Sixth annual Heritage Society dinner recognizes University donors
Posted: 06/22/2004
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Three new inductees were honored for their philanthropy June 15 during The University of Texas-Pan American Foundation's sixth annual Heritage Society dinner held in the University Ballroom.

"The purpose of the evening is to recognize and honor those individuals who have placed the University in their estate plans. It is a special evening dedicated to them," said Roland S. Arriola, vice president for the Division of External Affairs.

The 2004 inductees included Bret L. Mann, Nancy Moyer and Cristela Sifuentez. Inductee Thomas M. Harwell was honored posthumously.

"I wanted to accomplish a couple of things with my planned giving," said Mann, who serves as executive director of UTPA's CoSERVE (Office of Center Operations and Community Services). "I have always wanted to give back to help others and I wanted to show my children about giving and helping others."

Mann has arranged in his will a scholarship that will assist a student majoring in special education with an interest in autism.

Besides benefiting the University's students, faculty and programs, donors can benefit as well from the wide range of planned giving options. "We try and provide the donors with the maximum return out of their contribution," Arriola said.

Senior Roberto Salazar, a third year student in the UTPA/Baylor Premedical Honors College, thanks Heritage Society members for their support of UTPA and its students at the sixth annual dinner honoring those that have benefited the University through planned giving.
Following a vocal presentation by UTPA student Celinda Herevia accompanied by Dr. Dahlia Guerra, Music Department Chair and associate professor, and the UTPA string quartet, UTPA President Dr. Miguel Nevárez thanked the guests for their commitment to and support of the University.

Nevárez, who is stepping down as the University's head this year, said this would be one of his last events he would be attending as president.

In looking back over the past 23 years as President, Nevárez said he credited Ed Mercer with his significant role in generating financial support over those years. Hired by Nevárez in 1982 as the first vice president for Institutional Advancement, Mercer created the UTPA Foundation and has served part-time as UTPA's chief planned giving officer since retiring in 1999. Mercer, who helped acknowledge Society members during the dinner program, will also leave the University when Nevárez steps down.

The Heritage Society was created in 1999 to recognize alumni, friends, faculty and staff that have elected to benefit the University through planned giving in the form of charitable trusts, charitable gifts annuities, beneficiary designations in their wills, life insurance and retirement plans as well as other estate planning arrangements.

Debbie Gonzalez, associate director for Planning Giving, echoed the evening's appreciation of Society members. Taking on Mercer's duties, Gonzalez has a master's in accounting with an emphasis on taxation, a CPA license and 11 years experience in trust services. She said the support of the Society members helps assist students in achieving their educational goals.

Jennifer Venecia, a senior majoring in manufacturing engineering, one of two students who spoke at the event, said UTPA offered her an affordable, quality education and had high praise for the manufacturing engineering program, the only such program accredited in Texas. She also said that the support of Society members has enhanced her educational experience.

"I am a member of three societies in engineering and we are able to go to career fairs and competitions. Without the contribution of the donors some of those activities would not be possible," she said.

Roberto Salazar, a senior third-year student in the UTPA/Baylor Premedical Honors College and University Scholar at UTPA, said that the support provided to students, the quality of professors and the opportunity to do research with them were among the factors that drew him to attend UTPA.

"UTPA has given me other opportunities in addition to my career goals. I just returned from a 28-day travel abroad trip to France with the philosophy and history program. It was one of the best experiences of my life. My UTPA experience has been excellent and has put me in a well marked comfortable path," Salazar said.

With a goal of becoming a doctoral research institution for South Texas which will bring economic development to the area, but in an era of tight state budgets, Nevárez said it was necessary to seek more external support to continue to provide the educational opportunities necessary to achieve this goal.

"That's why all the people here tonight are so important to us," he said.