By: Héctor G. Acevedo Santiago
Memories, situations, success, experiences and history in the nearly 100 years of existence of the University of Puerto Rico – Mayagüez (UPRM). The UPRM community will soon be celebrating the 100th anniversary of the institution, the second largest campus on the island.
The UPRM was founded on September 23rd, 1911 as the “Colegio de Agricultura en Mayagüez” or College of Agriculture at Mayagüez, according to UPRM’s website. The foundation of the College is credited to D. W. May -Director of the Federal Experimental Station-, José de Diego, and Carmelo Alemar. A year later the university changed its name to “Colegio de Agricultura y Artes Mecánicas (CAAM),” or College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts, the name that it kept for 50 years.
Seven years after the CAAM was established the College suffered the effects of a devastating earthquake of 7.3 magnitude in the Richter scale. The earthquake caused a fire and serious damage to college buildings, especially to the Degetau Hall. After the earthquake, the portico of Degetau Hall, showed it was indestructible, as stated in UPRM’s website. In 1988 the portico was moved from its original place and turned into a monument and the emblem of the University.
In 1942, the stability and variety of academic programs was recognized; the college had considerable autonomy in the colleges of Agriculture, Engineering, and Science. University expansion continued in 1950 and new programs were added; but it wasn’t until 1966 that the Legislative Assembly reorganized the UPR as a system of autonomous campuses, each with the direction of a chancellor.
At this point CAAM became the University of Puerto Rico – Mayagüez Campus, which is the current name of the campus.
Another name associated with the university is “Recinto Universitario de Mayagüez (RUM).” People close to the campus also refer to it as El Colegio, and they refer themselves as colegiales of green blood.
Another well known historical emblem in the campus is the José de Diego Building, built in 1911, which houses the Chancellors office. It is the oldest standing edification on the campus and was inscribed as an architectural patrimony in the National Historic Building Registry. The building was named in honor of one of the founders of the university.
Nelson Pagán, a professor of education and a professional counselor at UPRM, considers the entire campus to be a historical monument that is a central part of Mayagüez. “Talking about Mayagüez without talking about the Colegio, is like not talking about Mayagüez at all,” Pagán said. “I have seen newlyweds come here to the Colegio to take pictures for their wedding album.”
As a native of Mayagüez, Pagán recognized the importance of the UPRM to the Mayagüez community and admitted that since he was a child, he came to practice soccer in the campus track. “In educational terms, the Colegio is an university of excellence which has yielded endless professionals and proud colegiales of green blood,” Pagán added.
With great enthusiasm and a big smile Pagán was quick to add that the UPRM is one of the most respected institutions and the second largest university in the UPR system. The Colegio has an approximate enrollment of 12,000 students.
Definitely, one of the aspects that characterizes the UPRM is its people and community. Anyone that has passed through the RUM has a deep pride and a lot of students demonstrate it by walking around with emblematic T-shirts, sweaters, pants and stickers, in the emblematic green and white colors that represent the campus.
The UPRM’s mascot is a male bulldog called “Tarzán” and a female bulldog called “Jane.” As Azyadeth Vélez, UPRM’s press staff said on “Herederos de la cría colegial”, They represent the tenacity, warrior spirit, respect and sense of belonging of all the colegiales.
“Before, Now and Forever, Colegio!,” is the motto of the institution that most UPRM community embrace and are proud to pronounce. It is written throughout the campus.
The UPRM is leader in the engineering and science fields on the Caribbean. People from all over the world come to the campus to prepare themselves for a professional future. Mr. Pagán recognized that academic demands are tough, but he also noted that these demands are the ones that make strong and excellent professionals in the future.
“The Colegio changed my life in so many aspects and I am grateful for that; that’s why I remember my years in the Colegio with much love,” said Evelyn Acevedo Ruiz, who graduated in 1987, about her memories of the RUM.
She lamented the struggles and problems that are affecting the UPRM and the whole UPR system through 2009-2010. She sees the university as the most important option that most Puerto Rican citizens have to build a good future that will help them, as she recognized the UPRM helped her to become a professional educator in physical education and an excellent athlete.
Prof. Pagán also expressed his best wishes for the university’s wellness, and suggested all students to analyze and use common sense and not to be influenced only by passion but to reason for what is best for all.
Both Mr. Pagán and Mrs. Acevedo, admitted in separate interviews that the problem the UPRM is undergoing, like the accreditation probation, are very unfortunate. “I hope everything will be solved with God’s help and that the university doesn’t get seriously affected since it can affect the deserved celebration of the university’s centenary,” added Mrs. Acevedo.
Mr. Pagán said very enthusiastically that he will definitely be celebrating the historical centenary of the campus on September 23rd, 2011. “I’ll be there with all the community celebrating and recalling all of what this university has offered not only to Mayagüez, but to Puerto Rico, it is an event that no one should miss.”