New inductees and current members of The University of Texas-Pan American's Heritage Society were honored June 30 at the Seventh Annual Heritage Society dinner sponsored by the UTPA Foundation. Created in 1999, the Heritage Society celebrates those individuals who have included the University in their estate plans.
Attendees were greeted by Debbie Gonzalez, associate director of Planned Giving, and UTPA President Dr. Blandina Cárdenas.
"We celebrate the commitment that you in this room have made not only to this University but to the development of the Rio Grande Valley, the state of Texas and to our nation," Cárdenas said.
"We need your help in advancing the notion that the Valley has to travel to the beat of a different drummer and that drummer is drumming education, education, education," Cárdenas said to the members. She noted, however, that the demand for higher education in the state and nation is growing at such a pace that governmental bodies are having difficulty maintaining the level of support that they have historically provided.
"We also ask your help in spreading the word that investing in The University of Texas-Pan American is a good investment - not only in individuals, not only in the institution, but in the community," she said.
The 2005 Heritage Society inductees included Florence and Paul Crissman, Winter Texans who have volunteered as mentors for school children in the Valley, and Dr. Martin Feinberg, UTPA assistant professor in the Department of Computer Information Systems and Quantitative Methods.
A Yonkers, New York native and a faculty member since 1999, Feinberg said he decided to include the University in his estate plan because of the wonderful contributions that UTPA is making in the area of higher education.
"UTPA is definitely committed to excellence. Contributions to the Heritage Society can be very helpful in UTPA becoming a flagship university," Feinberg said.
Gonzalez described Feinberg as a strong supporter of the University evidenced by his 23 letters to the editor supporting University programs, policies and events published in various Texas newspapers over his six years as a faculty member.
Dinner guests were entertained by Spanish major Juan Carlos Lopez and dance major Mari Leal, both members of the UTPA Ballet Folklorico, and Jason Landry, a music performance major in guitar. Other current UTPA students mingled with members and guests to tell their stories of striving to achieve their goals of higher education and dreams for the future.
ROTC cadet Gabriel Hernandez, a senior with a major in math and a minor in military science, recently received the Draper Scholarship, arranged through the philanthropy of Heritage Society members Louis C. and Margaret L. Draper. He said the scholarship enabled him to complete his education.
"I am a financially struggling, first generation college student and I was at a point where I was not going to be able to complete my education," he said. Hernandez, who is originally from Mexico, graduated from Port Isabel and was naturalized in Harlingen in 2003, said after graduation, he hopes to join the Army, complete 20 years of service, then eventually teach and coach soccer.
Junior Daisy Gracia, a biology major who is in the Baylor premedical honors college, said she was very appreciative of help provided by scholarship funds.
"Without the help of scholarships I would not be able to finance my own education. People like this (Heritage Society members) really help us to achieve our aspirations," she said.
Graduating magna cum laude December 2004 with a bachelor's in business majoring in accounting, Gutierrez, a child of migrant farm workers and a first generation college student, said her parents told her to take advantage of opportunities they did not have. As she briefly described her path to become a team member, the preparation for the competition and the challenge of how the team would handle a case at Nationals that had a "flaw," Gutierrez credited the University, especially a supportive faculty, with giving her and her teammates confidence, stability and assurance.
"We wanted people (at the competitions) to know that The University of Texas-Pan American is just as good as any other university. Pan Am has great professors, quality education and creates opportunities. If a student has the will, Pan Am will give them the power to accomplish their dream like it did for me. I would like to thank the Heritage (Society) members for all your support. Because of you UTPA will continue to make a difference in students' lives," Gutierrez said.
For more information on planned giving to the University and the Heritage Society, contact Gonzalez at 956/318-5305.