UTPA President

History & Past Presidents

UTPA Celebrating 85 Years of Success

UTPA 1927 - The Main Building

The University of Texas-Pan American has a rich tradition of educational service and community engagement. In the past eight decades it has undergone six name changes, all reflecting growth, achievement and success.


The Transformation

1927-1933 Edinburg College was founded as a two-year community college governed by the Edinburg School District. The original building housed 200 students and today is listed as a historical site in the city of Edinburg, the county seat for Hidalgo County.
1933-1948 Edinburg Junior College, as the only institution of higher learning in Hidalgo County, experienced rapid growth in its early years prompting administrators to pursue the first name change.
1948-1952 Edinburg Regional College was moved from the original four-acre site to 186-acre campus a few blocks west. During the 1950’s and 1960’s the campus was purchased in parcels at a cost of $677,000.
1952-1971 Pan American College made its transformation from a junior college to a four-year university in the early 1950’s. The name Pan American was selected to reflect the institution's desire to bridge the cultures of North and South America and to reflect the cultural and ethnic diversity of the university.
1971-1989 Pan American University saw the student population diversify during the 1970’s reflecting a predominantly Mexican-American population. The Wall Street Journal article credited Dr. Miguel Nevarez with creating a Hispanic middle class for the South Texas region.
1989-Present The University of Texas-Pan American was established in 1989 after the successful and historic merger of Pan American University with the University of Texas System.  Today UTPA is one of the fastest growing universities in the UT System with a current enrollment of 17,500 students.  The institution is poised to become a learner-centered doctoral research institution.

Past Presidents


Dr. Robert S. Nelsen – President 2010-2014 Dr. Robert S. Nelsen – President 2010-2014
During Dr. Robert S. Nelsen’s presidency, student enrollment surpassed 20,000 for the first time in the school’s 87-year history, UTPA was elevated to “doctoral serving university” status, the University College was created, UTPA was invited to join the Western Athletic Conference, and a new $43 million Academic and Performing Arts Center was constructed.​

Dr. Charles A. Sorber Dr. Charles A. Sorber - Interim President 2009-2010
At the request of the U.T. System, Dr. Charles A. Sorber came out of retirement to serve as interim president of UTPA in 2009. An emeritus professor at UT Austin's Cockrell School of Engineering, Dr. Sorber had already served tenures as President of UT Permian Basin and Interim President at UT Arlington.

Dr. Blandina "Bambi" Cárdenas Dr. Blandina "Bambi" Cárdenas - President 2004 -2009
Under the leadership of Dr. Blandina “Bambi" Cárdenas, UTPA made significant strides in classroom technology advancements and graduation/retention rates. On average 3,200 students received degrees annually during the Cárdenas tenure. In 2008, UTPA awarded the 1000th Engineering Degree and the 100th Doctorate Degree.

Dr. Miguel A. Nevárez Dr. Miguel A. Nevárez - President 1981 -2004
In 1981, after a national search, Dr. Nevárez became the University’s first Hispanic President and the first Valley native to lead the institution. He led Pan American University through its historic merger with the UT system in 1989 and through a dynamic period of enrollment and campus growth.

Ralph F. Schilling Ralph F. Schilling - President 1960 -1981
Was appointed President by the Edinburg College Board of Regents in 1960. For the next twenty years Schilling led Pan American University through a period of rapid growth, admission to the state system and transition from college to university status.

R. P. Ward R. P. Ward - President 1931 -1943, 1946 -1960
Originally hired as the first dean of the faculty and director when the college first opened in 1927, he became president in 1931 and served in that capacity until his retirement in 1959.

H. A. Hodges H. A. Hodges - President 1943 -1946
Served as Interim President while R. P. Ward was on leave for military service during World War II from 1944 to 1946.

H. W. Miles H. W. Miles - President 1930-1931
Served as President of Edinburg College for a year from 1930 to 1931.

H. C. Baker - President 1927-1930 H. C. Baker - President 1927-1930
Became the first president of Edinburg College after it was established by the Edinburg School District in 1927. Baker had served as the superintendent of the Edinburg School District prior to his appointment to the college.