They’ll come from all over the country. They are doctors, engineers, chefs, authors, actors, teachers, politicians and business owners. Many are parents, grandparents, married couples who met on campus, first-generation college graduates and far-flung influencers. Every one of them has a story about being at UTEP, and no matter their different paths, they all share the pride of being a UTEP alum. Next week, they will be on campus to join in what may be the most significant Homecoming celebration of their lives.
Willarda V. Edwards, M.D., president of the UTEP Alumni Association and past president of the National Medical Association, will be here. With uncontained “Go Miners!” enthusiasm, she said, “This year’s Homecoming week is most certainly the celebration of the century! It is one homecoming we are not likely to see again in a hundred years and I hope alums from around the globe make plans to be here for the week.”
Homecoming activities kick off with the College of Health Sciences’ fifth annualCommitment to Fitness 5K Run / 3K Walkat 8 a.m. Sunday, Oct. 5. The race starts at outside the Health Sciences and Nursing Building at 1851 Wiggins Road.
On Thursday, Oct. 9, at the intersection of Wiggins and Rim roads, UTEP’s Centennial Homecoming Block Party will welcome hundreds of people with food including a gourmet burger bar and Centennial birthday cake, non-alcoholic beverages, live entertainment and surprises. A cash bar will be available to attendees 21 and older.
The energetic Dallas-based act Moving Colors, which has incorporated elements such as bucket drumming and handstands in their live covers of pop music, will provide the entertainment. Tickets are $25 per person and can be purchased on the official UTEP Homecoming 2014 website.
“We haven’t done an event like this before for all alumni,” said Richard Daniel, Ph.D., associate vice president for University Advancement and Special Projects and executive director for Alumni Relations. “We’re looking for people to have a really good time with us that evening and be part of an event that is going to be full of fun, meeting new people, and the chance to come together in a way that has not been done before. Plus, we have really special things in store for them that evening that will help celebrate our Centennial.”
On Friday, Oct. 10, Edwards will join fellow Distinguished Alumni and Gold Nugget Award recipients from past years when they all come together for the reunion gala at the Don Haskins Center. Tickets for the event are still available to the public and may be purchased here. UTEP’s Office of Alumni Relations encourages those who are able to attend to do so, offering the opportunity for people to interact with an inspiring group of past UTEP graduates who have made a significant impact on the world through their careers.
Joining Edwards at the gala will be fellow UTEP Distinguished Alumnus J. James Rohack, M.D., who was president of the American Medical Association at the same time Edwards was head of the National Medical Association.
“This will be a nice opportunity for a reunion for them because they probably haven’t been back together since they had some medical association meetings here at UTEP in 2009,” Daniel said.
Former NASA astronaut John “Danny” Olivas, Ph.D., who currently serves as director of UTEP’s Center for the Advancement of Space Safety and Mission Assurance Research (CASSMAR), will also be attending, as will Dennis Poon, vice chairman and managing principal of the engineering firm Thornton Tomasetti. Poon was named a Distinguished Alumnus in 2012 and is taking a break from his structural design work around the world to come back to UTEP. Daniel notes that it’s this kind of interaction that will make this year’s gala a noteworthy highlight of the University’s Centennial.
Of course, there’s what is arguably the biggest draw for Homecoming: this year’s football game between UTEP and Old Dominion. During the game for the first time ever, the winner of the RSOlympics – a traditional Homecoming competition pitting registered student organizations on campus against each other in a wide range of physical, cerebral, entertaining and philanthropic challenges – will be announced.
Alumni walking around campus during Homecoming week may be amused by pajama dress-up, an “Around the World” basketball shoot-out in Memorial Gym, a UTEP-themed spelling bee and “Family Feud” style game show in Union Cinema, and the always-popular lip sync contest at the Union Building breezeway.
According to Sam Rodriguez, coordinator of Registered Student Organizations and the Campus Activities Board, this year’s student competition is notable for several reasons, the first of which is that the opening ceremony took place ahead of time this past Thursday, Oct. 2. Also, the Dollar Wars fundraising event will have its proceeds donated to causes selected by the first, second and third place winners of the RSOlympics.
Finally, the El Paso community at large will be given the opportunity to vote on the winning student organization float after the parade when they are staged in Miner Alley. Voting will take place from 3 p.m. until kickoff and the winning float will be announced during the game’s second quarter.
“Students are really excited to be a part of this year’s Homecoming,” Rodriguez said. “The University has done an excellent job highlighting the significance of a Centennial year to our students and the organizations are very excited to be a part of this year’s celebration.”
The annual Homecoming Parade will precede the football game, running from Oregon to Glory Road at 1 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 11. The marching band, cheerleaders, athlete appearances, creative floats and collective enthusiasm has always entertained the El Paso community, and no doubt things will rise to a new level given the excitement of the Centennial. The parade segues into the annual Homecoming Pep Rally at 2 p.m. at Glory Road Field.
Even more events representing the arts, sciences, culture and campus life will be presented, offering wide appeal to alumni, their families and UTEP friends from throughout the local community. The full schedule can be found here.
Anyone who attends these Homecoming 2014 events will be able to look back and say they were part of a once-in-a-lifetime celebration. It’s an undercurrent that runs through the entire week and will be felt by organizers and attendees alike.
“It’s a special occasion that’s not going to happen again,” Daniel said. “There is only one Centennial in an institution’s lifetime, and while UTEP will continue on to its bicentennial and beyond, this year’s Homecoming is a milestone event for anyone lucky enough to attend.”
Alumni Association President-Elect John Aranda added, “It’s wonderful opportunity for all alumni to be a part of history in commemorating UTEP’s Centennial Celebration. This is a must-attend event that all alumni will treasure.”
Lisa Garibay is a writer in UTEP's Office of University Communications.