Cowart Commencement Speaker for TAMIU Spring 2002 Exercises

The first president to lead then-Texas A&I University at Laredo and its successor, Laredo State University, will return to a much changed University as Speaker for the Spring 2002 Commencement Exercises for Texas A&M International University on Saturday, May 11 at 9 a.m.

Dr. Billy F. Cowart, who initiated Laredo's branch of Texas A&I University in 1970 and served as president until 1985, will provide the address.

Dr. Ray Keck, University president, said the University was excited about the return of its first president.

"Dr. Cowart planted the seed for the bounteous landscape that provides a daily legacy of change for us all. He began to build this University from within a small study carrel at then-Laredo Junior College ad helped to forge the only possible hybrid at the time, the University as upper-level senior institution. That hybrid was exported across the state and nation as communities looked for innovative ways to bring higher education home. We are looking forward to welcoming him home and reacquainting him with the University as it proudly stands today," Dr. Keck said.

At the conclusion of the commencement exercises, a ceremony will be held to name one of the classroom buildings Cowart Hall in Dr. Cowart's honor, Keck explained.

"We and The Texas A&M University System Board of Regents agree that this is a most fitting way of recognizing Dr. Cowart's service to this University and his part in guiding the University to the successes we see today," Keck said.

Cowart's 15-year tenure saw the University weather many storms that threatened to dampen its future, as outlined in Challenge and Triumph: The First 20 Years of Laredo State University, by longtime University history professor and now provost, Dr. Jerry Thompson.

"Dr. Cowart successfully steered the University through reduced funding, threats of closure, enrollment drops after the peso devaluation of 1977...all the while building critical programs and community partnerships. His collaborative approach continues to guide our degree development and all community-based initiatives," Dr. Thompson recalled.

More than 250 students are candidates for undergraduate or graduate degrees in services that will be held outdoors in front of the Sue and Radcliffe Killam Library.

Additional highlights of the ceremony will include the naming of Dr. Rafael Lecuona, retired professor of political science, as Professor Emeritus and the presentation of an honorary doctorate to longtime University partner and supporter, retired former Laredo Independent School District superintendent (LISD), Vidal M. Trevino, who now directs the D. D. Hachar Charitable Trust. The honors have been approved by The Texas A&M University System Board of Regents.

Dr. Lecuona is a founding member of the University's faculty, first coming to then-Texas A&I University at Laredo in 1970 to teach political science. His 30-year service to the University and students has included the development of the political science Master's degree program, and the current Latin American Studies program. He has also been a strong and tireless advocate of what is now the Western Hemispheric Trade Center.

Trevino, who directed LISD programs that impacted tens of thousands of students, continues to do so with his leadership of the D. D. Hachar Charitable Trust Fund.

Since its inception, the Trust, administered by The Laredo National Bank Trust Department, has assisted over 10,000 Laredo area students with more than $7 million in scholarships for higher education, and provided over $7.5 million in grants to various non-profit organizations in the Laredo area.

It provided funding support which initiated the University's creation of the D. D. Hachar Honors Program, the city's only four-year Honors Program, in 2000.

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