Alicia Torres is a successful entrepreneur and business woman. She is also an alumna of The University of Texas-Pan American who credits her accomplished career to the education she received at Pan Am.
"Pan Am was here in the Valley and available for kids like me who came from Hispanic, migrant farm working families. It gave us a platform to grow, to see other things in the world and to continue to grow. I want to give back because Pan Am gave me so much," said Torres, who emigrated from Mexico to the United States with her family while in junior high school.
Torres was among the nine newest members of UT Pan American's Heritage Society celebrated Friday, Feb. 3 at a dinner held at the University. Created by UTPA and the UTPA Foundation, the Heritage Society honors alumni, friends, faculty and staff who have shared with the University their intent to provide future gifts for UTPA through their estate and financial plans.
With her planned gift, Torres chose to establish endowed scholarships in the academic areas in which she and three of her five siblings graduated. Besides business, the scholarships will be in education for her sister Rosalva Aguilar (BS '84), who is a teacher in Austin; in engineering for her sister Marlen Ramirez (MS '03), who is a mechanical engineer with Northrop Grumman; and in communication disorders for her sister Benilde Mendiola (BA '01), who works as a speech therapist for the Edinburg Consolidated Independent School District.
"I want the world to know that I came from here and that I made a difference," Torres said.
Other new members honored at the event were Jane Cross (MA '94), Robert J. Everhard (BA '67), John "Jack" L. (BBA '77,deceased) and Gloria W. Fitch, Thomas Meade Harwell (deceased), Joseph "Joe" M. Mejia, Olga D. Rogers, Max and Alma B. Siporin (both deceased), and Rick and Diane Teter.
"I believe in education," she said. "Education lifts people up and we need that here in the Valley."
UTPA President Robert S. Nelsen said there were many trailblazers in the Valley who have made it possible for others to succeed.
"Since 1927, we have had 70,871 students graduate from UT Pan American," he said. "We have people here tonight who are giving their legacy to the University. We have people here tonight who will allow the next generation of leaders to grow from the Valley. I wish there was a way to find the words to tell you how incredibly thankful we are ... your hearts are making a difference."
Society members were able to meet and hear from a number of current UTPA students who have benefitted from scholarships and programs supported by planned giving funds.
ROTC cadet Michaela Mancini described how the scholarship made possible by planned gifts from the estates of Louis C. "L.C." and Margaret L. Draper helped her with college costs. Mancini is a senior and an enlisted soldier who is in the U.S. Army's Green to Gold program that allows her to attend school while on active duty. When she graduates in May, Mancini will be commissioned as a military intelligence officer. She said she had the opportunity to meet the Drapers before each died, "L.C.," a retired lieutenant colonel in the Air Force, in 2009 and Margaret in 2010.
"They were very humble about their giving," Mancini said. "I respected them so much. They were shaping lives and helping their community."
"Your contributions do more than help someone graduate. They extend much further than that. A UTPA graduate is prepared to enter the workforce as a leader and become a productive member of society. Our educational achievement can benefit our community and future generations," she said.
Senior Osvaldo Lopez, a recipient of the Stanley and Anne R. Addington Music Scholarship established by late Heritage Society member Anne Addington, is a music education major who hopes to also obtain a master's in music performance. He plays the tuba in a UTPA quartet that will be among students from only seven U.S. universities who will perform at a competition in Austria this summer. Lopez told donors that their generosity allows many students to pursue their goals and make their dreams possible.
"I come from a family and parents who did not have an education. It is an honor for me to be able to come to school," Lopez said.
Other students described programs such as the Premedical Honors College that has received support from Heritage Society members. Planned gifts can also be directed to creating endowed professorships and chairs.
Dr. Janice Maville, Lillian O. Slemp Endowed Chair in Nursing and current special assistant to the Provost, told the guests how the Slemp endowment allowed her to pursue some objectives for the College of Health Sciences and Human Services and the nursing department, including increased opportunities for faculty travel to conferences, training workshops, and new course and research development.
Maville said the endowed chair also provided funds to purchase the first human patient manikin in UTPA's simulated hospital, which now offers many models of manikins for use in training not only nursing students but those in physician assistant studies, social work, rehabilitation sciences and other disciplines.
Director of Planned Giving at UTPA Cecilia Johnson (BBA '80) said planned gifts can come in all amounts and forms, including, for example, stocks and bonds, real estate, mineral interests, beneficiary payments from life insurance and retirement plans, works of arts/collectibles and books, and publications and archival material for the University Library.
"Each gift we receive - large or small - is greatly cherished and put to good use helping the University improve the lives of not only our students but also their families and the communities in which they live and serve," she said.
Johnson said Heritage Society members come from all walks of life, incomes and backgrounds but they all have something in common.
"They are visionaries," she said. "They have a love and appreciation for education and for their fellow human beings. They've seen what doors to a good education can open for our students and they want to do their part to make this world a better place."
To learn more about how you can support the advancement of the University, call (956) 665-5301.