UTPA celebrates 85 years with picnic
Posted: 11/05/2012
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The University of Texas-Pan American celebrated its 85th birthday with hundreds of its closest friends, family and those considering becoming Broncs.

A young girl has her face painted during UTPA's Founders Day Picnic Nov. 3. Several hundred people came to campus to celebrate the institution's 85th birthday.

UT Pan American held its Founders Day Picnic at the quad on campus Nov. 3 to commemorate the founding of Edinburg College in 1927, which, after several name changes over the years, became UTPA. The picnic offered free food and drinks and activities for children, including face painting, inflatable slides and other rides. The UTPA Mariachi Aztlán performed for the guests.

The sapphire anniversary celebration also had students ranked in the top 25th percentile of their high school classes from all over the Rio Grande Valley come to campus to learn more about UTPA. Colleges offered brochures and other information highlighting their programs and the University presented two $500 scholarships to students whose names were called in a raffle.

"They're going to be introduced to Pan Am and to our traditions and what we do and what it means to be a Bronc," UTPA President Robert S. Nelsen said. "They get to see what our roots are and how good we are."

Ariana June Castañeda, a senior at Edcouch-Elsa High School, and Maria Rios, a senior at Rio Grande City High School, each won a $500 scholarship from the University. Both girls said the scholarships are a great help to them and they are looking forward to coming to UTPA next year because it is close to home.

"Altogether, it's just one good package," said Castañeda, who is enrolled in the Upward Bound program UTPA offers high school students.

UTPA's Founders Day Picnic, held on campus Nov. 3, 2012, offered a variety of activities for children, including rides and inflatable slides.

Rios, who will be the first in her family to attend a four-year university, said she had several reasons why she planned to attend UT Pan American after graduating from high school.

"It's close to home and it's ranked among the top colleges," she said. "I heard great things about it and it is ranked by Forbes Magazine. It also offers a good nursing program and that's what I want."

Rios said she aspires to become a nurse and serve the Valley.

For Edinburg Mayor Richard Garcia (BBA '71), being on campus brings back memories and reminds him of how far the University and the community have come in the past eight decades.

"It's just amazing to see what's happened in the years I've seen, I certainly don't go back to 1927, but it's made all the difference in the world in my life and my sister's life," said Garcia, who, along with his sister, College of Arts and Humanities Dean Dr. Dahlia Guerra (BA '76, music), earned their undergraduate degrees from the University.

Garcia said the University and its earlier incarnations have always been a part of his family. His father attended then- Edinburg Junior College.

"I still remember seeing his textbooks," Garcia said. "In our lifetime, it was never a question of whether you were going to school, but where, and we didn't have a lot of choice because we couldn't afford to go to too many places but at that time it was perfect for us. ... This has been the most important thing that has happened to this area in the last 85 years. ...I hope it serves my grandkids well."

See more of the picnic in this photo gallery.