In spite of the dreary weather, hundreds of Rio Grande Valley residents celebrated The University of Texas-Pan American's 75th anniversary, Saturday, Nov. 2. The celebration included the dedication of the newest facility on campus, the 7,200 square-foot Visitors Center - which will be the new "front door" for visitors to the campus.
A 2,000 pound bronze Bronc - symbolizing the UTPA mascot was unveiled during the ceremony. The statue will stand guard in front of the center welcoming everyone to UTPA.
"For the last 75 years this institution has been a shining light of educational opportunity in South Texas and we want everyone to see our beautiful facilities and meet our excellent faculty and staff," said UTPA President Dr. Miguel A. Nevárez.
Nevárez and Vice President for Enrollment and Student Services Dr. John Edwards welcomed a large crowd to the $3.2 million Visitors Center - which was added to the first floor of the southwest part of the Student Services Building.
"We celebrate 75 years and the opening of our front entrance to the University and the unveiling of our Bronc, which illustrates the spirit of the University and spirit of the Valley," Edwards said.
The Visitors Center - which faces the main campus entrance - will house a spacious lobby, video room, community meeting room, a 2,500 square-foot exhibit space; and the Office of Student Outreach and Recruitment Services. The center will also display "Pillars of Excellence" - which will feature outstanding students, alumni, staff and supporters. During the event - a 14-foot bronze statue of a bucking bronco - was unveiled in front of the center by Nevárez and Veryl Goodnight, Santa Fe sculptress and designer of the Bronc.
"I'm totally honored to have been selected to do your monument - the Bronc that is going to stay here," Goodnight said.
Goodnight also designed a sculpture in front of the George Bush Presidential Library in College Station, Texas.
Attending the grand opening event were UTPA officials; Edinburg Mayor Joe Ochoa; State Representative Roberto Gutierrez; and State Representative Aaron Peña; former Congressman Kika de la Garza; UTPA 75th Anniversary Honorary Chair Margaret McAllen; and Dr. Martha Tevis, chair of the 75th anniversary.
"This institution has been the passport to success for a lot of us," Gutierrez said. "Had not this institution been here in Edinburg many of us would not have gotten the opportunity to receive any kind of a degree."
To commemorate the event, UTPA organized a full day of fun, free food and activities for the public, which began Saturday morning and continued through the evening. There was plenty to do for the children and parents who participated in the celebration, including a carnival in the University Ballroom - which featured campus clubs and organizations sponsoring game and food booths.
"I think this event is very helpful to everyone because we get to see what the school has to offer," said Araceli Luna of Edinburg. "I'm taking advantage of this opportunity and my daughter is excited about seeing the Bronc today."
For those not familiar with the University, campus tours and open houses of the six academic colleges were provided, along with information booths about the different services UTPA offers.
Events continued throughout the evening with the 16th Annual Florence Nightingale Benefit at the Cimmaron Country Club in Mission, and a UTPA Mariachi Concert.