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Diversity advocate, leader Chavez Kelley retires from NMSU after 25 years

Longtime Aggie alumnus and senior administrator Christina Chavez Kelley will retire from New Mexico State University effective Aug.1.

Christina Chavez Kelley
New Mexico State University?s Christina Chavez Kelley will retire from the university on Aug. 1. (Photo by Darren Phillips)

Chavez Kelley most recently held the title of assistant vice president for the Office of Student Diversity and Outreach. She served nine administrations at NMSU as assistant to the president.

A native of Las Cruces and a proud graduate of Mayfield High School, Chavez Kelley attended NMSU as an undergraduate. During her student tenure at NMSU, Chavez Kelley served in student government as a senator for the College of Arts & Sciences and an Associated Students of NMSU justice. She was the first female ex-officio student regent at NMSU.

After graduating from Catholic Law School in Washington, D.C., in 1978, Chavez Kelley clerked for New Mexico Chief Justice Dan Sosa and then practiced law in Santa Fe. During the administration of New Mexico Gov. Toney Anaya, she served as the cabinet secretary for the Regulation & Licensing Department.

In 1989, NMSU President Jim Halligan appointed Chavez Kelley to the position of assistant to the president. Since her days as a student, Chavez Kelley has been a fervent supporter and promoter of academics, athletics, diversity and community relations. For many years she supervised the areas of athletics, police, parking and real estate. She served as assistant legal counsel and assisted with Town & Gown and community relations. She also lobbied for NMSU.

During the administration of President Jay Gogue, Chavez Kelley assisted with minority recruitment and retention efforts and served on the Diversity Council.

During the administration of President Michael Martin, Chavez Kelley supervised the Office of Institutional Equity. After an assault on a gay student on campus, the administration responded quickly to address the situation. With the support of President Martin, Chavez Kelley established the Sexual & Gender Diversity Resource Center as a safe place for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer students and their allies to find support and advocacy for their needs.

In recognition of her leadership on their behalf, the students of the SGDRC established the Christina Chavez Kelley Award, which is presented every year at the Lavender Graduation Ceremony to a staunch supporter of GLBTQ efforts.

In recent years, Chavez Kelley focused primarily on diversity at NMSU. When she became the assistant vice president for the Office of Student Diversity in June 2010, Chavez Kelley supervised the American Indian Program, Black Programs, Chicano Programs, the Indian Resource Center, the SGDRC and NM MESA.

She had a tremendous impact on behalf of diversity during her tenure at NMSU. Chavez Kelley partnered with Chicano Programs in the development of the Danny Villanueva Scholarship Breakfast. In great part because of her connections in the community and her fundraising abilities, the Danny Villanueva Scholarship achieved the goal of establishing a half-million-dollar endowment for scholarships for student leaders at NMSU.

Chavez Kelley also worked with Justin McHorse, director of the American Indian Program, to facilitate the opening of the American Indian Student Center and the acquisition of furniture for the new building. Chavez Kelley and Black Programs Director Festus Addo-Yobo sponsored a ceremony honoring former Black Programs Director Andrew Wall. At the ceremony, a campus street was renamed ?Andrew Wall Place.?

Chavez Kelley, or ?CCK? as she is commonly known, is also an active leader, donor and past chair of the Hispanic Faculty/Staff Caucus of NMSU.

Upon learning of her retirement, former NMSU President Jay Gogue said, ?I have tremendous respect for CCK. She not only helped me understand the culture, the history and traditions of New Mexico, she made sure that I represented NMSU in a way that was acceptable to her values. It was a great honor for me to work with CCK ? she is a tough lady who demands honesty and integrity. Her standard of excellence will be greatly missed at NMSU.?

Gogue currently serves as president of Auburn University.

Chavez Kelley is a member of a number of community organizations including the Blue Cross Blue Shield of N.M. Board of Directors, the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, the KRWG Patron Board of Directors, the N.M. Bar, the N.M. Hispanic Bar Association, the N.M. Women?s Bar Association and the Pan American Round Table.

She plans to remain active in the local community, continuing to provide support and encouragement to those in need. Chavez Kelley is married to Michael G. Kelley. Their daughter, Michaela, will graduate from NMSU in December.