Brownsville Send-Off Celebrates 20 Years of Pride with President Powers


While most college-bound teens are busy shopping for school supplies, soon-to-be Longhorns from Texas’ Rio Grande Valley prepared for their move to UT in a different way—by rubbing elbows with none other than UT president Bill Powers himself.

President Powers and his burnt-orange boots were on-hand at the Brownsville Chapter’s annual Student Send-Off, hosted by IBC Bank of Brownsville, to help welcome UT-bound students from the Valley to the Forty Acres. His attendance continued a longstanding tradition set forth by Robert Berdahl, Peter Flawn, and Larry Faulkner: since it started in 1993, the event has always been attended by UT’s current president.

“The students were pretty impressed the UT president was able to be there,” says Brownsville Chapter president Ernie Garrido, BJ ’04, Life Member. “It shows that we are all there to support them, and what better way to do that than have him there to greet and spend time with them?”

More than 200 students, parents, and Texas Exes turned out to celebrate the event’s 20th year of introducing incoming freshmen to their new UT family. From attorneys to communication directors, the UT alumni in attendance made it a point to share how significant their time on campus had been in their lives.

“It was important to show the students where we are now,” Garrido says. “UT opened so many doors for us.”

Chapter communications chair Letty Fernandez, BJ ’78, Life Member, says the event’s chief goal is to show new Longhorns they aren’t alone on campus—there’s an extensive support system of Texas Exes wanting to help them succeed.

“I got an email from one student and she was like, ‘What’s a tailgate?'” Fernandez says. “These students don’t quite get it yet. But we work to create these real bonds with them, so they feel like they can come to us with any questions they may have.”

In addition to Powers, other notables in attendance included UT educational administration professor Victor Sáenz, the CEO of IBC Brownsville Fred Rusteberg, and Texas Exes’ own vice president of marketing and development Wendy Wheless. UT professor Oscar Cásares even took to the stage to reminisce about his own college send-off, which included plenty of his mother’s homemade Mexican food and his father’s advice to drive slowly on his way to Austin.

Current Longhorns who attended the Brownsville Chapter’s send-off before their own freshman years were also invited to impart their wisdom to their soon-to-be classmates.

“I think this event is really special because it serves as a reminder that this is really happening,” said UT sophomore Mariana Munoz. “They’re going to one of the best universities in the nation.”

With reporting by Jordan Schraeder.

President Powers with future Longhorns in Brownsville. Photo courtesy Letty Fernandez.


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