With 90 percent of nursing graduates from The University of Texas-Pan American employed in South Texas health care facilities, the Department of Nursing is looking to reconnect with its alumni during its “40 Years of Nursing Celebration: 1969-2009” Saturday, March 14.

The event scheduled to start at 6:30 p.m. at the UTPA Fieldhouse is being held in conjunction with the UTPA Nursing Alumni Association.

“We want to invite our nursing graduates to become part of the Nursing Alumni Association,” said Sylvia Ybarra, event coordinator. “This event is to bring back all our graduates so that we can join together and see what they are doing now.”

Dinner, music, and door prizes will highlight the celebration that will be led by Dr. Carolina Huerta, Department of Nursing chair and professor, who will recognize notable nursing alumni and speak on the department’s milestones. Tickets for the event are $25 per person.

“We hope students will come back so that they can see each other and visit. It is kind of neat to come back and see your old friends,” Ybarra said.

The event will mark 40 years of the UTPA Nursing Department at the forefront of teaching and training for the nursing community in the region and state. The department started in 1967 at then-Pan American College as an Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN) program.

The first batch of graduates in the ADN program was in 1969 with 15 receiving their degrees. In 2000, the ADN program came to a close and graduated 21 in its last class. Today the number has ballooned to more than 3,000 graduates between the three programs — the one-time ADN program, Bachelor of Science in Nursing, which began in 1982, and Master of Science in Nursing, which started in 1993.

Director of Nursing at Starr County Memorial Hospital Mario Segura, a 1975 and 1986 nursing alumnus and current president of the UTPA Nursing Advisory Council, said he is looking forward to the event and hopes the nursing graduates in the area make time to attend the celebration, which he said will be a great time for all.

“We want to know where our co-workers and students are and what they are doing. It should be wonderful to see all the old and new faces,” Segura said.

To date, the program employs more than two-dozen faculty members compared to seven in 1969; and in 2008 graduates of the Bachelor of Science in Nursing program received a 96.72 percent pass rate on the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX), an exam they are required to pass to become registered nurses.

For additional information on the celebration, contact the Department of Nursing at 956-381-3491.