There is no place like home.
And on Thursday, Dec. 8, former students of The University of Texas-Pan American came to their new home at 2402 S. Closner Blvd., located next to the UTPA Annex building, to celebrate the opening of the new UTPA Alumni Center.
Previously, the University's Office of Alumni Relations was housed on campus in the University Center building. Limited parking was available to visitors of the office. UTPA President called the opening of the center "a labor of love" and a way to give back to the more than 60,000 students the University has graduated.
"We've got people making a difference, and we owe them," Nelsen said. "And this is part of the payback. ... Digo todo el tiempo que somos familia (I say all the time that we're family). That is what makes us different."
More than 100 people attended the grand opening, which also included speeches from State Sen. Eddie Lucio (Dist. 27), who graduated from then Pan American University with a bachelor's degree in elementary education in 1974, and UTPA Alumni Association President Jose "Joey" Gonzalez, who graduated with a bachelor's degree in government with a minor in communication in 1993.
Lucio and Gonzalez thanked the University and everyone else who was responsible for the creation of the center.
"It is because of your efforts that this is possible," Gonzalez said. "This is our home now, and we're all very proud."
After a ribbon cutting and speeches, alumni and friends of the University toured the facility, ate food and caught up with former classmates.
The 4,000-square-foot center -which also houses the UTPA Alumni Association - is a one-stop shop for alumni, current students and friends of the University. The building barely resembles the fast food restaurant that used to be located there.
Inside, large displays of yearbook pictures of alumni line the main room. To the corner are leather couches on which guests can sit and peruse yearbooks and other publications. They can also relax in the patio outside.
The building's old drive-through windows have been replaced with posters promoting the University's upcoming 50th anniversary reunion for the Class of 1962 Feb. 17 and 18.
Carrol "Kelly" Norquest, who earned a degree in agriculture from then Pan American College in 1958, and has supported the University ever since, said he was glad the Office of Alumni Relations and the UTPA Alumni Association have a new home.
"The old place was hard to get to for anybody who is off-campus, so this is going to be easy to get to whenever there's anything of interest or need for going to the Alumni Center," Norquest said.
Mauro Uriegas (BS biology, '05) enjoyed a tour of the new facility with his wife Samantha (BS marketing, '03; MBA, '04). Both felt the new center shows how much the University has grown.
Mauro was recently hired as a program coordinator of the new College Literacy Academic Success Initiative at Pan Am. Samantha is the grants and contracts compliance manager at South Texas College. Both have been involved with the STC Alumni Association Board.
"It is extremely impressive how Pan Am has evolved and been really self sustaining with the alumni. I'm really excited to be here and anxious to find out what they will offer alumni," said Samantha, who hopes to become more active in UTPA's alumni association. "Pan Am has contributed a lot to my education and career. It helped me evolve as a person and I would really like to give back to show my support."
For more information about the alumni center or to learn how to get involved with the University, contact the Office of Alumni Relations at (956) 665-2500 or visit www.utpa.edu/alumni.