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Broncs Hall of Famer Luke "Big Jack" Jackson (BS '73 physical education) never thought he'd have his No. 54 jersey retired at The University of Texas-Pan American.
But on Feb. 16, Jackson's jersey number will be raised onto the rafters at the UTPA Fieldhouse during halftime of the men's basketball game against Houston Baptist. The game starts at 7 p.m.
"I think it's a great gesture. It's good for me, for the school and this is a great way to show their appreciation for what I accomplished during my time there," said Jackson, who led the then Pan American College (PAC) basketball team to the 1963 NAIA championship. "It shows that Pan Am values what I did as a student athlete and I am truly grateful for this honor."
UTPA will also honor the 1963 NAIA Championship team during halftime for its 50th anniversary.
Jackson's No. 54 was originally retired across all sports on Nov. 12, 1964 by the PAC board.
"Luke Jackson gave his heart and his soul to Pan Am," UTPA President Dr. Robert S. Nelsen said. "He is an amazing athlete who deserves to have his jersey hanging where every athlete and student who enters the UTPA Fieldhouse will see it and dream about what is possible."
He returned to the University after his pro career with the Philadelphia 76ers in the National Basketball Association (NBA) to complete a couple of classes to finish his degree.
"It was a good experience while I was a student at Pan Am. While I was there I knew what I had to and wanted to do and that was play basketball and graduate," said Jackson. "I earned my degree, went out into the world and was ready to make a living."
The jersey retirement ceremony will be part of a big day for UTPA Athletics as the Hall of Fame Class of 2013 will be inducted at a luncheon to be held at the UTPA Ballroom at 11 a.m. during Bronc Homecoming Week.
Homecoming Week festivities kick off Feb. 13 with a Homecoming Alumni Mixer at 6 p.m. Tents will be set up and appetizers and refreshments will be served at the Alumni Center located at 2402 South Closner in Edinburg.
"Although there will be activities that are of interest to our alumni, we encourage the entire community to come celebrate as well," said Debra Grant, director of Alumni Relations. "We invite people to come on over after work and we are hoping to see many people at our events during the week."
Another event taking place during homecoming week will be the Alumni Ball scheduled for Feb. 15 at 6:30 p.m. The event will feature a "Viva Las Vegas" casino theme and will be held at the HPE II Building.
"Aside from the fun and excitement at the Alumni Ball, we will also be recognizing and honoring five of our notable alumni, our Pillars of Success," Grant said.
Pillars of Success to be honored this year are Rene Wallace (AA '51), retired businesswoman, Ramon Garcia (BA '70), Hidalgo County Judge, Lydia Rendon (BS '60), retired educator, Dr. Norma V. Cantu (BA '73), professor of law and education at UT-Austin and Dr. Robert Feldtman (BS '68), thoracic and cardiovascular surgeon.
Pillars of Success are a distinguished group of individuals who are chosen among their peers for their personal and career successes and stand as role models for current and future Broncs.
The public is also invited to attend the Bronc Madness Tailgate, which will take place at the UTPA Fieldhouse parking lot on Feb. 16 at 3 p.m., followed by the women's basketball team going up against Utah Valley at 4:30 p.m.
Dr. Gregory Selber, associate professor of communication, will be signing copies of his book, "Bronc Ball: The History of College Basketball at Pan American," at the tailgate.
Homecoming week concludes on Feb. 17 with The Class of 1963 50-Plus Reunion Champagne Brunch to be held at the UTPA Ballroom at 10:30 a.m.
"We're recognizing our 1963 class and inducting them into our 50 Year Club. We invite all graduates of this year to come. Admission is free to those who are being inducted," Grant said.
Grant said it's important for any university to stay connected with its alumni.
"We want our alumni to know that they are important to us and we want them to reconnect and stay connected to the University," said Grant. "We need to know who they are. They are the backbone of our community."
Grant believes Homecoming Week also provides a great opportunity to engage graduates who may have never returned to the campus and update them on UTPA's growth and progress.
"It's a whole week set aside concentrating on our alumni as they come back to the University. Students leave, they graduate and we hardly ever get them to come back, so that's the whole purpose of homecoming," said Grant. "We want them to be engaged and let them know that UTPA is a top of the line university and showcase what we're known for."
For more information, contact Grant at (956) 665-2500.