There is no better reminder of the importance of what we do in higher education than seeing our students graduate. We celebrated the Class of 2017 in UNT style at commencement and at our first-ever UNT Graduation Block Party in May.
The estimated 8,900 graduates in 2016-17 join our 393,000 alumni who are fueling the success of so many industries, whether in the office, lab, boardroom, studio or classroom. In this issue you can read about "taste makers" who are working as successful restaurant owners and other alumni who are making a mark in the NFL.
Our students and alumni are using their education and knowledge to change the world. We celebrated that impact at our second annual Wingspan Gala in March, honoring standout members of the UNT family -- alumnus G. Brint Ryan ('88, '88 M.S.), faculty member Richard DeRosa and May graduate Marisa Nowicki ('17), this issue's essayist. The Mean Green Country celebration was made even more special thanks to sensational performances by our students and by the members of Eli Young Band, who returned to their alma mater to play at the gala and at an exclusive concert afterward. The gala and contributions to our National Merit Finalists program generated nearly $1 million to support academic excellence.
The sky is the limit for our nearly 38,000 students, our alumni and our Carnegie-ranked Tier One research university. We're expecting another enrollment increase this fall, fueled by more freshmen, National Merit Finalists and doctoral students. Our students also have earned top honors in national competitions. Our researchers have made important breakthroughs in areas such as the fight against cancer. And our list of 62 academic programs in the nation's Top 100 continues to grow. You can see progress all around. And you can feel the rising tide of greatness, fueled by more than 125 years of excellence in making dreams come true. Onward and upward!