As outgoing UTEP President Dr. Diana Natalicio leads her last commencement ceremony before she retires this month, one local family has realized they share notable connections to her tenure.
As KTSM previously reported, Dr. Natalicio announced she was retiring in May 2018.
Wallace Hardgrove became nostalgic as his youngest child Nichole was preparing to graduate. A UTEP alumnus himself, he looked back to when he walked across the stage in 1988–the first year Dr. Natalicio held her first graduation ceremony as UTEP President.
The Hardgrove patriarch realized this was coming to a full circle with his daughter Nichole graduating as part of Dr. Natalicio’s final ceremony.
“It’s sort of surreal to have my daughter out walking across the stage as it’s Dr. Natalicio’s last graduating class so it’s super special graduation for the family,” Hardgrove said.
The Hardgrove family proudly cheered on Nichole as she earned her degree on Saturday, but also reflected on Dr. Natalicio’s success and achievements as the university leader.
“We’ve seen the community grow and the city grow through her leadership and accomplish tier one but I’ve had the benefit of seeing my family grow simultaneously with her leadership and the growth in our community,” Hardgrove said.
As KTSM previously reported, UTEP reached national research top tier ranking under Dr. Natalicio’s tenure.
Wallace Hardgrove said he became emotional as he watched his youngest child follow his footsteps in graduating from UTEP 31 years later.
“Not going to lie I had a few lumps in the throat remembering my 31 years ago walking across the stage,” Hardgrove said.
The new graduate called the unique coincidence a surreal and notable experience the family shares with the retiring president.
“it’s really exciting to say that you know she’s gone on this journey with us and we’ve gone through this journey with her,” Nichole said.
To add to the unique coincidences for the Hardgroves, their son Joshua also graduated from UTEP in 2014 as part of UTEP’s centennial graduating class.
“It’s a very weird strange coincidence but also very cool we got to be as a family part of that experience for not just us but for Dr. Natalicio,” Joshua Hardgrove said.
Dr. Natalicio is leading her final UTEP commencement ceremony on Sunday at 2 p.m.