The University of Texas-Pan American welcomed alumni and friends back home to Bronc Country Feb. 17 for its 2012 Alumni Ball. During the evening, they celebrated the University's successes, a new tradition, and the triumphs of five notable alumni, who have made their alma mater proud.
"We celebrate individuals who prove that you can be successful in the (Rio Grande) Valley and you can do it through education," UTPA President Robert S. Nelsen, told nearly 400 attendees about the five Pillars of Success honored this year.
Recognized as Pillars of Success were a distinguished group of individuals, who were chosen among their peers for their personal and career successes and will stand as role models for current and future Broncs. The five honorees included Macaria de la Garza Gorena (AA '39, M.Ed. '77), lifelong educator at Edinburg CISD; Ruben A. Perez (BBA '77), entrepreneur in the health care industry for more than 35 years; Alonzo R. Peña (BS '78), Deputy Assistant Secretary for Operations, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security; Jesus Ramirez (BA '80), South Texas attorney and author; and Elcira Bermudez (BSMF '04), a manufacturing engineer for Raytheon Company.
Receiving the honor was a humbling moment, said Perez, who is on the Board of Directors for the combined companies of two well-known and well-respected Texas-based healthcare companies, CIMA Healthcare and Jordan Health Services, which employs more than 10,000 employees in the state. He told his fellow alumni how he had set three goals for himself as a young boy growing up in Donna, Texas: earning his college degree, setting an example for his family, and becoming a successful businessman.
"None of this would have been possible without the degree I received from this University," Perez said.
"I still don't consider myself a success. My success will come when I am the first vice president female engineer of the company," said Bermudez.
Bermudez also shared her touching life story of how she came to the United States as an undocumented immigrant from Guatemala, a story she hardly shares with anybody, she said. She spoke about how she and her siblings often went to bed hungry and how her mother brought them all to America in hopes of providing better lives for her children.
"Don't take it (your education) for granted. It is the key to getting out of poverty," she said.
Also honored as a Friend of the UTPA Alumni Association was The Coca-Cola Company for its more than 15 years of supporting the University and the Alumni Association. In addition, the UTPA Houston Alumni Chapter presented the University with a $2,000 check as part of a $10,000 commitment to establish an endowment scholarship and pledged to raise more in the near future.
The evening ended with Nelsen unveiling the University's official class ring, designed by art students, representing a new campus tradition and UT Pan American's past, present and future. Each guest at the ball was presented a special pin featuring the face of the new ring. Nelsen discussed the ring's symbolism and explained the Latin phrase on the ring - "Semper Porro"- which means "Forever Onward" and is part of the University's alma mater.
"You have my promise, you have the faculty's promise, you have everyone's promise that we will move forward and we will always take care of you 'Forever Onward,'" Nelsen said.
View a photo gallery of the 2012 Alumni Ball here.
If you would like to learn more about becoming involved in UTPA alumni activities or join the alumni association, call (956) 665-2500.