More than 200 alumni and current students of The University of Texas-Pan American waited patiently outside the University's Fine Arts auditorium Friday afternoon in the sweltering heat to be part of a new tradition.
They were the first recipients of the official Bronc Ring, which was designed by UTPA students for UTPA students past, present and future, and participants of the inaugural Bronc Ring Ceremony May 4.
UTPA senior Brenda Vidales said other schools, such as Texas A&M University, have similar traditions and she is glad UTPA is starting its own.
"UTPA is getting bigger and what better way to say I was a part of this than to get a class ring," said Vidales, who is graduating this Saturday, May 12, with a bachelor's degree in interdisciplinary studies with a focus on bilingual education.
Vidales said she liked the class ring's design.
"It wasn't too flashy; it's simple, a really traditional ring," she said.
Like Vidales, Ricardo Reyna, who works for The University of Texas-Pan American's Division of Information Technology, said he wanted to be a part of the tradition, since he will be receiving his bachelor's degree in computer information systems this Saturday after working on his degree on and off since 1979. He plans to continue his education pursuing a master's degree in public administration.
"I remember Pan Am when it was still a college," Reyna said. "It's more a feeling of completion."
The ceremony began when ring recipients entered chanting "Semper Porro, Broncs Forever" as family members and other loved ones cheered them on in the packed auditorium.
UTPA President Robert S. Nelsen and Associate Vice President of University Marketing and Communications Dr. Kimberly Selber greeted the recipients and their families.
Nelsen said when he took the helm of UT Pan American more than two years ago he noticed the University did not have the tradition of a class ring that some other universities do. He wanted to change that.
Instead of hiring a company to design the ring, UTPA used the talents of its art students, guided by Donna Mason Sweigart, assistant professor of art.
"We turned to our students because they're that creative, that smart and that wonderful," Nelsen said.
Selber asked alumni to stand and be recognized and told the crowd the University has graduated more than 70,000 students in its 85-year history and that there are now more than 19,000 students enrolled at UTPA.
"Bronc Country is quickly growing," Selber said.
Sweigart described the symbolism of the ring's components before recipients took the stage to participate in the ceremony.
Recipients, including father and daughter Raul Garza and Victoria Garza Rodriguez and siblings Elvira Susana Prieto and Oscar Antonio Prieto, took turns writing their names in the official ceremony book and touching the Bronc Ring touchstone bearing the face of the ring to commemorate the new tradition.
The ceremony concluded with the UTPA Men's Choir singing the Alma Mater and the UTPA Mariachi performing "La Negra" and the University's fight song, "La Adelita."
A reception followed the ceremony in the courtyard outside the auditorium.