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Danny Villanueva commits $2.5 million to NMSU fundraising campaign

New Mexico State University alumnus Danny Villanueva has committed $2.5 million to the university's "Doing What Counts" fundraising campaign, with $1 million of the gift designated for the NMSU Children's Village.

Danny and Myrna Villanueva react to a speaker at the Danny Villanueva Scholarship Breakfast at New Mexico State University. Danny Villanueva is chairing the university's "Doing What Counts" fundraising campaign. (NMSU photo by Darren Phillips)

The announcement was made Thursday morning at the Fifth Annual Danny Villanueva Scholarship Breakfast, sponsored by NMSU Chicano Programs. Villanueva referred to the Children's Village donation as a "belated happy birthday" gift to his wife Myrna, who had taken an interest in the university's preschool program during a previous visit to campus.
NMSU President Michael Martin, noting that the Villanuevas started their family while they were students at NMSU, said the children's program "henceforth will be known as Myrna's Children's Village."

Villanueva, a former NFL football star and Spanish language television pioneer who now heads a venture capital firm in Los Angeles, is chairing the university's five-year fundraising campaign. At a kickoff dinner Wednesday night, it was announced that $40 million already has been raised toward the campaign's $150 million goal.

"Excellence is a journey, not a destination," President Martin told a group of more than 200 alumni and friends gathered for the campaign announcement. "Donor support is absolutely essential in making New Mexico State University all it can be in serving New Mexico's citizens."

Top priorities for the largest fundraising effort undertaken in NMSU's 117-year history include endowed faculty chairs and professorships, scholarship endowments, funds to complete the renovation of the College of Education's O'Donnell Hall, construct a Native American Center and a Center for the Arts, and naming opportunities across campus.

Henry Cisneros, former secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, was the keynote speaker for the Danny Villanueva Scholarship Breakfast, the kickoff event for NMSU's Homecoming activities.

Christina Chavez Kelley, assistant to the president, announced that Thursday's breakfast raised approximately $40,000 for the Villanueva Scholarship Endowment.

"Danny matches every single penny we raise, so we will be adding about $80,000 to the endowment," Chavez Kelley said. That will enable the university to increase the number of scholarships funded by the endowment to three beginning in 2006, she said. The endowment currently funds one scholarship a year.

"My wife and I will always be grateful to NMSU, where we began our marriage," Villanueva said before the campaign launch. "It was here that we set the foundation for our family that has become the cornerstone of whatever success we have enjoyed. This is our chance to pay back."

The Villanueva gift will help expand programs at the Children's Village, located in a section of Cervantes Village at the corner of Sam Steele Way and Williams Avenue. The center opened its doors in October 2003 and provides care to about 50 children, mostly the children of NMSU's nontraditional students.

The village was established to incorporate all child and family services available at NMSU including the pre-school programs that were part of the Dove Learning Center housed in the basement of O'Donnell Hall for many years. The village also strives to make childcare more available for students and to serve as an educational lab.

An open house is scheduled at the Children's Village from 4 to 5:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 28.