Reminding students to continue to strive for excellence in the real world, The University of Texas-Pan American said goodbye to its 75th graduating class Friday and Saturday.
"Your future holds much promise. We expect great things from you," said Dr. Miguel A. Nevárez, president of UTPA. "Know that your education has prepared you for a journey that demands hard work, discipline and excellence."
Four ceremonies Saturday, May 16 saw more than 1,000 students reposition their tassels as they were awarded bachelor's degrees. For the first time, free admission tickets were issued to graduates of the noon and 3 p.m. ceremonies and an overflow area was set up for 300 additional guests to avoid overcrowding the fieldhouse, officials said
Sergio Lopez of Edinburg was one of about 150 people in the overflow area. He said he enjoyed sitting in the gym because it was more spacious than the Fieldhouse.
"There's 16 of us here and another 12 in the Fieldhouse," Lopez said. "We're here to watch my sister-in-law, Adriana Rios, receive her teaching degree."
Alonda Cerda from Rio Grande City was in the overflow area with three other relatives.
"There's more of us, but the others (without tickets) decided not to come," said Cerda. "I don't really like it because I had to see her graduate through TV, but this is still much better than not getting to see her graduate at all."
Cerda said her cousin, Elda Valdez, who graduated with honors, also had 12 guests in the Fieldouse.
"I'll get to see her after the graduation and, if not here, then at her home for a family party."
Dr. Hilda Medrano, College of Education dean, said this graduating class is the largest to date.
"Graduates, you have chosen to be teachers. Teaching is the most essential profession - the one that makes all other professions possible," Medrano told the graduates.
Nearly 260 doctoral and master's degrees were conferred in a ceremony Friday evening.
Two receiving doctoral degrees from the College of Business Administration received special recognition - Jose Castillo and Suad Fayez Ghaddar. According to information from the AACSB International - The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business - UTPA recently became only the third Hispanic Serving Institution in the nation to receive accreditation for all business degree levels, from bachelor's to doctorate.
Public school teacher Martha Cecilia Martinez became the first to receive a Master of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies in Physics Education after participating in the Physics for Teachers program in the College of Science and Engineering.
"At the time when I started the program I wasn't sure about where I was headed and what I wanted to do, but it was the best thing that I did," Martinez said. "I think any teacher can get out of the classroom and pursue further goals and dreams."
Dr. Jerwen Jou, professor in the Department of Psychology and Anthropology - who has taught at UTPA since 1993 - served as speaker at the ceremonies for master's and doctoral candidates. In his speech, Jou talked about the importance of research, especially in the light of UTPA striving to become a level II research University. While in graduate school, Jou said one of his former professors gave him one of his most important pieces of advice.
"He said to me that it is very important to him to continue to progress in his life for as long as he lives. To a scholar this means that one has to continue to learn, to produce new ideas and concepts, to discover new facts, and to contribute to the discipline with which one identifies one's self," said Jou.
John Stevens, executive director of the Texas Business and Education Coalition, was the featured speaker at both the 9 a.m. and noon ceremonies. Graduates from the College of Business Administration and the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences received degrees at the 9 a.m. ceremony. Stevens addressed parents, business leaders and members of the University - congratulating them for their support of the students.
"The University of Texas-Pan American is unique in important ways," said Stevens. "With the largest enrollment of Mexican-American students in the nation, this University is helping to bring prosperity to south Texas and, even more important, is developing the future Hispanic leadership that Texas and the nation needs."
He told students that their education is a "valuable asset that no one can take away." Stevens also advised the graduates to keep up with the latest technology, but to remember that technology is just a tool.
"The real problems of this world - poverty, hunger, illiteracy, hatred, prejudice, ignorance and intolerance - will never be solved by technology alone," he said. "Nor can technology bring us beauty, wisdom, justice, love, happiness or peace. Well educated people with good basic values make the difference
Rose Guerra Reyna, Hidalgo County judge for the 206th District, told graduates from the College of Arts and Humanities, and the College of Health Sciences and Human Services during the 3 p.m. ceremony to seize those special moments in time.
"Time is precious because each second that we live is a news and unique moment of the universe; a moment that will never be again," she said. "What you do with that time can make a world of difference."."
She also spoke to graduates from the College of Science and Engineering at the final commencement ceremony at 6 p.m. and the importance of education.
"Education is the only thing in the world, that once received can never, ever be taken away."
Nevarez said all graduates this year received special recognition on their diplomas and commemorative mementos.
"These mementos and your diplomas will serve as reminders of your quest for knowledge here and your pursuit of success when you leave us," he said.