More than 25,000 friends and family members filled Sun Bowl Stadium Saturday, May 17 to celebrate the achievement of more than 2,800 spring and summer graduates.
The ceremony recognized the largest graduating class in UTEP’s 100-year history.
Ninety-eight years earlier, on May 30, 1916, the first three graduates from the Texas State School of Mines, now UTEP, earned their degrees in mining engineering. The ceremony took place in the assembly hall of the school’s original campus near Fort Bliss.
Since that time, UTEP has held its Commencements at such community sites as the El Paso Woman’s Club and the Scottish Rite Temple and campus locations including Holliday Hall, Magoffin Auditorium, the Don Haskins Center, Sun Bowl Stadium and even the former tennis courts.
The special Centennial Commencement began with a procession of graduates from the Don Haskins Center to Sun Bowl Stadium. As the graduates filed into the stadium, they waved to proud family members in the stands. Some wore caps with lights, sequins and messages about their achievement, such as “Just Did It,” “RN to BSN” and “I Will Change the World.”
Special guests Francisco Cigarroa, M.D., UT System chancellor; Pedro Reyes, Ph.D., UT System executive vice chancellor for academic affairs; and Paul Foster, UT System Board of Regents chair, joined UTEP President Diana Natalicio and other UTEP administrators on stage at the 50-yard line.
Chancellor Cigarroa spoke to the graduates briefly about the importance of having a support system. He recalled almost flunking out of medical school. One weekend, he made a decision to drop out and went home to tell his parents. His father – a physician – was understanding. The message from his mother was a bit different.
“My mother told me, ‘Stop whining, get in your car, drive back to Dallas and be on time for your afternoon class,’” Cigarroa told the UTEP graduates. That was all the motivation he needed.
“It is so important for you to realize that you have played a crucial role in supporting these young men and women on their journey,” he told the graduates’ friends and family members in the audience.
The warm spring evening ended with a dazzling fireworks display that left the crowd cheering.
“As we celebrate the collective achievements of the members of this Class of 2014, we know that you, our graduates, are the real proof of the quality of this university,” UTEP President Diana Natalicio said after the last graduate crossed the stage. “Your future accomplishments will reflect this institution’s level of academic rigor and attainment.”
“You have studied with us on a campus where the dreams and the realities of society – both here in the El Paso border region and in the world beyond – are sharply focused. Here, men and women from an unusually wide variety of backgrounds, ages, interests and cultures have learned much from each other. And here each of you has developed your special talents and abilities. Go out from this Commencement – this beginning – and use what you have learned here to the fullest.”
Jenn Crawford is the director of editorial services for UTEP's University Communications Office.