Ring Recipients Share Reflections, Gratitude at Fall Ceremony

  • Mirella Velazquez, a child and learning development senior in the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences, showed off her new UT Dallas ring after the ceremony.

More than 70 UT Dallas students received their University rings in December as they gathered with family and friends to commemorate their achievements and thank those who have helped them on their journeys.

“Thank you to my mom and my brother, and to everyone who encouraged me to get my degree. I couldn’t have done it without you,” said Jennifer Huebner, a senior in the School of Interdisciplinary Studies, before offering advice to her fellow students: “You can accomplish anything with hard work and dedication.”

The celebration began in the Edith O’Donnell Arts and Technology Building, where alumna speaker Elaine Torres BA’17 set the tone for the night with her remarks.

“This ring is a symbol of everything I experienced at UT Dallas,” she said. “Whenever I begin to feel nervous about my abilities, I glance at it and remember that I have nothing to fear.”

Symbol of UTD Pride

UTD class ring in moon dust

Alumni and current students — undergraduate students with 75-plus hours and graduate students with 15-plus hours — are eligible to purchase UT Dallas rings. To learn more, visit the ring page.

Torres, who is a senior user experience (UX) designer at 7-Eleven, shared how her ring has become a symbol of perseverance and pride in both her accomplishments and in the University community that helped her achieve success.

“Remember your time here and the people, events and education that have made it so special,” she said.

As students filed across the stage to receive their rings, many paused to recognize the people who have made their achievements at UT Dallas possible.

“To my mom, dad and sister: Thank you so much for the endless patience, love and support,” graduate student Jilliane Lagus BS’17 said. “And to the UT Dallas community: We are a really great community.”

Chris Peterson, a graduate student in the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences, said, “Thank you to my folks for supporting me and to all of the great staff and faculty here at UTD for making it such a wonderful and supportive place. And to all of the students for continuing to make this place a home, getting your ring marks an extraordinary accomplishment, so congratulations and kudos.”

Recipients also acknowledged their responsibilities as graduates to make meaningful use of their educations.

“This ring is a reminder of how grateful and fortunate I should be for now becoming a professional,” said Alejandro Saavedra BS’18.

After the presentation, students and their families braved the chilly weather to participate in the traditional ring dunking in the reflecting pools on Margaret McDermott Mall, ceremoniously infusing their rings with what Torres referred to as the “deep-running waters of this campus.”

As students joined their families and friends at a reception in the Davidson-Gundy Alumni Center, each carried a piece of UT Dallas that will remain with them forever.

“Looking at this ring, I will remember the past four years, the challenges and the successes, and the foundation it has laid for me to grow into the future,” said Meher Vallabhaneni, a senior in the Naveen Jindal School of Management.


Family Completes Circle for 1999 Graduate with Ring Surprise

Nineteen years to the day from when he graduated from The University of Texas at Dallas, Jose Antonio Alvarez MBA’99 returned to campus to pick up a University ring. But what he thought was a simple errand evolved into participation in the University’s biannual Ring Ceremony, a surprise orchestrated by his son, Manolo, and his wife, Maria.

Jose Antonio Alvarez MBA’99 (left) celebrated with his wife, Maria, and son Manolo after receiving his UT Dallas ring. Alvarez shows his Comet spirit with a mini-Whoosh, while his son, a UT Austin alumnus, displays his Longhorn pride.

“My wife and son kept me alive and dreaming,” said Alvarez, as he addressed the crowd at the ceremony. “This is for you, and I love you.”

After he received his ring, Alvarez lined up with the rest of the participants and dunked his new ring into the reflecting pool.

“It’s a surreal experience,” he said. “This is a good moment to celebrate, and it’s a good moment to share with my family.”

The idea to surprise his father originated when Manolo graduated from UT Austin in 2016 and received his own ring. It represented years of hard work and an affinity for his alma mater, but it also prompted a question: Why didn’t his dad own one?

A native of Mexico City, Alvarez earned his bachelor’s degree in Mexico before moving to the U.S. with his family in 1994. While working for Ericsson, he decided to pursue a Master of Business Administration at UT Dallas.

“I’m not a jewelry person. I just wear my wedding band,” Alvarez said. “But I always yearned for something and having this ring feels awesome.”

Over the course of 2½ years, Alvarez earned his master’s from UT Dallas while working nights and weekends.

“He knew it was going to be a challenge, but he went in and got it done,” his son said.

Standing on campus brought a wave of nostalgia over Alvarez, who remembered attending class while his wife and Manolo, then 2, waited for him in the car. Although 19 years have passed since Alvarez earned his degree, the accomplishment still impacts his life.

“It has opened doors for me,” said Alvarez, who now works as a portfolio finance advisor and assistant director of the Americas finance group for Ernst & Young. “It opened my mind to challenges. I’m an engineer by trade, but earning my MBA allowed me to see things differently.”

— Melissa Graham

Media Contact: Daniel Steele, UT Dallas, (972) 883-5485, [email protected], or the Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected].