Commencement: Commencement, also known as the “greatest tradition at UTEP,” is the official celebration commemorating the achievements of new graduates. Banners representing each of the academic colleges lead the procession of administration, faculty and students into the Don Haskins Center at the end of the fall and spring semesters. Each graduate is presented with a special gift – currently a “UTEP Alumni” lapel pin – from the Alumni Association to recognize their accomplishments and invite them to join the Association. In recent years, many graduates have worn class medallions and the Senior Ring, which are both available through the UTEP Bookstore and whose proceeds benefit University scholarships.
Gator Camp: An overnight freshmen orientation experience, Gator Camp commemorates the prank-turned- UTEP tradition of “borrowing” a live alligator from downtown El Paso’s San Jacinto Plaza in the 1950s and placing it in the office of a faculty member. On another occasion, an alligator was found at the bottom of the campus swimming pool. Gator Campers are a class all their own and often become some of the most involved students on the campus.
Homecoming: Each fall, alumni return to the campus to reminisce about their days as a student at Texas College of Mines, Texas Western College or UTEP. Many departments and organizations host events for alumni during the week-long celebration and students participate in spirit competitions throughout the week. One of the most popular is the float-building competition for the Homecoming Parade, which once traveled along the streets of downtown El Paso and today is held on a Friday afternoon along University Avenue. Followed by the Official Pep Rally, the Homecoming Court and the Distinguished Alumni for that year are presented, as well during the football halftime show the next day. Each college also recognizes the outstanding achievements of notable alumni, known as the Gold Nuggets, at the pep rally and during receptions hosted in their honor by their designated college.
Minerpalooza & Minerfest: What began as the alumni “Picnic on the Lawn” has now become Minerpalooza, the official back-to-school party for students, faculty and staff. Voted the 2009 “Best Annual Festival” by the El Paso Magazine, the climax of the event is the first official pep rally of the season where the fall sports teams and coaches are introduced, and the band, cheerleaders, and Golddiggers perform. As the school year comes to an end in the spring, students prepare for finals by relaxing at Minerfest. Both Miner events feature food, games, attractions and live music, and are sponsored by the Student Development Center.
Texas College of Mines (TCM) Day: The oldest continuous student tradition at UTEP and probably the most unique on-campus was first reported in the March 1920 print edition of The Prospector to initiate engineers and geologists into the Order of St. Patrick, the patron saint of engineers. Throughout the variations of this jovial celebration of St. Patrick’s Day, this tradition still continues today in a more philanthropic manner with ceremonies that include collecting food for the Rescue Mission, cleaning all the arroyo plants on campus, hosting the TCM Picnic and whitewashing the “M” on the mountain overlooking Glory Field, which started in the 1960s after it was formerly located on the Franklin Mountains.
Season of Lights: To celebrate the joy of the holidays since 1992, the heart of the UTEP campus has glistened with a display of approximately 200,000 lights and 1,500 luminaries decorating buildings, trees and bushes. This tradition savored a beautiful time of year with our UTEP family while it gave us an opportunity to share hot cocoa together, enjoy music and appreciate the sometimes snow that visited El Paso.
The Official UTEP Ring: The Senior Ring was unveiled December 2, 2003, and features symbols unique to the University: Bhutanese architecture, the “M” on the Mountain and Paydirt Pete. Eligible students and alumni can order their rings at the beginning of each semester and will receive them at the Official Ring Ceremony during commencement week festivities. Proceeds from the ring sales also benefit the Alumni Association Endowed Scholarship Fund and student programs.
Bhutan Days: What began as an architectural inspiration has developed into a close bond of goodwill and peace between UTEP and the Kingdom of Bhutan. “Bhutan Days” has become a regular celebration that brings Bhutanese archers, artists, dancers and musicians to the UTEP campus, and honors Bhutanese students –from freshmen to Ph.D. candidates –pursuing their studies at UTEP.
Cost of Tuition: On opening day in 1914, students paid a one-time registration fee of $30 with laboratory fees ranging from $1.50 to $25 per course.
The School of Mines held its first commencement in the assembly hall of the Fort Bliss campus on May 30, 1916, when three Miners received their degrees.
Mine Tunnel: The mountain behind the Computer Science Building has a mine tunnel that was once considered a prime location for “making out.”
Fire in the Hole!: Explosions were once a common occurrence at UTEP through the 1960s. Mining Professor John W. “Cap” Kidd frequently demonstrated the fine art of TNT and could often be heard yelling “DYNAMITE – FIRE IN THE HOLE!”
Streaker Spirit: While the 60s were a hotbed for political expression and little-to-no inhibition at universities across the nation, UTEP was no different. On several occasions, naked students were seen streaking down University Avenue and during a few football games.
Bowling Barbers: The Union Building West once had a bowling alley in the basement, and also housed a barbershop with a full-time barber on the main floor.
Swimming Hole: The Undergraduate Learning Center is located on what used to be the site of the University swimming pool.
Ghosts: Several campus buildings are the home of spirited students or is that student spirits? The dearly departed are said to haunt Cotton Memorial, Seamon Hall and Old Main. The Student Alumni Association operates the Ghost Tour each October around Halloween, so check it out!
Cardiac Hill: Once you’ve climbed up this hill you will have no problem understanding how it got its name. Cardiac Hill begins at the base of the Education building and connects the main campus with Memorial Gym and Kidd Field.
Beanies: New students were once required to wear freshman beanies during their first semester of study.
Sigma Gamma Epsilon: Etched in rocks across campus are the Greek letters ΣΓΕ, notably on the outcrop around the Liberal Arts Building. Participation in Sigma Gamma Epsilon, the National Earth Sciences Honorary organization, used to require new members to chisel letters into campus rocks without getting caught by authorities.
Sadie Hawkins: A highlight of the school year was once the annual Sadie Hawkins Dance. Female students would dress up in her finest male attire and chase their “beloved” around campus. If the boy was caught, then he had to escort the girl to the dance.
Peace Corps Training: In 1961, the college was the first in the nation to graduate students from the Peace Corps training program initiated by President John F. Kennedy.
Wild West: A horse stable was located near what is now Glory Field, where student rodeos were held.
Golf: A golf driving range and putting green was located near what is now the Don Haskins Center.
UTEP's graduation ceremonies have been housed, in the 1940s, at the Church of St. Clements and the Scottish Rite Temple and, in the 50s and 60s, UTEP's Kidd Field, Memorial Gym and Magoffin Auditorium, and currently in the Don Haskins Center.
In May 1974, UTEP named Norma Hernandez the dean of the College of Education; she was the first Hispanic female alumna to be appointed an academic dean.
In 1979, UTEP bestowed its first doctoral degree. in Geological Sciences, to Gary Massingill, Ph.D.
Former U.S. President George W. Bush, then the 46th governor of Texas, gave UTEP's 100th commencement address in 1998, and Former President George H. W. Bush, then Vice President, spoke at UTEP's spring 1987 commencement.
Listed as the “Largest published book in the world” by Guinness World Records, the UTEP Library’s one-millionth volume is entitled Bhutan: A Visual Odyssey Across the Last Himalayan Kingdom, weighs 133 pounds, measures 5-by-7 feet, and offers larger than life size portraits and staggering panoramas.
The “Burrito Bomber,” who launched burritos at the public at Miner basketball games, was suspended from one game in 2004 after swatting a referee.