Beserra, Cuellar, Gonzalez to speak at Dec. 22 commencement
By Scott Maier, Senior Editor
Posted: 11/30/2001
Share |

A total of 750 graduates are expected to march in four commencement ceremonies Saturday, Dec. 22 at The University of Texas-Pan American Fieldhouse.

The ceremony for graduates from the College of Arts and Humanities and College of Health Sciences and Human Services will be at 9 a.m., while graduates from the College of Business Administration and College of Science and Engineering will march at noon.

Graduates from the College of Education will have their commencement at 3 p.m. Students in the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences and those receiving their doctoral and master’s degrees will walk at 6 p.m.

Three speakers have confirmed to speak at graduation: Dr. Henry Cuellar, former Texas Secretary of State, will speak at the 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. ceremonies; Rudy Beserra, vice president of Corporate Latin Affairs for the Coca-Cola Co., will speak at noon; and Dr. Juan Gonzalez, UTPA health and kinesiology assistant professor, will speak at 6 p.m.

Cuellar was Texas' 102nd Secretary of State from January to October of this year and has since opened a law practice in Laredo. His duties as Secretary included serving as the state’s chief elections officer and chief liaison to Mexico and the Texas-Mexico border region.

UTPA Image
Henry Cuellar

Previously, the attorney and U.S. Customs broker served 14 years in the Texas House of Representatives and was a former educator at Laredo Community College and Texas A&M International University.

As a state representative, Cuellar was a five-term member of the House Appropriations Committee. During his last two terms, he was chair of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Education and vice chair of the House Higher Education Committee.

Also during his tenure, Cuellar served on numerous House committees, including Calendars, Juvenile Justice and Family Issues, Judicial Affairs, and State, Federal, and International Relations. After the 1999 legislative session, he was appointed co-chair of the TEXAS Grant Oversight Committee. He also chaired the House Research Organization Steering Committee and was co-chair of the Unfunded Mandates Interagency Work Group.

Cuellar received an associate degree in political science, summa cum laude, in 1976 from Laredo Community College. He then attended Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., for his bachelor's degree in foreign service, cum laude, in 1978, followed by a law degree from The University of Texas at Austin in 1981.

Cuellar also studied the Mexican legal and commercial systems at Universidad Pan Americana in Mexico City and then earned a master’s degree in international trade at Texas A&M International University, formerly Laredo State University, in 1982. In 1998, he received a Ph.D. in government from UT Austin.

Meanwhile, Beserra began his career at The Coca?Cola Company in 1989 after having served as special assistant to President Ronald Reagan on Latino and Small Business Affairs.

A graduate of the University of New Mexico and an Albuquerque native, he has held a number of distinguished positions, including Special Assistant to the Chairman of the National Republican Committee in charge of Hispanic and Business Affairs.

UTPA Image
Rudy Beserra

Beserra, who lives in Atlanta, is an active board member of a number of prominent Latino-focused organizations, including NALEO (National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials), LULAC (League of United Latin American Citizens) and the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities. He is vice chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute and chairman of the Hispanic Scholarship Fund.

In 1991, Beserra was awarded the Hispanic Community Commitment Award by the Latin American Management Association. Three years later, the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce presented him with a Special Recognition Award, and in 1995, he received the Hispanic Leadership Award from the National Puerto Rican Forum.

While at UTPA, Gonzalez has been awarded several University research awards and participated in strength and conditioning camps and studies.

For instance, he established a fully functioning human performance laboratory for research on the effects of conditioning female soccer athletes. This research also has been presented at national conventions.

UTPA Image
Dr. Juan Gonzalez

Among his honors, Gonzalez was a recipient of the National Hispanic Scholarship Fund and a U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce scholarship. He also was named to Who's Who Among American University Students for 1989 and served as a member of Phi Kappa Phi, a national academic honor society.

A Rio Grande Valley native, Gonzalez received Bachelor of Business Administration and Master of Education degrees from UTPA and a Ph.D. in exercise and respiratory physiology from Texas A&M University.

The top graduates at each ceremony have been invited to introduce the speakers. At the first commencement, the top graduate is Kathryn Marie O’Neil of Edinburg. Marcela C. Perez of Mercedes will introduce the speaker at noon, and Patricia Guerrero of Mercedes has been asked to introduce the 3 p.m. speaker.

The 750 anticipated candidates for degrees include 605 candidates for bachelor’s degrees, 142 candidates for master’s degrees and three candidates for doctoral degrees.

For more information, contact the Office of Admissions and Records at 956/381-2201 or 381-2206. Individuals with disabilities needing assistance or reasonable accommodations must contact the office as soon as possible, and graduates are asked to arrive one hour before their commencement begins.