Fun Heats Up at Alumni “PICK-NIC”

By Laura L. Acosta

UTEP News Service

Surrounded by dozens of his fellow Miners, Joe Bejarano, a 1984 UTEP graduate, decided that this year’s UTEP Alumni “PICK-NIC” was the perfect romantic spot for him to surprise Carmen Jaime – a Texas Longhorn – with an engagement ring.

“We talked about getting married but I hadn’t given her the ring yet,” said Bejarano, whose hands were shaking as he placed the diamond ring on his fiancée’s finger. The couple plan to marry Saturday, July 20, in El Paso. “We were here and I thought why not. I’m a UTEP alum and this is my family.”Generations of UTEP alumni came together to celebrate Miner spirit at the second annual UTEP Alumni “PICK-NIC” on Saturday, July 13. Photo by Josh Garcia / UTEP News ServiceGenerations of UTEP alumni came together to celebrate Miner spirit at the second annual UTEP Alumni “PICK-NIC” on Saturday, July 13. Photo by Josh Garcia / UTEP News Service

The University’s second annual alumni picnic on July 13 brought together nearly 400 members of the UTEP family at Memorial Park in El Paso, where they reminisced about their school days over hamburgers and hot dogs, and created new memories playing dodgeball and line dancing with Paydirt Pete. A water balloon toss and a watermelon eating contest offered picnickers some relief from the heat. 

The event was one of 23 that took place July 13 across the United Sates and in different parts of the world.

Alumni from coast to coast and border to border joined in on the fun, hosting picnics from New York’s Central Park to Kelley Park in San Francisco, Mexico City and the Kingdom of Bhutan.

Parties were planned by the El Paso, Austin, Dallas and Houston alumni chapters. Alumni also came together in Chicago, Phoenix, San Antonio, Seattle, Washington, D.C., and other cities to celebrate being Miners. In El Paso, the alumni chapters from the colleges of Engineering and Business Administration – UTEP’s first academic chapters – welcomed current, past and future students.     

“This is a way for us to keep in touch with all our alumni members across the world,” said Laura Nuñez-Bolaños, the academic advisor for UTEP’s College of Liberal Arts and president of the UTEP Alumni Association’s El Paso Chapter. “We are on the cusp of our Centennial. The University is going through an amazing transformation so everybody has a lot to celebrate.”

Organizers were sent a PICK-NIC package, a blue UTEP cooler filled with tablecloths, orange cups, plates and plastic cutlery, flying discs, beach balls, name tags, balloons, stickers, pom-poms and tattoos. The package also included a CD of the UTEP Fight Song music and copies of the lyrics so alumni could post videos of themselves singing the song.

Margie Adame Brickey, chapter development coordinator for the Office of Alumni Relations, said the UTEP Alumni PICK-NIC is one many events that the alumni office has planned as the University leads up to its 100-year celebration on Sept. 23, 2014.

“We just wanted to celebrate UTEP,” Adame Brickey said. “The fact that alumni are engaged and participate in these activities, that’s how they connect to each other.”

Among the alumni was Russell Autry, president-elect of the UTEP Alumni Association’s El Paso chapter. A proud UTEP graduate, Autry earned his bachelor’s degree in 1975 and his master’s degree in 2007.

But his connection to UTEP started long before he attended classes at the University. His parents met on the football field when they were students at Texas Western College (now UTEP). Autry’s mother was a cheerleader and his father, who was captain of the basketball team, also played offense for the football team.

Autry’s first home was with his parents in married student housing, which was a Quonset hut where the UTEP library is now located. His family moved out when he was a year old.

For Autry, UTEP not only provided him with a great education but helped shape his life. He said all of his achievements, which include meeting his wife at a Student Government Association election party, are a direct result of UTEP.

“I am absolutely ecstatic for our University,” said Autry, who will assume the presidency of the Alumni Association in September. “I always felt that the education I received was fabulous. (UTEP) is being recognized as one of the great places to be if you really want to shape education, not just in the U.S. but in the world, and it comes at the time of our Centennial. To be involved at UTEP during the next few years is so exciting. I wish that everyone who has ever been touched by UTEP would take the time to get involved and get engaged.”

Paulina Lopez, UTEP Student Government Association president, said events like the PICK-NIC give students the opportunity to mingle with past graduates, as well as faculty and staff.  

“It’s about getting the family together,” Lopez said. “It’s always great to unite us all and to have other activities, not only the football or basketball games, but something that is more social [where students] can interact with alumni. [Students] can get to know faculty and have some fun with their peers.”

To see a recap of the day’s fun activities, visit 2013 UTEP Alumni PICK-NIC on YouTube.