Donors provide a circle of support for students and the University
Posted: 10/22/2012
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Supporters of The University of Texas-Pan American learned recently how their help led alumnus George Galindo to achieve his goal of becoming a teacher and making his own impact on the next generation of students and leaders.

Guests at the President's Circle event enjoyed cupcakes from the RGV Cupcake Factory, winner of the Food Channel's "Cupcake Wars" show and owned by UTPA alumni. Pictured left to right are Jody Nelsen, wife of UTPA President Robert S. Nelsen; Robert C. Vackar, owner and CEO, Bert Ogden Auto Group; Veronica Gonzales, UTPA vice president for University Advancement; Janet Vackar, wife of Robert and owner of Bert Ogden Auto Group; Robert S. Nelsen, UTPA president; and speech pathologists Erica Rodriguez (BS '02, MS '04) and Johanna Saenz (BS '08, MS '11), two of three owners of the RGV Cupcake Factory.
The May 2012 graduate, who teaches 10th grade English at IDEA Donna College Preparatory, shared his story with donors at an event honoring members of the President's Circle.

"It is because of each of you that I am proud to say I am an alumnus of UTPA and was truly able to fulfill my dreams," said Galindo, who touted the assistance he received through scholarships, financial aid, and a top-notch and caring faculty and staff at the University.

The President's Circle is composed of alumni and friends of UT Pan American who give an unrestricted annual gift of $1,000 or more, which provides funding where needed at the University, including student scholarships, travel opportunities for its award-winning Folklorico, Mariachi and theatre groups, and other experiences that enhance teaching and learning for students or faculty.

During the event, UTPA President Robert S. Nelsen welcomed guests and described the University's accomplishments as a transformative agent in the Rio Grande Valley for the past 85 years.

"This University is the heart and soul of this Valley and the heart and soul of the future and what we can accomplish," he said.

He shared the strategic initiatives incorporated in the institution's "Strategic Plan 2012-2022 Bronc Country - The Engaged University," which was unveiled in August, and the imperatives needed to accomplish the plan's long list of quantitative targets, including increasing enrollment, graduation and retention rates, faculty positions, research funding and annual and endowment giving, among others. He said he welcomed community input into the plan.

Two President's Circle Founding Members Bill Hamer (BBA '74), CEO, Hamer Enterprises Inc., and his wife Jodi Hamer (BA '04), COO, Hamer Enterprises Inc., were greeted during the event by UTPA President Robert S. Nelsen (second from right) and UTPA Director of Stewardship and Annual Giving Yvette Padilla (right).
Guests were also introduced to Veronica Gonzales, UTPA's new vice president for University Advancement, who assumed her post July 1. Gonzales, an attorney and former state representative, is charged with overseeing development, marketing and communications and alumni relations.

After introducing her staff and sharing many of the University's points of pride, she asked those present to help tell the story of the University's accomplishments and for their continued support to advance the University to a new and higher level.

"We have many students like George who need an opportunity, and when they get it they thrive," she said. "We are graduating the nation's next leaders....but we cannot do it alone. We need partners. I hope you can help us, because you are not just transforming our communities, you are transforming lives."

Renee Betancourt (BS '01), an Edinburg attorney, and her husband J.R. (BA '01), a CPA and newly elected Edinburg City Council member, signed up at the event to join the President's Circle.

Renee Betancourt, a member of the UTPA Development Board recently formed to advise the President on advancing the University's goals and engagement with the community, said UT Pan American is a large part of who she is now and she wants to give back.

"I think UTPA has so much potential but gets overlooked a lot by other bigger schools. This is in our backyard. Hopefully our children will go to Pan Am and not think of it as a place that they have to go to but as a place that they want to go to, just like I did and my husband did," Renee Betancourt said. "We are young, we are professionals and we do have extra to give back to Pan Am for someone's education. I'd rather spend it on that than anywhere else."

Visit the photo gallery to see more of the event. To learn more about donating to UTPA, contact the Office of Development at (956) 665-5301.