Dr. Miguel A. Nevárez, president of The University of Texas-Pan American, will preside over the last commencement ceremonies of his presidency May 7-8 at the UTPA Fieldhouse.
As Nevárez prepares to step down from his post after more than 23 years as president and close a much accomplished and successful chapter in his life, more than 1,500 prospective graduates will open a new chapter in their lives as they prepare to receive their diplomas during five ceremonies held over a two-day period.
The 6 p.m. ceremony on Saturday will mark Nevárez's 100th and final ceremony of his career as president.
"It is a nice occasion and I am going to miss all that, no question about it," Nevárez said. "We try to make graduation as special as we can because we know it is important. Many of our graduates are first generation graduates and most are doubling the number of years of formal education compared to their parents. So there is a lot to be proud of in what is going on in the ceremonies."
During his 23-year tenure, Nevárez has handed out more than 30,000 diplomas and during the two-day ceremonies he is expected to present 1,518 prospective candidates with degrees including 1,213 bachelor's degrees, 303 master's degrees and two doctoral degrees.
Nevárez said this will be a bittersweet farewell to one of his most favorite tasks as president. He said he will miss looking out from the stage and seeing the excitement and sometimes tears from the faces of the graduates and their family members as they receive their degrees. Another thing Nevárez said he will miss about commencement is when he asks the graduates to stand up and applaud their family members, who in one way or another helped them reach their goal.
"When I'm on stage I have a real unique view of that because I'm looking at the students in front of me and the parents in the stands, and you just can't help but see how happy they are for each other. I just stand there and think to myself 'this is what it is all about,'" Nevárez said.
The graduation ceremonies will feature one commencement Friday, May 7 at 6 p.m. and four Saturday, May 8.
Friday's ceremony is for doctoral and master's candidates only. Saturday's opening commencement is at 9 a.m. for the College of Arts and Humanities and College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, while graduates from the College of Education will march at noon. Graduates from the College of Science and Engineering and College of Health Sciences and Human Services will have their commencement at 3 p.m., and students in the College of Business Administration will walk at 6 p.m.
Tickets will be available at the University Bookstore through May 7 from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Graduates must present a picture I.D. when picking up the tickets.
"The largest ceremony this year will be the College of Education with 295 graduates anticipated to walk," Howlett said. "The 3 p.m. ceremony is the second largest with 281 while the 9 a.m. ceremony is expecting 249 graduates."
An overflow area at the Health and Physical Education II Building will be provided for extra guests and late arrivals to the ceremonies.
Speakers for commencement this year include U.S. District Court Judge Ricardo H. Hinojosa at the 9 a.m. ceremony. Hinojosa also spoke at Nevárez's first commencement ceremony in 1981.
Senator Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa for District 20 and UTPA alumnus will address the noon graduates. Leo Gomez, general manager of administration for Toyota Motor Manufacturing of Texas and also a UTPA alumnus, will speak at 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. Dr. Elena Bastida, professor in the Department of Sociology, will speak at the Friday ceremony.
Adding to the special occasion are some first graduates in two different programs. The 3 p.m. ceremony on Saturday will feature the first graduates awarded a Bachelor of Arts in dance. The dance program graduates will be Ismael Villarreal of Edinburg and Vanessa Cortez of Brownsville. During the Friday ceremony, the UTPA Nursing Department is expected to graduate its first group of students from the Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Program. Graduating from the program will be Deborah De La Rosa, Edinburg; Orelia Erdem and Vanessa Sanchez, Harlingen; Sandra Gaulke and Noe Herrera, McAllen; and Yolanda Ramirez, Brownsville.
All graduates are asked to arrive one hour before their commencement begins.
Individuals with disabilities needing assistance or special accommodations in order to attend this event should contact the Office of Admissions and Records at 956/381-2389 by Monday, May 3.