Gator Grads Celebrate Academic Achievements at NRG Stadium
COVID-19 couldn't dim the academic (or professional) aspirations of more than 1,600 University of Houston-Downtown graduates who waited patiently for their chance to experience commencement live and in person.
Their patience paid off, and on Aug. 14, the University of Houston-Downtown recognized these grads with full pomp and circumstance at NRG Stadium.
Two socially-distanced ceremonies recognized UHD's Gator Grads. At 9 a.m., UHD's College of Public Service, University College and College of Humanities & Social Sciences recognized its graduates who earned degrees in 2020 and Spring 2021. At 2 p.m., graduates from the College of Sciences & Technology and Marilyn Davies College of Business were recognized.
Special guest speakers included Dr. Antonio D. Tillis, Chancellor of Rutgers University-Camden and Marilyn Davies, UHD benefactor and namesake of the Marilyn Davies College of Business. Both Tillis and Davies also received the UHD President's Medallion of Honor.
"I hope you remember several things I will discuss today," Davies said. "First and most important ... you get what you give. Be kinder, more charitable in life and in all actions and you will reap a lifetime of good things in return."
"Many of you have confronted significant roadblocks and challenges in attaining your degree and I salute you for your Gator Grit," offered Tillis, who recently served as UHD's Interim President.
Remarks also were delivered by UHD President Loren Blanchard and UH System Student Regent Derek Delgado at both ceremonies.
"No matter your degree … no matter your career path, you are shining examples of the graduates produced by the University of Houston-Downtown … and all of us are proud of you," President Blanchard told the graduates. "I encourage you to go forth … continue to apply what you learned at our University to bold new endeavors … and remember that you are now … and always will be … a part of the UHD Family!"
Graduates included Elena Garcia, who balanced motherhood to achieve her dream of completing a bachelor's degree in education, and Sebastian Troitino, who blazed trails on UHD's campus as a founding member of the institution's mariachi band. He completed his bachelor's degree in business.
Others included criminal justice graduates Johnny Dennis Jr. and Maria Cabrera, who once worked together and reconnected just prior to receiving their degrees. Dennis is employed with Metro Police and will apply his degree to advancing his career. Cabrera is one of UHD's many veteran students (having served in the U.S. Air Force and continues to serve in the Texas Air National Guard). She also plans to focus what she has learned in UHD's renowned Criminal Justice Program to move up in the ranks of the Houston Police Department.
"Today is very important," Dennis said. "My daughters are able to see me receive this degree. I went back to school after 10 years, so for them to see this moment ... it shows them that no matter what happens in life, you can go back and accomplish your goals … and don't stop dreaming."
For Cabrera, her degree was a 17-year journey. After serving in the U.S. Air Force and starting a family, she looked toward UHD as an institution to complete her academic journey.
"My advice is never give up," she said.
The University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) is the second-largest university in Houston and has served the educational needs of the nation’s fourth-largest city since 1974. As one of four distinct public universities in the University of Houston System, UHD is a comprehensive, four-year university led by President Loren J. Blanchard. Annually, UHD educates approximately 14,000 students, boasts more than 66,000 alumni, and offers 45 bachelor’s degrees, 12 master’s degrees, and 19 online programs within four colleges: Marilyn Davies College of Business, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, College of Public Service, and College of Sciences and Technology. UHD has one of the lowest tuition rates in Texas.
U.S. News and World Report ranked UHD among the nation’s Best Online Bachelor’s Programs for Applied Administration and Best Online Master’s Programs in Criminal Justice, as well as a Top Performer in Social Mobility. The Wall Street Journal/College Pulse ranked UHD one of the best colleges in the U.S. for its 2024 rankings, with notable distinctions: No. 1 for diversity (tied) and No. 3 for student experience. The University is designated as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, a Minority-Serving Institution, and a Military Friendly School. For more information on the University of Houston-Downtown, visit uhd.edu.