Victor Alvarez wanted to be the first person in his family to graduate from college.
Despite having spinal muscular atrophy, Alvarez breezed through grade school after moving to the area when he was 9 years old - he skipped seventh grade - and after graduating from McAllen High School in 2006 he continued his education in earnest at The University of Texas-Pan American. Alvarez, a Bill Gates Millennium Scholar, majored in history and general studies, taking as much as 21 credits one semester and maintaining a 3.75 grade point average.
Though he succumbed to his lifelong illness on Aug. 17 at the age of 23, just as he was wrapping up his undergraduate studies at UTPA, he still met his goal of earning his degree.
On Saturday, Dec. 18, The University of Texas-Pan American will award Alvarez with a posthumous degree in history and general studies during its commencement ceremonies at the McAllen Convention Center. His mother, Yolanda Morado, will be there to accept the diploma in Alvarez's honor.
Morado said having her son receive the posthumous degree fulfills all the hard work he put into his studies.
"He often would say that he would be the very first person in his entire family to have achieved such a degree or level of education," Morado said. " He wanted this so others would perhaps follow. For us who watched his passion for knowledge and education it will bring great comfort in knowing he reached that milestone he so dreamed about."
UTPA is expected to graduate 1,413 prospective graduates from its seven colleges during three ceremonies held throughout the day. It will be the first commencement exercise for the newly created Colleges of Science and Mathematics and Engineering and Computer Science.
Ceremonies will be at 9 a.m., 1:30 p.m. and 5 p.m. Dr. Carlos Vélez-Ibáñez, director of the School of Transborder Studies at Arizona State University, is slated to speak during the 9:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. exercises and William C. Hamer, founder and CEO of Hamer Enterprises, is scheduled to speak at the 5 p.m. event.
According to his biographical information, Vélez-Ibáñez's work centers on one question: how do we as a species manage to survive the enormous stresses of global, national, regional and local pressures and constraints to live our lives in a relatively humane manner?
Vélez-Ibáñez's academic fields include applied anthropology, complex social organizations, culture and education, ethno-class relations in complex social systems, migration and adaptation of human populations, political ecology and qualitative methodology and urban anthropology. He focuses his studies on the Southwestern United States, Mexico and the Caribbean.
He is the author of eight books and many articles and has been awarded major academic medals and prizes in anthropology and higher education, including the Bronislaw Malinowski Medal from the Society for Applied Anthropology in 2003 and The Robert B. Textor and Family Prize for Excellence in Anticipatory Anthropology from the American Anthropology Association in 2004.
Hamer, a graduate of UTPA and McAllen High School and a member of the UTPA President's Circle, began Hamer Enterprises in 1975 as a bookkeeping company and later began selling its computer software package that tracks payroll, attendance and student scheduling to local districts. The company really blossomed in the 1980s when it began focusing on the public sector and fine-tuned its programs that assess the value of taxable property, according to a story from The Monitor Hamer Enterprises has posted on its website.
Today, Hamer Enterprises is the parent organization of software development company Easy Access Inc. and software/hardware distributor Texas Logic Inc. Hamer Enterprises provides software and other e-business solutions to municipalities and other public sector institutions throughout the country.
For more information, visit UTPA's graduation website.