By Lisa Peña
Texas Border Business
RIO GRANDE VALLEY, TEXAS – MARCH 9, 2018 – The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley has honored three outstanding alumni with the 2018 Distinguished Alumni Award, the highest honor UTRGV alumni can receive.
The award recognizes high-achieving alumni who have made significant contributions to society through their accomplishments, affiliations, careers and philanthropy.
UTRGV Founding President Guy Bailey presented the recipients with their awards at a ceremony on Thursday, March 1, at the McAllen Country Club. They are:
General William F. Garrison (R) of Hico, Texas, a retired major general of the U.S. Army. He is a 1966 graduate of UTRGV legacy institution Pan American College, where he played basketball.
Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa of McAllen, Texas, a 1970 graduate of Pan American College. He was elected to the Texas Senate in 2002 and represents District 20.
Welcome Wilson Sr., of Houston, Texas, a 1946 graduate of UTRGV legacy institution Brownsville Junior College. He is a real estate developer and businessman well known for his support of higher education.
Vice President for Institutional Advancement Kelly Scrivner opened the event by welcoming guests and introducing the honorees.
“Tonight, we are honoring these men – for saving lives. General; for improving lives, Senator; and for creating opportunities for better lives, Mr. Wilson,” Scrivner said. “I’m inspired by each of you and the work that you do.”
ALUMNI MAKING AN IMPACT
Opening the awards portion of the ceremony, Bailey commented on the caliber of the honorees.
“We’ve never honored alums who have had more impact than the people we are honoring tonight,” Bailey said. “Their impact on not only Texas and the university, but on our world, is enormous.”
In introducing Garrison, Bailey said, “He didn’t go to West Point. He was drafted out of college and rose to the rank of major general. How many people can you count who did that? It’s really remarkable.”
Garrison, after accepting his Distinguished Alumni Award, said UTRGV is contributing to society in a meaningful way.
“Our great republic will prosper and excel as long as we have institutions like The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley that teach our young people, our young men and women, how to think instead of what to think,” he said.
“Dr. Bailey, I have been a lot of places and received a lot of honors. I have never received a greater honor than to be recognized by this great institution,” Garrison said. “The greatest honor I have is to be able to say publicly how much I appreciate and how much I respect what you and your staff and faculty do for our young men and women. “
Bailey next introduced Hinojosa, crediting him for pushing legislation that resulted in the creation of The UTRGV School of Medicine.
“We have him to thank in large part. His impact on our institution every day is almost immeasurable,” Bailey said.
Hinojosa accepted his award, recalling his days as a migrant farm worker.
“I am who I am today because of Pan American, because of this university. It gave me an opportunity to receive and get an education.”
Hinojosa also called for commitment from other alumni.
“A university cannot succeed without the support of alumni. Those of us who graduated from Pan American, now UTRGV, must always provide a hand and support our university’s growth,” he said.
He ended his acceptance speech with applause and his “V’s up.”
“I’m just very proud to be, now, a Vaquero,” Hinojosa said.
Bailey introduced Wilson, the final recipient of the evening, with praise for his commitment to higher education and his contributions at The University of Houston.
“When the history of that university is written, his name will loom very large there,” Bailey said.
He said the Brownsville, Texas, native served in the Executive Office of the President for both Dwight D. Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy.
“This is a man who has seen much of what happened in the middle of the 20th century, first hand,” Bailey said.
In his acceptance speech, Wilson astonished the crowd when he disclosed his age.
“The best thing about being 90 years old? No peer pressure,” he quipped.
Wilson described a life-changing conversation with a dean at Brownsville Junior College in 1945.
“Dean Nelson called me into his office and he said, ‘I want to tell you something.’ He said, ‘Welcome, I don’t think you recognize that you are a leader. You are a natural leader, but I don’t think you know that.’
“Well, I had never thought of myself as a leader. My brother was older, and he had always been the leader of our small group. But that changed my life. A month later, I ran and was elected president of the student body.”
Wilson told the crowd, “You become a leader by helping other people, not by telling them what to do. The people in this room know that.”
Bailey made closing remarks.
“We’re becoming a great university, not only because of the people in the university. We can make it good, but all of you are the people who make it great,” he said. “What makes a university great are the people who went there, who succeeded there and who support the university.”
The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) was created by the Texas Legislature in 2013 as the first major public university of the 21st century in Texas. This transformative initiative provided the opportunity to expand educational opportunities in the Rio Grande Valley, including a new School of Medicine, and made it possible for residents of the region to benefit from the Permanent University Fund – a public endowment contributing support to the University of Texas System and other institutions.
UTRGV has campuses and off-campus research and teaching sites throughout the Rio Grande Valley including in Boca Chica Beach, Brownsville (formerly The University of Texas at Brownsville campus), Edinburg (formerly The University of Texas-Pan American campus), Harlingen, McAllen, Port Isabel, Rio Grande City, and South Padre Island. UTRGV, a comprehensive academic institution, enrolled its first class in the fall of 2015, and the School of Medicine welcomed its first class in the summer of 2016.