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50+ Club inductees rejoice in remembrance of their Pan Am years
Posted: 02/16/2014
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Stuart Klein is still proud of the moment when the then-Pan American College's (PAC) literary magazine "PSST" won the top award at the Texas Intercollegiate Press Association (TIPA) college magazine competition in 1955.

Pictured with UTPA officials and the 1964 Homecoming Queen are the eight alumni who graduated in 1964 or earlier and inducted into UTPA's 50+ Club Feb. 16.
Klein, a 1957 PAC graduate in art, was the cartoonist and co-editor for the inaugural publication, which was the precursor of the Panorama, the literary magazine still produced today by students at The University of Texas-Pan American.

"We beat out all the other universities in Texas," said Klein, owner of S. Klein Galleries in McAllen.

Klein said someone at that time walked off with the awards, so with a 1955 article from the Edinburg Review publicizing the win, he was able to finally get a plaque from TIPA honoring their victory 59 years ago. He presented the plaque to the University before a room full of fellow alumni at the annual 50+ Reunion Brunch Feb. 16. Klein was among eight inductees this year into UTPA's 50+ Club for the Class of 1964 and earlier. The event has become a regular one held during the University's yearly Homecoming festivities.

UTPA President Robert S. Nelsen and Vice President for University Advancement Veronica Gonzales welcomed the 2014 inductees as well as former inductees and other alumni attending the brunch and thanked them for their contributions to the university and community.

"We treasure you. We see you come back and contribute in so many ways to the University," said Gonzales, who asked for their continued support though the Count Me In donation program or in other ways to help students. "Those gifts will support other students just like you were back in those days."

Pan Am alumni attending the 50+ Club reunion brunch were able to look through a large collection of past Bronc yearbooks on display at the event.
The oldest alumnus inducted this year was 1955 graduate Forrest A. Thompson Sr., 94, who came to school after serving in the Korean War. Thompson, who was an advance instructor for the Moore Air Force Base, went on to start his own CPA firm in Corpus Christi and is still flying his own Bonanza plane. Both of his sons are also UTPA alumni.

Thompson recalled getting paid $100 a month as a veteran to attend school, so he held a part-time job keeping books for a local firm while attending Pan Am. He said he received some kudos on campus then for helping solve a problem that some of the UTPA community still complain about today - parking.

"I got some recognition for a report I submitted to the Edinburg Police Department. Based on it, they changed all the parking arrangements and were able to park about twice as many cars ... I helped double the parking," he said.

Class of 1964 graduate and new inductee William C. Barker got to vividly relive a moment from his past during the event. In 1964, he crowned Cleo Hinojosa, who would graduate in 1965, as that year's Homecoming Queen. Their recreation of that moment when Barker presented her the 1964 Homecoming Queen sash and crown drew applause from the crowd.

Hinojosa, who will qualify for 50+ Club induction next year, majored in English with a minor in French and worked for 37 years in the McAllen ISD as a teacher and administrator. She retired but later returned to a new career in education. Hinojosa, who also earned her master's from UTPA in 1981, is now the regional director for the Premier High Schools Charter Schools' south region. She said she loved the size of the Pan Am back then and knowing all her classmates, many of whom have remained lifelong friends.

"I made friends with everyone in the Rio Grande Valley who attended here. I also met my husband here (Arturo Hinojosa, BA '65, MED '78). It was very special to me," said Hinojosa, who was also a Bronc cheerleader when Pan American won the NAIA basketball championship.

As a cheerleader, she recalled wearing a knee-length cheer skirt and doing a special jig when the Broncs came in.

UTPA President Robert S. Nelsen greeted alumni and their family members who attended the annual 50+ Reunion brunch held at the ITT Building on campus Feb. 16.
"It was a little dance with a high kick and the struts. We also used to do the 15 rahs for the Broncs cheer," she said. "Dr. Amilda Thomas was our cheerleader sponsor...she was very strict and we had cheerleading conditioning every day after our classes. All the staff was so caring - so up close and personal just like the current president (Nelsen)."

Hinojosa described the upcoming UTRGV as exciting.

"I'm for it all the way. That's really going to put us on the map. We will never lose our Bronc pride, we'll have it deep in our heart but we do need to keep helping people and this is the way to do it," she said.

Other 50-Plus Club inductees this year were Richard J. Hardebeck ('61), Kenneth J. Lang ('63), Catalina R. Sosa ('64), Juanita De Leon ('64), and John E. Zamora ('64).

Alumni and community members are invited to the UTPA's 2014 Alumni Ball with a Great Gatsby theme planned for March 29. During the ball, guests will get to meet this year's Pillars of Success, alumni highlighted for their success and contributions locally and worldwide. For more information on the 50+ Club or the ball, go to the Alumni Relations website. To learn more on how to help students or provide support for programs and research at UT Pan American, contact the Development Office at (956) 665-5301 or visit the office's website.

Enjoy a photo gallery of this year's 50-Plus Club brunch at UTPA's Facebook.