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Gonzales, Villanueva to receive honorary doctorates

Two New Mexico State University graduates will return to their alma mater for spring commencement May 15 to receive honorary doctorates in recognition of their achievements.

Ciriaco Q. Gonzales, a 1954 graduate, is being honored for his national leadership in initiatives that have dramatically increased the diversity of students entering biomedical research and health professions. Danny Villanueva, a 1960 graduate, is being recognized for his accomplishments as an athlete, broadcaster, entrepreneur and humanitarian.

The commencement program begins at 2 p.m. in the Pan American Center at NMSU. More than 1,800 students are candidates for degrees and about 1,100 of those are expected to participate in the ceremony.

Gonzales was director of the Minority Biomedical Research Support (MBRS) Program at the National Institutes of Health for more than two decades. For the past three years he has served as director of the Division of Disadvantaged Assistance in the U.S. Public Health Service's Bureau of Health Professions.

Under Gonzales' leadership, the MBRS Program was created to increase the numbers of Hispanic, American Indian and African-American scientists engaged in biomedical research. Since 1974, more than 350 students have participated in the MBRS Program at NMSU and graduated with bachelor's degrees in science disciplines. Eighty-one percent of them have advanced to graduate schools and medical schools.

A native of Socorro, Gonzales received his bachelor's degree in biology at NMSU, his master's in entomology and toxicology at the University of Arizona, and his doctorate in entomology and physiology at the University of California at Berkeley.

Villanueva, born in Tucumcari and raised in Calexico, Calif., came to NMSU on a football scholarship. After graduating with a bachelor's in English, he played professionally for eight years, first for the Los Angeles Rams and then for the Dallas Cowboys, establishing club and league kicking records and volunteering his time to work with young people.

Villanueva's success on the playing field was followed by a remarkable rise to national prominence in Spanish-language broadcasting. As news director at KMEX-TV in Los Angeles, he led the station to a Peabody Award, one of broadcast journalism's highest honors. He quickly progressed to station manager, general manager, vice president and president. He also was a director and senior vice president of Spanish International Communications Corp., which owned KMEX and other stations, from 1971 until the company was sold in 1986.

In 1990, Villanueva launched his current career, as founding partner and chairman of Bastion Capital Corp. in Los Angeles, a venture capital firm.

Villanueva established a scholarship endowment at NMSU and returns to his alma mater each year for the Danny Villanueva Benefit Golf Tournament, which funds scholarships for Hispanic students at NMSU.

Karl Hill
April 30, 1999