Nearly 200 family members, friends, faculty, staff and students came together Feb. 19 to celebrate the opening of the "Pillars of Success" exhibition, which features the photos and the success stories of five distinguished alumni that will be on display in the university's Visitors Center for the next two years.
This is the fourth class of honorees who are selected by the President's Executive Committee from a list of nominees recommended by a Visitors Center Exhibits Committee comprised of faculty and staff.
Each inductee or their representative talked about the university's role in their success after being introduced by UTPA President Dr. Robert S. Nelsen, who welcomed them back to their alma mater.
The 2010 honorees are as follows:
Gustavo De La Viña, chief patrol agent (retired), United States Border Patrol - An Edinburg native, De La Viña, earned a bachelor's degree in physical education in 1963 and served as an educator before entering the U.S. Border Patrol in 1970. Over the next 34 years, he rose to lead a number of Border Patrol Sectors across the country and assumed the position of chief of the U.S. Border Patrol in 1997, serving until his retirement in 2004. He was the first Mexican-American to achieve that position. De La Viña's initiatives include Operation Gatekeeper, which added infrastructure, technology and more agents along the border to discourage illegal immigration, and the Border Safety Initiative, which systematically advised border residents of the dangers of illegal crossings saving thousands of lives since its inception. De La Viña, who passed away suddenly late last year after his selection as an honored pillar, was represented by his daughter Dina and other family members.
Dr. Dana Gonzalez, obstetrician and gynecologist, Victoria (Texas) Women's Clinic - A child of first-generation, Mexican-American migrant farm workers, Gonzalez was raised in Alamo and aspired to be a doctor while attending the South Texas High School for Health Professions where she ranked third in her class. While in high school, she became a single mother but with encouragement from family and educators continued her dream of a medical career. She was accepted into the Premedical Honors College Program at UTPA, where she received a bachelor's degree in biology in 1998. Gonzalez went on to obtain her medical degree at The University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston. She is currently practicing in Victoria, Texas as the city's only Mexican-American, bilingual ob/gyn.
Dr. Anil Menon, president, Globalization and Smart+Connected Communities at Cisco Systems Inc. - After earning an MBA from then Pan American University in 1984, Menon launched his career to become a global corporate leader. In his current role, Menon co-leads a cross-Cisco team in the corporation's globalization efforts around Smart+Connected Communities, focusing on services-led solutions in safety and security, real estate, energy and transportation. He is responsible for utilizing new business models, solutions and a global ecosystem in these efforts. Menon previously led IBM's corporate strategy in IBM growth markets and was also a successful academic and business consultant, providing services to worldwide corporate giants such as Coca-Cola and Sony Corp. among many others. Currently on the job in his native country India, Menon was represented at the ceremony by Jackie Michel, a former colleague of Menon and current director of Innovation and Intellectual Property at UTPA.
Javier Palomarez, president and CEO, United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce - One of the nation's pre-eminent multicultural sales and marketing executives, Palomarez is a thought-leader and strategist on the issues affecting consumers, particularly the Hispanic community. One of 10 children raised in a single parent household in South Texas by his mother, Palomarez did migrant farm work and learned English as a second language. A high school dropout, he earned a GED and later worked his way through college to earn a bachelor's degree in finance at UTPA. He began his career at Allstate Insurance Company where he helped initiate the industry's first fully-integrated, nationwide Hispanic marketing, sales and service campaign. He later worked at Sprint as assistant vice president for Marketing and Public Relations and most recently at Ing Financial Services as vice president of Multicultural Marketing.
Tim Tully, president and founder, Southwest Precision Printers, L.P. - A Dallas native, Tully attended Pan American University in 1968 with a baseball scholarship, playing on the 1971 championship team under acclaimed coach Al Ogletree. After graduating with a bachelor's degree in physical education, Tully started a career as a sales representative in a reprographics company owned by a college friend's father. He ventured out on his own in 1975 to start Southwest Precision Printers in Bellaire, Texas. That company, which he leads as president, is now the largest independent commercial printing company in Houston, providing services worldwide and winning countless awards for printing quality and graphic excellence.
Dr. John Edwards, vice president for Enrollment and Student Services, said the Visitors Center has housed 11 exhibits since it opened in 2002 and has had more than 200,000 visitors, including thousands of Rio Grande Valley students.
"We keep this display up for a period of two years because we want our visitors and students to know what this university is producing - outstanding graduates. These Pillars of Success stand as role models for paths we want our students to follow," he said.