UTEP grads make a difference


UTEP grads make a difference


UTEP grads make a difference
UTEP grads make a difference

Editor's note: The following is part of a weekly series commemorating the University of Texas at El Paso's Centennial Celebration in 2014.

What do Jack Handey, Abraham Chavez and Estela Casas have in common? They are among the 113,530 alumni of the University of Texas at El Paso.

"UTEP has had a profound impact in this region in the last 100 years as we have awarded more than 100,000 degrees and our graduates have distinguished themselves professionally," said Richard Daniel, Ph.D., associate vice president for university advancement and special projects.

Many alumni have become household names nationwide. The most recognizable include Jack Handey, humorist for Saturday Night Live; Ed Hochuli, referee for the National Football League; Bob O'Rear, one of the first Microsoft employees; and John Rechy, award-winning American author best known for City of Night.

Other prominent alumni aren't as well known by name, but their impacts have been at least as powerful. For instance, UTEP alumnus Mike Loya is president of energy giant Vitol Inc., the North and South American arm of one of the largest energy trading companies in the world. Dennis Poon and his New York-based engineering firm Thornton Tomasetti are responsible for the design of some of the world's tallest buildings, including, Taipei 101, a 1,667-foot-tall building in Taiwan that was the tallest in the world when it was finished in 2004, and the not-yet-completed 3,280-foot Kingdom Tower in Saudi Arabia.

Along with those who have had a national and international impact, many UTEP alumni have made their mark in the El Paso community.

Joseph F. Friedkin was instrumental in resolving a 100-year boundary dispute with Mexico. In 1962 President John F. Kennedy appointed Friedkin commissioner of the International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC). He served through the administrations of Presidents Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter and Reagan.

Another UTEP alumnus, Abraham Chavez, Jr., devoted his life to music. The maestro began his four-decade long career with the El Paso Symphony Orchestra as a violinist at the age of 13. He became musical director and conductor of the orchestra in 1975 and now has a theater named after him.

In 1955, four years before he completed his baccalaureate degree in music, Chavez joined the Texas Western College faculty, teaching stringed instruments.

"UTEP opened the doors for me," said artist, educator and civic leader Rosa Guerrero.

She was the first of seven siblings to receive her degree, while also being a wife and mother. She received a bachelor's degree in 1957 and a master's in 1977 during a time when not many women pursued higher education.

For decades she taught at schools in the El Paso Independent School District, El Paso Community College and UTEP. Guerrero is the first living Hispanic woman in El Paso to have a school named after her — the second in Texas. At 80, she still travels around the nation as an educational consultant.

Today, more than 40,000 UTEP alumni live and work in the Paso del Norte region. They will have the opportunity to re-awaken friendships, network and share memories with other members of the Miner Nation on Saturday during the third annual UTEP Alumni PICK-NIC at Memorial Park.