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Homecoming celebrates Maverick alumni

President Jams D. Spaniolo

Homecoming is a special time in Maverick Country. A time for us to reconnect, to remember who we are. This month marks our annual celebration, and I hope you'll make plans to join us.

You will find the traditional events that you remember, including alumni celebrations, the Blue & White Bash and the coronation ceremonies. There will be new events, too, including a golf cart parade that evolved from a Student Congress idea. I believe this feature will become an instant tradition.

But more than celebrating activities new and old, Homecoming is a celebration of our alumni. We're proud of you and your legacy at this great University.

I'm reminded of alumni like Johnny Murrell who are using their UT Arlington educations to make a real difference. Murrell, who earned bachelor's degrees in mechanical engineering and Spanish, works at DP Engineering in Fort Worth. He merged his knowledge as an engineer with his position in the nonprofit group Engineers Without Borders to help schoolchildren in rural Bolivia grow crops and trees.

Because the area receives little rainfall, Murrell and his team developed a system for turning water left over from dishwashing, bathing and clothes washing into usable irrigation water. Murrell hopes to return this spring to install a pump and water-storage tank.

"At the end of the day," he says, "it's the kind of situation where everyone is smiling and feels good about what's been accomplished."

Maverick alumni reach out to those in need, whether they're in Bolivia or right here in Arlington.

Sam Nix earned his bachelor's degree in history in 2004 and teaches history at Arlington's Workman Junior High. He has combined his education in history and his passion for music to create an innovative teaching style. He adapts music to history subjects, such as the Bill of Rights and the Declaration of Independence. Students who previously showed little interest in history are asking that their lessons be put to music because they learn better.

Nix has compiled a CD, History My Way, that adds a new dimension to the Civil War and the American Revolution. "I've studied test materials and gone through the textbooks to make sure that the students have all the necessary information," he says. "Every word is just as important as the next. Making things rhyme is the difficult part. I have stayed up until 3 in the morning just trying to figure out what in the world would rhyme with Magna Carta!"

Homecoming celebrates alumni like Johnny Murrell and Sam Nix, who are using their UT Arlington degrees to give back. But it also celebrates alumni for whom receiving an education meant everything.

By the time Mary Acres earned her interdisciplinary studies degree last December, she was 50, had raised a daughter and survived an insidious brain tumor. Despite her challenges, she was the first in her family to earn a college degree. The tumor caused headaches so severe that she couldn't open one eye. Surgery failed to remove the tumor, but a year later, doctors successfully treated it with radiation. And then she began accomplishing things that doctors told her she couldn't.

Now, Acres plans to pursue her master's degree and become a history teacher.

These are just a few stories of many. We have more than 120,000 alumni worldwide to celebrate. You're doing great things, helping real people, becoming heroes and mentors and role models. And no matter where you are or what you're doing, you're a Maverick. I hope you'll come home and celebrate with us.

signature of James D. Spaniolo, President

James D. Spaniolo

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