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Excerpt from 2009 Winter Commencement Address
By Dr. Juliet V. García
Presented at The University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College
December 19, 2009

Good morning, graduates, parents and visitors. Welcome.

This marks the 15th Winter Commencement at our community university. We are sitting at the site of the very first commencement ceremony held for our new partnership in 1992.1 That year we had also had too much rain at once and were looking for dry ground.

Back then, the trees were quite a bit smaller, and there was a bit more open space to your right where The Arts Center and the Commandant’s Quarters now stand.2

Our graduating class 17 years ago was 765 students – and that was back when we only had one graduation ceremony per year. This winter, your class, made up of August and December graduates, is 1,200 students strong.

[Introduction of Texas Southmost College Board of Trustees, deans and university administrators]

At this, our 15th Winter Commencement, we celebrate some very important firsts.

Ivy M. Prince will earn our very first bachelor’s degree in translation studies. This new degree will enable our graduates to play a vital role in shaping the global society of the 21st century.

Ivy is also earning a bachelor’s degree in Spanish today. She plans to learn a third language to qualify as an interpreter for the United Nations. Ivy, will you please stand and be recognized?

[Prince stands for recognition.]

Five students today will earn associate degrees in forensic investigation.

Ashley Holland, Rose Maldonado and Monica Gonzalez completed their degree work this summer. Elvira Alvarado and Katherine Gomez are fall semester graduates.

This program is the only one of its kind south of San Antonio. It prepares the graduates to sit for the certified crime scene investigator national examination, which can lead to careers in health care, social services, and law enforcement.

Graduates, will you please stand and be recognized?

[Graduates stand for recognition.]

When I am asked ‘What is the most important work that we do at this university?’ I do not hesitate at all to say, ‘It is making our students’ dreams come true.’ Because of the credentials you are earning today, you have doors open to you that you may have never have thought possible.

What we have also learned, though, is that it is not just your goals that are being realized today. You are also fulfilling the hopes and dreams of all those who have supported you in this journey: your friends who have cheered you on, your family who has gone without you while you attended classes and studied, and your professors who had faith that you really were studying.

Mrs. Lourdes Garcia de Alba’s family is tremendously proud of her accomplishments. Will you please stand and be recognized.

[Garcia de Alba stands for recognition.]

Growing up in a very traditional family, Lourdes was not encouraged to go to college as a young girl. It was a dream that she never quite let go, however.

Lourdes raised four children, she nursed her frail parents, she managed her own business – all the while continuing to serve as wife, mother and grandmother.

After her father passed away, Lourdes talked with her children about what she had accomplished and what still seemed unfinished. Her children encouraged her to pursue her dream of earning a college degree.

Launching her college career as a grandmother, Lourdes had to begin at the beginning – which meant learning how to use a computer. She conquered every challenge with the support of her family, and today graduates suma cum laude, earning a Bachelor of Arts degree.

Another one of our graduates, Nancy Cardenas, represents the achievement of her father’s dream. Nancy will you please stand and be recognized?

[Cardenas stands for recognition.]

Nancy’s father, Lazaro Cardenas, grew up in a migrant family. His own father taught him that an education was the key to creating a better life for his family. After serving in the Air Force, Lazaro carried out his father’s hopes and graduated from law school. Nancy wears her father’s commencement gown as she stands with us today.

The fact that Lazaro had five daughters did not discourage him from passing along his father’s lessons on the importance of higher education. He taught his daughters that “throwing in the towel” was never an option, even when some of the older daughters were juggling work and family life with their studies.

When their mother, Eulalia, passed away suddenly in a car accident, Lazaro would not allow the children to make excuses or indulge in self-pity. He compassionately told them that it was essential that they be able to secure a career, no matter what their life choices were.

Lazaro’s love and guidance helped each one of his daughters. He kept them company throughout the nights while they studied. He provided them with valuable insight, especially when it came to politics and government, and he bought them every possible book and study aid to help them pass subjects like biology or math.

Today Nancy Cardenas earns a bachelor’s degree in health and human performance. She joins her sisters: Adelaida Cardenas-Magdaleno, Alma Cardenas-Rubio, Martha Cardenas-Valdez, and Araceli Cardenas-Bon as a college graduate. Today she fulfills her father’s dream of all five (of his) daughters earning a college education. Among them, the Cardenas sisters hold five associate degrees, five bachelor’s degrees, and three master’s degrees.

Although Lazaro passed away before he could celebrate this moment, the Cardenas women are confident both parents are proudly watching over this day.

As often families do, the Cardenas sisters have been separated by distance, including one sister who lives in Italy; however, they are all here together to congratulate you on your achievement today. Will all of the Cardenas sisters please stand as we celebrate the fulfillment of your father’s dream?

[Cardenas sisters stand for recognition.]

[Greeting in Spanish by Garcia.]

Like the Garcia de Albra family and like the Cardenas family, each of the graduates here today has someone you would want to thank for helping you to get through the coursework, the family obligations, the long hours of work – all which helped you get to your day of graduation.

Many of your supporters are gathered here today to celebrate your achievement. Graduates, please stand and applaud your families and supporters.

  1. The 1992 and winter 2009 commencements were held in the parking lot adjacent to Gorgas Hall and the Arnulfo L. Oliveira Memorial Library on the Fort Brown Campus of The University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College.
  2. The Arts Center and the refurbished Commandant’s Quarters completed construction at the end of 2009.
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