UTSA’s Historic First Class

President Flawn signs the diploma for the first graduating student against Rep. Frank Lombardino’s back, reenacting the historic event when Gov. Preston Smith signed the legislation creating UTSA on Lombardino’s back.

UTSA’s Historic First Class

Susan Bolado becomes first student to graduate with 81 other master’s scholars

[ This article was originally published in UTSA newsletter The Discourse in September 1974 ]

The day was perfect. It was sunny and warm with the pleasant diversion of a late summer breeze. At 3 p.m. the processional began, and UTSA faculty members and graduates in traditional academic regalia walked across the courtyard to The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio auditorium.

The occasion was a historic one. On August 18 UTSA awarded degrees to 82 students—the university’s first graduates.

Bevington Reed, commissioner of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, Texas College and University System, delivered the commencement address. Speaking of accomplishments since the university opened its doors in June 1973, he called UTSA “an island of light,” a place of happiness and challenge, and he compared it to the free University of West Berlin, which shines from within East German borders.

Reed told the graduates that they had added to the building of the tradition of a new university. “I am envious of the time in which you live,” he said.

In 1969 Gov. Preston Smith signed the bill creating UTSA in front of the Alamo using Rep. Frank Lombardino’s broad back for support. Lombardino had introduced the legislation. Following Reed’s address, President Peter T. Flawn signed UTSA’s first diploma on the back of Lombardino as a symbolic gesture.

The diploma was awarded to Susan Bolado, a 1973 graduate of Southwest Texas State University and mother of two sons. When she walked across the stage to receive her master of business administration degree, she became the first graduate in UTSA’s history.

At the commencement ceremonies UTSA awarded 10 M.B.A. degrees, one master of science degree, and 71 master of arts degrees. The degrees were conferred by A.G. McNeese Jr., chairman of The University of Texas System Board of Regents; James Bauerle, San Antonio member of the Board of Regents; and President Flawn.

As part of the academic ceremony the graduates were hooded on stage; the hoods, the part of the academic regalia that signifies the degree held, showed silk linings of orange and white, UTSA’s colors.

Shortly after 4 p.m. President Flawn formally closed the commencement ceremonies, and faculty and staff gathered in the courtyard to congratulate the university’s first graduates. It was a perfect occasion on a perfect day.


In 2009 first graduate Susan Bolado spoke with Sombrilla Magazine about the event that put her in UTSA’s history books and on the front page of San Antonio newspapers. Bolado said she still had the newspaper clippings from that day. “I got clippings from as far away as Tennessee,” she says. But what she doesn’t have is the diploma that Flawn signed onstage. “They didn’t give me that one,” she says. “They kept that one that was signed and sent me another one.”