado, Sr. "They knew there was no choice. They had to go to college. They have made me so proud."
It was also a proud night for Retired Professor Dr. Lino Garcia, Jr., who was honored by the Alumni Association as Distinguished Faculty/Master Professor. Garcia, an internationally recognized scholar in Spanish studies, has spent the past 35 years as professor and administrator at UTPA.
"It's been an exciting academic adventure... I feel very privileged to serve all of you and I hope that I have done it with distinction because you all deserve no less," he said.
Another honoree - Senator Eddie Lucio - was recognized as this year's Distinguished Alumni. The lawmaker praised Nevárez for the leadership and vision that has made this University "one of the greatest in the state."
"It gives me an overwhelming feeling of pride, not in myself, but in this institution of higher learning that makes me what I am today. I am a father, grandfather and above all a public servant," Lucio said.
Lucio pledged his continued support for public and higher education for all residents of the Rio Grande Valley.
The Distinguished Alumni Awards Banquet is held annually. Honorees are chosen by the UTPA Alumni Association Board of Trustees.