Monday, August 31, 2015

Tour de Valley cyclists honor legacy schools, celebrate coming together as UTRGV

Story by Cheryl Taylor and Gail Fagan

EDINBURG & BROWNSVILLE, TEXAS – AUG. 30, 2015 – Before the sun came up Sunday, about 50 cyclists gathered near the iconic Bronc statue on the Edinburg Campus. Simultaneously, 88 riders assembled at the Main lawn of the Brownsville Campus. 

Each group then headed out to meet up in the middle.

Dubbed Tour de Valley, the ride was a symbolic event to commemorate two legacy institutions – The University of Texas–Pan American and The University of Texas at Brownsville – riding together into the future as one: The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley.

Organized as part of the weeklong #BestWeekEver activities as UTRGV opens for the first day of classes on Monday, Aug. 31, one group pedaled east and the other pedaled northwest, meeting at the Iwo Jima Memorial on the campus of the Marine Military Academy in Harlingen. Then, together, they rode in solidarity to the Regional Academic Health Center in Harlingen, a central location for the UTRGV School of Medicine now awaiting accreditation. 

Mercedes resident and cyclist Lisa Marie Treviño, 25, is a UTRGV senior majoring in biology and psychology. Treviño has taken advantage of all the higher education opportunities in the Valley, having attended Texas State Technical College and South Texas College before transferring to UTPA.
She started biking in June, and her enthusiasm for the sport led her to create a Facebook page called UTRGV Bike Trail. As she mounted her brightly lit Schwinn, she said the coming together would be emotional, and the ride shows that both campuses are one.

“We need unity. If we want to be known as The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, we want to appreciate both areas and celebrate Brownsville and Edinburg merging together,” said Trevino, who hopes to become a medical doctor.
At the race’s end, Treviño said it was a long journey, full of some challenging inclines, but rewarding.
Tired after their ride and seated in the shade of the RAHC while enjoying fresh fruit and fajita tacos, Treviño, other riders and family members were greeted by Harlingen Mayor Chris Boswell.
“Welcome to Harlingen, and more importantly, welcome to another campus of UTRGV,” Boswell said. “This bike ride symbolizes the coming together of the Valley and its many communities, including Northern Mexico. Your ride was like the Olympic torch, being carried from town to town, and now the torch will be lit on the new university, an innovative model of higher education.”

UTRGV President Guy Bailey was on hand to greet the riders, saying UTRGV will be greater than the sum of two parts.
“We can do things that the individual schools could not have achieved alone,” Bailey said. “UTRGV is going to bring people into the Valley, people who will love it and want to stay and make it their home.”

Among the cyclists who faced the easterly headwind in high humidity was Irma Hermida, who earned her degree in Interdisciplinary Studies from UTPA in 1999.

An employee at the university since 2008, Hermida will be UTRGV’s IT communications coordinator, keeping students, faculty and staff informed of the IT services available to them. A frequent cyclist in Valley biking groups the past seven years, Hermida was attracted by the symbolism of the Tour de Valley bike ride.

“The two groups coming together … the merger of both campuses … that really spoke to me,” she said.
Hermida and her cycling friends were impressed that UTRGV would take on such an event.

“These events take planning and a lot of coordination with the cities and safety officers. I know how much work goes into it and how many volunteers needed to make sure everyone will be safe,” she said.
Cris Trejo, UTRGV assistant vice president for Community Engagement and Assessment, and chief organizer of the event, said the university did indeed keep cyclists’ safety at the forefront of its Tour de Valley planning. At registration, they recommended that cyclists be experienced and could maintain a minimum pace of 13-14 miles per hour. Rest stops were arranged along the routes from the east and west. The ride included three police escorts and two SAG (support and gear) vehicles from Bicycle World and JT Cycling, riding along with supplies and water. A vehicle also was provided to pick up riders and their bikes if they couldn’t complete the ride.

Hermida, who directed the UTPA and Team McAllen Cycling’s Triathlon for Racing event that raised nearly $25,000 in scholarships from 2011-2014, said prior to the ride her attitude toward the transition had been like a “pendulum, swinging back and forth.”
“I reminisce about being a Bronc and our colors … It is hard to let go of something you have known so long. But I can also see why we need to move forward and let go. It is for the betterment of our community,” she said.

“To be part of history and this whole new initiative of creating a new university – we know it is going to have an impact – on our future generations, economically. It is going to change this area dramatically. To be in the middle of it is amazing.”

A cyclist since age 18, Dr. Walter Diaz, dean of the College of Liberal Arts at UTRGV and former dean of UTPA’s College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, said he rides every weekend because it is a fun activity.

“Today’s ride was special because it is symbolic,” Diaz said. “People are crossing most of the Valley, and it is a good way to reach out into the whole community. There are employees here, but many cyclists today who are not. It’s a good thing.”

Michael Padgett, 64, graduated in 1974 from then-Pan American University, in biology. Recently retired from teaching physics at McAllen High School, Padgett calls the creation of UTRGV “a move forward.”

Padgett was a close friend of experienced cyclist and UTPA staff member Eddie Arguelles, who was killed by a drunk driver in 2014 while biking. Padgett said the Tour de Valley not only represents the union of the two legacy institutions, but also brings more awareness about safety and the need for drivers to share the road with cyclists.
Mary Morones, Victor Esperanza and Ruben Valdez, all H-E-B employees at the Brownsville Southmost store, were decked out in their red H-E-B Bike Team shirts. 

“I think it’s awesome that UTRGV is starting up here. This will be a goal for our kids, to make good grades and get into UTRGV,” Morones said. “H-E-B is so supportive of education. One way is with Read 3, a very successful program. I was in the meeting just recently when UTRGV committed to continuing support of Read 3. I hope a lot of the youngsters who participate in Read 3 will get a good start and go on to be students at UTRGV.” 

#TourDeValley #UTRGV #FirstClass #WeWill #BestWeekEver

Posted by The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley on Sunday, August 30, 2015

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