Friday, May 11, 2018
  Alumni, Announcements

By Amanda Alaniz

RIO GRANDE VALLEY, TEXAS – Pride and tradition are important to universities, and after two legacy institutions became The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, it was doubly important that some established commencement traditions carry on.

The ringing of the bronze bell at UT-Brownsville/Texas Southmost College, for example, and the bequeathing of the Memory Stole at UT Pan American are both traditions now honored by UTRGV at commencement ceremonies across the Valley. To many, they serve as symbols of unity and represent not only the past, but the future, as well.

The Memory Stole is worn by graduates during commencement as a symbol of appreciation. It is a reminder to graduates that they did not make the journey alone, and many choose to present it to a family member, friend, or faculty member who made a difference during their college career.

The Memory Stole now is decorated with the new university’s colors and seal, and has “UTRGV” embroidered on it. It is draped around the graduate’s neck, along with any other ornaments such as colored cords, medallions and sashes that signify membership in an honor society or special group.  

UTRGV students Alyssa De Leon and Maria Neyra, who both work with Student Involvement, will walk across the stage in separate ceremonies on Saturday, May 12, to accept their diplomas.

Both will be wearing a memory stole. Both made a unique and personal connection with UTRGV. And both decided to give their Memory Stoles to the people who have supported them throughout their years in college – their parents.


De Leon, a San Benito resident and biology major, said when she heard about the memory stole tradition, she immediately knew she would give it to her parents.

“They’ve done so much for me and made so many sacrifices,” she said.

“I feel like it’s a small memento or token I can give them to show, ‘Thank you for getting me to where I am today.’”

De Leon, who started college at legacy institution UTPA, said her college experience has been special and she has made a lot of good friends.

“I’ve gotten to join several different organizations, including my sorority Kappa Delta Chi,” she said.


Neyra, a first-generation college student from Los Fresnos, is a mass communications major who also started at UTPA. It was so much a part of her life that the transition to UTRGV had its challenges, she said.

“I was used to that environment,” she said. “The traditions and everything about UTPA were so in my heart. But now, it is very exciting that I can contribute a little bit to these new traditions that we’re establishing as UTRGV.”

Wearing the memory stole was an important way for her to maintain the tradition, she said, and even more, a special way to thank her parents.

“I think I’ve been waiting so long for this, but they’ve been waiting so long, as well,” Neyra said. “There are no words to explain how much gratitude I have for them. They’ve been through a rough patch to put me through where I am right now.”


Both De Leon and Neyra said they plan to give the stole to their parents as soon as they leave the commencement ceremony.

De Leon wants to give them a big hug and thank them for all they’ve done for her.

“They always say they’re proud of me,” she said, “but really, I’m proud of them.”

And Neyra said she already has explained to her parents what the memory stole symbolizes, because she wants them to understand that her graduation is a shared accomplishment.

Each graduate has plans for what comes next. Neyra is applying with Teach for America and plans to stay in the Rio Grande Valley. De Leon would like to pursue a career as a dietician.


Spring Commencement ceremonies will be held 6 p.m. Friday, May 11, on the Student Union Lawn on the Brownsville Campus; and in three ceremonies on Saturday, May 12 – 9 a.m., 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. – at the McAllen Convention Center.

Maria ‘Lupita’ Neyra, a mass communications major from Los Fresnos, says she will share her UTRGV Memory Stole with her parents, to honor the support they provided throughout her time in college. (UTRGV Photo by Silver Salas)
Maria ‘Lupita’ Neyra, a mass communications major from Los Fresnos, says she will share her UTRGV Memory Stole with her parents, to honor the support they provided throughout her time in college. (UTRGV Photo by Silver Salas)


The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) was created by the Texas Legislature in 2013 as the first major public university of the 21st century in Texas. This transformative initiative provided the opportunity to expand educational opportunities in the Rio Grande Valley, including a new School of Medicine, and made it possible for residents of the region to benefit from the Permanent University Fund – a public endowment contributing support to the University of Texas System and other institutions.

UTRGV has campuses and off-campus research and teaching sites throughout the Rio Grande Valley including in Boca Chica Beach, Brownsville (formerly The University of Texas at Brownsville campus), Edinburg (formerly The University of Texas-Pan American campus), Harlingen, McAllen, Port Isabel, Rio Grande City, and South Padre Island. UTRGV, a comprehensive academic institution, enrolled its first class in the fall of 2015, and the School of Medicine welcomed its first class in the summer of 2016.