Twenty-five years ago, The University of Texas-Pan American President, Dr. Miguel A. Nevárez, then vice president of student affairs, initiated the first Awards and Recognition Convocation and reception recognizing outstanding scholars and student leaders. On Sunday, April 4, Nevárez presided over his last as the University's president before a crowded Student Union Theater filled with the honorees and their families and friends.
As the guest speaker for the event, Nevárez said he wanted to address all the VIP's in the audience - "the madres and padres, the abuelitas and abuelitos, the husbands and wives, all the mentors and hand-holders." He said these people were the ones responsible for the students' recognition and credited his own family with helping him achieve his goals of making UTPA a great university.
"This might be a good time to recognize your professors, dedicated educators who make this place all that it is and who make our students all that they are," he said.
Presented first were the Academic Deans' Outstanding Student Award winners that included Marialicia Andrade, Luis Alfonso Lopez and Amanda R. Aguilar, College of Arts and Humanities; Raul Cabrera, Sunaina Chugani and Hiram J. Corona, College of Business Administration; Jaime Duran, Irma Doris Mendiola and Kathy De La Pena, College of Education; Leticia Castillo, Cynthia Rios and Vanessa Sanchez, College of Health Sciences and Human Services; Ramon Cortez and Nisha Varghese, College of Science and Engineering; and Ana Isabel Leos, Josefa Mata and Blanca Elvia Ruiz, College of Social and Behavioral Sciences.
Dr. Michael Eastman, dean of the College of Science and Engineering, said when he interviewed his department's two honorees, he asked them for one word that best described their goals.
"One (honoree) answered integrity and the other responsibility. Both these attributes are in short supply today," he said.
In presenting the Dean of Students Leadership Awards, Dr. Jerry Price, dean of students, said that leadership by students outside the classroom provides opportunities to learn skills that will benefit them long after college. Recipients of this award are nominated by the staff of the Division of Enrollment and Student Services and have demonstrated outstanding leadership in the areas of service to the University, community and campus involvement as well as academic excellence.
Winners of this award included Raul Cabrera, senior, international business; Maria de Lourdes Garza, senior, computer science; and Sheryl Milford, junior, dietetics. Price also recognized the officers of the Student Government Association - Francisco "Paco" Vielma, president, and Oscar Garza, SGA vice president.
"Students in the Student Government Association contribute meaningfully to campus life. They are the voice of the students and elected to do so. They are out there working all hours in the evenings and weekends to make this campus a better experience for all students," Price said.
Dr. John Edwards, vice president for Enrollment and Student Services, introduced the students recognized for selection in Who's Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges for 2003-2004. In its 70th year, this program highlights outstanding campus leaders for their scholastic and community achievements. To be eligible, UTPA juniors and seniors must have a cumulative 3.0 grade point average or higher and graduate students must have a cumulative GPA of 3.5 or higher.
Achieving this recognition were Tanzeer Amed, Jacqueline Bruce, Raul Cabrera, Norma N. De Leon, Kayla Dryer, Marco Antonio Esquivel, Edward Gamboa, Blanca Garza, Ramon Garza III, Maria de Lourdes Garza, Wilfredo Garza, Maylin Faith Gerardo, Sharon Hope Gerardo, Joachim Grass, Judith Hernandez, Erika Jaramillo, Tatyana G. Korotkova Egan, Sharifa Llemit, Mayra Lopez, Maha B. Maglinao, Trisha Marc, Elvia Martinez, Javier Martinez, Melisandra Mendoza, Leslie Moya, Michael A. Mungia, Norma L. Olivarez, Shirin M. Oveyssi, Rene Palomar, Edith Peña, Vanessa L. Perez, Gloria E. Proa, Ana Cristina Ramirez, Melissa Ramirez, Leticia Reyes, Christabel Rivera, Ricardo Angel Riovera, Christina Rodriguez, Nancy Pearl Treviño, Arianna Vazquez, Carmela M. Zamora and Maria del Sagrario Zuviri.
"I have always told her to be dedicated to whatever she does. It is important to always do your best and never stop. Always continue, continue," Zuviri said.
Also participating in the convocation were Dr. Rodolfo Rocha, dean of the College of Arts and Humanities; Dr. John Emery, dean of the College of Business Administration; Dr. William McIntyre, dean of the College of Health Sciences and Human Services; and Dr. George P. Avellano, interim dean for the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences.
Following the formal ceremony, students and their families were welcomed to a reception at the Nevárez home. Enjoying the festive music by the UTPA Mariachi and the array of food served were honoree Rosa Carrillo and her husband Geronimo. Carrillo, a teacher in Weslaco and pursuing a master's degree in educational leadership, was invited as a graduate student having a 3.75 GPA.
Carrillo said to achieve at this high of level required the help of her husband and two sons but staying focused on the task at hand was most important.
"I took one day at a time, one thing at a time. If you have the support of your family, you will do it," she said.
Carrillo said she was honored to be at Nevárez's last honors convocation. She said Nevárez was unlike some who are about to retire. "He still has that enthusiasm. He is still trying to motivate the students," she said, as her husband nodded in agreement.
As he shared hugs and photos with the honorees and their guests, Nevárez said he was going to miss a lot of the functions of the president.
"It is bittersweet time of life," Nevárez said. "It is sweet to go to a new phase of your life but it is bitter that you are going to give up some of the things that you enjoy like working with students, faculty and staff. However, I hope to continue to attend events and be involved but I will be sitting in the faculty pews instead."