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Featured at the 50+ Reunion Brunch on Sunday, March 1 at The University of Texas-Pan American are, seated, from left: Cleo Hinojosa, Minerva Elizalde, and former State Rep. Roberto Gutiérrez, D-McAllen, Class of 1965 inductees, and Elma Arriola Ayala, Class of 1964 inductee. Standing, from left, are Dr. Havidán Rodríguez, UTPA President Ad Interim and the founding Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs at The University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley, Lydia Alemán, Interim Vice President for University Advancement, María T. Rodríguez, Class of 1963 inductee, and Rebecca López, Gracie Cobo, John Thobe, and Eva Chapa, Class of 1965 inductees.

Photograph By JOSUE ESPARZA

Pan American College graduates and their guests were welcomed “home” during a 50+Reunion Brunch on Sunday, March 1, by Clara Dina Hinojosa, Interim Director of the The University of Texas-Pan American Alumni Relations Office, and Dr. Havidán Rodríguez, UTPA President Ad Interim and the founding Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs at The University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley. The reunion was part of the university’s 2015 Homecoming Week activities, the last the university will celebrate as UT-Pan American before becoming UT-RGV in September 2015. Rodríguez, who also serves on the Board of Directors of the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation, described the state of the university as “strong”, citing its growth in the number of students, improved retention and graduate rates, the recruitment of top notch faculty and the statewide and national recognition of the many quality programs it offers. He also told them about several new buildings being built on the UTPA and UTB campuses as they transition into UT-RGV as well as the progress being made in the creation of the new medical school and the opportunities it will offer to students and in improved access to healthcare to Valley citizens. “We are here because you are here,” Rodríguez said. “I know that we will be able to count on your continuous active engagement, your support, your commitment to The University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley. This will always be your house. Welcome home.” The EEDC is the jobs-creation arm of the Edinburg Mayor and the Edinburg City Council.

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Pan American College graduates welcomed “home” for induction into UTPA’s 50+ Club

By GAIL FAGAN
and
JENNIFER BERGHOM

When John Thobe, a 1965 graduate of then-Pan American College, arrived at The University of Texas-Pan American’s 50+ Alumni Reunion March 1, he brought a valuable piece of memorabilia with him – his well-worn 1964 baseball team uniform and cap, which he donated to the university.

“It is wool. I remember wearing it in the spring and summers down here. It was really hot,” said Thobe, who was an outfielder on the team earning two letters. “We had really good baseball teams back then. Three of our guys played in Mexico professionally, three have been inducted into the Hall of Fame here … I wasn’t a big star but I was always there.”

Thobe earned a degree in physics at PAC and went on to get a master’s degree in physics at Oklahoma State University and an MBA in marketing and finance from the University of Dallas while working in product development for Texas Instruments. He taught a year at Pan American University before becoming a business owner and then later entered a 30-year career as a real estate broker/consultant at South Padre Island.

He recalled fondly college memories of his team’s flag football victories and marrying in 1966 his late wife Peggy McCutcheon, who was also a PAC student for three years. He said his recent work on some patents he is developing brought him back to campus to tour UTPA’s Engineering Building, which he described as “a first class operation with state-of-the art equipment.”

Other 1965 PAC alumni inducted at the ceremonial brunch held on the UTPA campus were former Edinburg City Councilmember Arnoldo Benavides, Eva A. Chapa, Gracie Cobo, Minerva Elizalde, former State Rep. Roberto Gutiérrez, D-McAllen, Cleo Hinojosa, and Rebecca López.

Also inducted but unable to attend were 1965 alumni Patricia Hallock and Raúl Ayala.

Other inductees at the ceremony to the 50+ Club were María T. Rodríguez, a 1963 graduate, and Elma Arriola Ayala, a 1964 graduate, who also received the certificate of induction for her husband, Raúl.

The graduates and their guests were welcomed home by Clara Dina Hinojosa, Interim Director of the UTPA Alumni Relations Office, and Dr. Havidán Rodríguez, UTPA President Ad Interim and the founding Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs at The University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley.

The reunion was part of the university’s 2015 Homecoming Week activities, the last the university will celebrate as UT-Pan American before becoming UT-RGV in September 2015.

Rodríguez, who also serves on the Board of Directors of the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation, described the state of the university as “strong”, citing its growth in the number of students, improved retention and graduate rates, the recruitment of top notch faculty and the statewide and national recognition of the many quality programs it offers.

The EEDC is the jobs-creation arm of the Edinburg Mayor and the Edinburg City Council.

He also told them about several new buildings being built on the UTPA and UTB campuses as they transition into UT-RGV as well as the progress being made in the creation of the new medical school and the opportunities it will offer to students and in improved access to healthcare to Valley citizens.

“Universities are about change,” Rodríguez said, citing all the names the university has gone through in its 88-year history. “Now, we are The University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley and it is a great opportunity. We will be close to 30,000 students, one of the largest Hispanic serving institutions in the country. Many eyes across the nation are on us in the Rio Grande Valley looking at the exciting things in higher education that are happening here.”

He said the new university is being built on the strong foundations established by UTPA and UTB and on the strong shoulders of alumni, their families, friends and the community.

“We are here because you are here,” Rodríguez said. “I know that we will be able to count on your continuous active engagement, your support, your commitment to The University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley. This will always be your house. Welcome home.”

Inductee Rebecca López, who earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education with a minor in English in 1965, recalled how she and fellow students would congregate at then-Pan American College’s commons to listen to the school band play and hang out with one another.

“There were a lot of mesquites here where there are now buildings; I thought they were beautiful,” López said. “Whenever we had a break, everyone gathered at the commons, that’s where you saw everyone… You would see everyone passing by, and like in New York they say if you sit in a certain place you see the whole world go by, well we sat at the commons and we got to see everybody going by and everybody got to see us go by and sit down and have coffee or Coke until we had our class.”

López, who taught in the Harlingen, Pharr-San Juan-Alamo and Edinburg independent school districts for more than 30 years, said she is grateful to Pan American College for giving her and her classmates the opportunity and resources to improve the economy and quality of life in the Rio Grande Valley.

“When I came to college in the ‘60s, Hispanics, all of us, were very poor,” she said. “Pan American had a lot to do, and we had a lot to do, with the extension and the success of the Valley economy because we stayed here, we contributed to the economy of the Valley. And I thank Pan American for that.”

Enjoy seeing more of the newest 50+ Club members at this photo gallery.

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The Edinburg Economic Development Corporation is the jobs-creation arm of the Edinburg City Council. It’s five-member governing board, which is appointed by the Edinburg City Council, includes Mayor Richard García as President, Fred Palacios as Secretary-Treasurer, and Felipe García, Dr. Havidán Rodríguez, and Steven Edward Cruz, II. For more information on the EEDC and the City of Edinburg, please log on to http://www.EdbgCityLimits.com or to http://www.facebook.com/edinburgedc

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