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UHD Confers Nearly 2,300 Degrees During Commencement Weekend


By Mike Emery

Winter is typically a quiet time at Minute Maid Park, but the stands were filled with cheers and tears (of joy) during the University of Houston-Downtown’s 67th Commencement ceremonies.

On Dec. 14, UHD conferred 2,292 degrees to its fall 2019 graduating class. The official celebration took place during two ceremonies just blocks from campus in Houston’s beloved baseball stadium.

“This is it Gators. This is the moment you’ve worked toward since you arrived on campus,” said UHD President, Dr. Juan Sánchez Muñoz in his address to graduates.

Muñoz presided over two ceremonies on that day. A morning event recognized graduates from the College of Public Service, College of Humanities & Social Sciences and University College. An afternoon ceremony honored graduates from the College of Sciences & Technology and Marilyn Davies College of Business.

Joining President Muñoz to celebrate the achievements of UHD’s Gator Community was guest speaker Scott McClelland, president of H-E-B Food/Drug Stores, who addressed grads at both ceremonies.

In addition to President Muñoz’s acknowledgement of the Gator Grads, he also recognized former Senior Vice President for Academic & Student Affairs and Provost Ed Hugetz and presented him with the inaugural UHD Presidential Medallion of Honor. Hugetz, UHD’s second longest serving provost, retired in 2018 after spending four decades in the University of Houston System.

“His commitment to our students and to the university’s mission is immeasurable. I am proud to have worked alongside him during my first years as president of this university,” Muñoz said.

Student speakers at each ceremony, James Adams and Ryan Hashem, shared their personal stories of struggle and eventual triumphs with those in attendance. Adams received his bachelor’s degree in Interdisciplinary Studies from the University College, and Hashem earned a bachelor’s degree in business from the Marilyn Davies College of Business

“When I transferred to UHD in the summer of 2017, I was filled with uncertainty and doubt, but I’m grateful for all the twists and turns of my journey because it led me here with you,” Adams told his fellow graduates during the morning ceremony. “Today, I humbly but proudly stand before you as a fifth generation Houstonian graduating from the University of Houston-Downtown.”

“In my life I have faced many challenges, I overcame a hearing disability, personal conflicts, and repeating first grade three times,” Hashem told the afternoon audience. “Those challenges caused me to doubt myself from a very young age. Still, I never gave up. I stayed strong. This led me to think for myself, try harder, and find honor in the struggle, not the outcome.”

Les Jackson was the weekend’s oldest graduate. At 67 years of age, he completed a Master of Security Management from the Marilyn Davies College of Business. Other grads of note (but not in attendance at the ceremonies) were the youngest bachelor’s candidate Juliette Walker, age 17 and Al Ruiz, the oldest graduate receiving a bachelor’s degree at age 63. Both Walker and Ruiz earned Bachelor of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies degrees.

Additionally, local sports personalities completed their academic journeys at UHD. Brad Gilmore, a host on Sports Radio 610 and Reality of Wrestling announcer, crossed the stage (on his birthday no less) to earn his bachelor’s degree in communication studies from the College of Humanities & Social Sciences, and former Houston Texans football player and local philanthropist Devon Still received his Master of Business Administration from the Marilyn Davies College of Business.

About the University of Houston-Downtown

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.