Vice President for Enrollment and Student Services Dr. John Edwards, set to retire Dec. 31, was surprised speechless Dec. 7 when nearly 100 students, many leaders of organizations on campus, gathered to wish him well.
At the event organized by the University Program Board (UPB) and the Student Government Association (SGA), attendees enjoyed cake and heard from the Dean of Students Dr. Calvin Phillips and Alex Rodriguez, SGA president, about Edwards' 10-year impact on UTPA and its students.
Rodriguez, who called Edwards a role model, recalled when he first came to campus for enrollment, accompanied by many of his family members, he was unable to locate the financial aid office and Edwards was the person who stopped in the hallway to provide him assistance.
"I don't feel special because I know he treats everyone the same," he said. "He's not going to leave without knowing how much we have come to appreciate him."
During the event, Krystal Marroquin, UPB chair, presented Edwards with a certificate for a brick engraved with the title "UTPA Bridge Builder - Dr. John Edwards" for the Walk of Wellness in the UTPA Wellness and Recreational Complex, which was one of the many initiatives and services for students realized under Edwards' leadership. Rodriguez said Edwards had accomplished what the students called his legacy as a bridge builder because of his tenacity and never ending ideas to make UTPA a better campus.
"Many of our UT Pan Am students are taking advantage of the programs that he helped initiate because he understands the needs of our students and their situations. He was able to push for services that provide opportunities to those who are financially challenged to give them a chance to succeed," he said.
Edwards said of all the retirement fetes held for him, this one meant the most.
"My heart is in my throat," he said. "Being here at this University is the highlight of my career. This University is special ... primarily because of the students."
As vice president for Enrollment and Student Services, Edwards was charged to serve as the primary advocate and spokesperson for students and provide leadership in the areas of student outreach, access and success. The position includes responsibilities of overseeing 14 departments that deal with student services and support. Read more about Edwards' achievements at UTPA and statewide.
Junior Mark Allen, SGA vice president, said the event demonstrated the great love UTPA students have toward their leader and mentor, a person he called a "father figure" to many of the students.
"His leadership has been empirical," said Allen, who cited the Wellness Center as one of Edwards' major accomplishments among many. "The center has not only touched the lives of students to help make them better but it has also touched the lives of the community making this area healthier and more energetic toward the college experience."
A search for a new Vice President for the Division of Student Affairs, which the position's title will transition to effective Jan. 1, 2011, is underway. Current Associate Vice President for Enrollment and Student Services Dennis McMillan has been appointed by UTPA President Robert S. Nelsen to serve as interim vice president for Student Affairs starting Jan. 1 until a replacement is hired.