UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS-PAN AMERICAN
UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS–PAN AMERICAN. The University of Texas–Pan American in Edinburg is the only fully accredited four-year university in the Rio Grande valley. It began as Edinburg College, a two-year community college founded in 1927 and administered by the Edinburg School District. Its original graduating class had five students; within three years thirty-five students a year were graduating, and enrollment expanded to 250. Early facilities for nonresident men and women students were called clubhouses, with rooms for rent from twenty-two to twenty-eight dollars a month. The Association of Texas Colleges designated Edinburg Community College a junior college in 1933, and it was admitted to the Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools of Southern States. In 1942 the Edinburg School District became its board of trustees, and in the years following World War II Edinburg grew to 100 graduates a year. In 1948 the college gained regional status and secured partial state funding, along with independent legal standing. In 1950 an 8½-acre tract of property, designated the "West University," was purchased by the school. In 1951 the state legislature passed a bill allowing Hidalgo County to hold a referendum for a four-year university. As a result, on December 20, 1951, Edinburg became Pan Regional College. In January 1952 the Hidalgo County Commissioners' Court selected appointments to an eight-member board of regents; A. L. Cramer became president of the board, and R. P. Ward, the original president of the school, retained his post. The name was changed to Pan American College at that time. By the early 1960s Pan American College employed eighty permanent faculty members. Three new structures, including a new library, were completed on a recently acquired 180-acre tract of land. In 1960 Ralph Schilling became president, and on September 1, 1965, Pan American College was fully integrated as the twenty-second institution in the Texas System of Colleges and Universities as a state senior college. By the end of the decade state and federal money had helped Pan American College with an extensive building program, which included a $1.5 million fine-arts complex. The faculty had increased to 162. In 1970 the institution gained approval to operate graduate programs and began offering masters degrees in the arts, education, and science. By the fall of 1971 Pan American had gained full university status and changed its name to Pan American University. In 1973 a second campus at Brownsville was added.
Enrollment at Pan American University increased from 2,000 in 1965 to nearly 10,000 in 1984. In 1981 Dr. Miguel Nevárez, vice president for student affairs, was promoted to succeed Schilling as president, thus becoming the first Hispanic president of a major university in Texas. Nevárez was committed to an open admissions policy to serve the needs and special problems of valley students. In 1981 he appointed a committee that produced the Freshman Studies Program, a remedial program designed to assist poorly prepared students in improving their academic deficiencies as they pursued undergraduate degrees. In 1986 the enrollment exceeded 9,000 students, most of whom were Hispanic females. The school had 542 faculty and 13,298 students for the 1992–93 regular term, 7,134 students for the 1992 summer session, and 2,500 extension or continuing-education students. The university moved to the forefront of reform efforts through the work of such programs as the History Teaching Center; the Center for Entrepreneurship and Economic Development, designed for problems and opportunities peculiar to the valley; and the Rio Grande Valley Historical Collection, a major repository for local history focused on the valley's cultural plurality. On December 6, 1988, representatives of Pan American University's board of regents agreed to merge with the University of Texas System, pending approval of the 1989 state legislature. The UT System Board of Regents approved the merger recommendation on December 8. In September 1989 the Texas legislature completed the merger. In 1993 UT–Pan American was one of a number of South Texas state universities that would benefit from increased funding as a part of the South Texas Initiative passed by the state legislature. In the fall of 2000 enrollment at UT–Pan American was 12,760 with a faculty of 739. In 2001 the U.S. Department of Commerce awarded UT–Pan American a $1 million grant for the establishment of a Center for Border Economic Studies. The university's six academic colleges—arts and humanities, business administration, education, health sciences and human services, science and engineering, and social and behavioral sciences—offered a variety of associate's, bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees. In addition to the 186-acre Edinburg campus, the university also operated the Coastal Studies Center on South Padre Island, on property leased from Cameron County.
Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.