Ernesto G. Usabiaga ('59) didn't realize it at the time. But when he earned his marketing degree from UNT six decades ago, it was the beginning of an enduring family legacy. So far, his brother, two sons, a nephew and a grandson also have left their native Mexico to attend the university.
Their UNT business degrees have helped them run their thriving business SuSazón, a food distribution company near their hometown of Celaya in the Mexican state of Guanajuato.
The UNT family tradition was born from a simple invitation and some good advice. In 1956, a friend of Ernesto G.'s asked him to visit campus and he ended up enrolling, although at one point he considered other options.
"It was my language teacher, J.L. Gerding, who advised me to stay here," he says. "He made me realize that opportunities in business administration would provide a career better adapted to my future in Mexico. I'm still grateful to him, as well as the families and friends who helped me in this new experience."
Ever since, each Usabiaga alumnus has worked diligently to persuade the next college-age relative to follow in his footsteps. Ernesto G.'s 20-year-old grandson, Ernesto B., knew where his relatives wanted him to go to college.
"My dad was always dropping hints about Denton and UNT and his experience here," Ernesto B. says, "but I always wanted to go to a university in a bigger city since I was born in such a small town."
That changed following a campus visit.
"Dallas is 40 minutes away, and UNT's international program is really good," says Ernesto B., now a junior majoring in logistics and supply chain management with a minor in marketing. "When you come here, alone, for the first time, it can be challenging. But UNT does a lot, like with orientation and teachers who assign teamwork, to help you meet people."
The reputation of UNT's logistics program was another draw.
"It's one of the best in the nation," he says, "and most of the faculty members are still active in the industry, so they have a fresh perspective on what is happening in the logistics and supply chain world."
Business degrees have been important to the Usabiagas, who collectively run SuSazón. Ernesto G.'s sons Jorge Ernesto ('86), who studied administrative management, and Mauricio ('87), who studied production and operations management, started the business in 1992. His brother Guillermo "Memo" Usabiaga Reynoso ('61) and nephew Juan P. Usabiaga ('93) studied marketing.
"My experience at UNT gave me the basis to run a business," says Jorge Ernesto, Ernesto B.'s father. "We constantly conduct business transactions with American and Canadian companies, and UNT helped us understand the American way of doing business and provided us with opportunities to learn English."
Ernesto B.'s logistics degree will come in handy.
"I want to stay in the U.S. for a while and open a distribution network," he says. "Right now, we don't export much out of Mexico, so that would be the next step."
But first comes his senior year -- and another family member to welcome. His brother Alejandro is slated to begin his business studies this fall. Their brother Emilio, in middle school, sees UNT in his future as well.
"Education has always been a tradition for our family," Ernesto G. says. "And I'm happy to say, 62 years after I arrived in Denton, we've continued that unique legacy with this university."