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Woods, Burke, Estrada win public service awards

A top New Mexico State University administrator, a former NMSU administrator and a well-known restaurant owner with ties to the university and community are three of 10 people who have been selected for 2006 New Mexico Distinguished Public Service Awards.

Ben Woods, NMSU senior vice president for planning, physical resources and university relations, Gerald Burke, former NMSU vice president for administration and agricultural economics and agricultural business professor, and Roberto Estrada, restaurant owner and founder of the Whole Enchilada Festival, received their awards Wednesday (Nov. 1) at a banquet at the Marriott Pyramid North in Albuquerque.

Ben Woods"The people who received this award belong to a truly special group of individuals. They have given so much of themselves for the university, the community and the state. We are honored by their service and proud of their achievements," said NMSU president Michael Martin.

"I am humbled and yet pleased to be part of this special group and even more so when I think of all the people who have gone before us," Woods said.

Woods serves on the steering committee for the Mesilla Valley Hospice Capital Campaign, the Community Advisory Board for First Community Bank, the MountainView Regional Medical Center Board of Trustees, the Greater Las Cruces Chamber of Commerce and the Mesilla Valley Economic Development Alliance's Board of Directors. He also is a New Mexico Amigo, a select group of business leaders from across New Mexico who travel in support of economic development and promotion of state activities, and for several years, he served on the Metropolitan Planning Organization's Technical Advisory Committee.

"Ben has always recognized that participation in community and civic organizations is good for NMSU as well as good for the soul," said Darrell Smith, university fire chief, noting Woods' involvement with several civic organizations, his church and Las Cruces High School as a band student's parent.

Dr. Gerald BurkeGerald Burke worked with the New Mexico Legislature as the educational representative for New Mexico State University. He also served as a consultant on education issues to governors, cabinet members, legislators and legislative committees. This year he led the campaign for General Obligation bond funding for New Mexico universities.

Patricio Quintana, a retired NMSU administrator, worked with Burke for the past 40 years as a doctoral student, NMSU administrator and provost of Dona Ana Community College. Quintana said the two men also worked together for six years on the New Mexico Commission of Higher Education.

"Dr. Burke is well-deserving of this award," Quintana said Thursday. "He cares about people. He's rough on the outside, but putty on the inside."

Roberto EstradaRoberto Estrada, owner of Roberto's Mexican Restaurant in Las Cruces, has supported NMSU and Dona Ana Community College for many years, sponsoring luncheons for the community college's spring and fall convocations. He also sponsored breakfasts and luncheons for golf tournaments and the school exchange program between Las Cruces and Lerdo, its sister city in Mexico. In addition to contributing to the Las Cruces Public Schools and student organizations for more than 20 years, Estrada also donated food from his restaurant to the Third Judicial District Court's adult drug court program, a program that works to change criminal behavior through judicial supervision and case management.

"Roberto's generosity has helped the NMSU Athletics Department and the Las Cruces community," said McKinley Boston, NMSU athletics director. "He is very humble about his actions and prefers not to be in the spotlight, but it's very important that his accomplishments be recognized."

Other winners included Don Chalmers, Randy Harris, Roger McClellan, Don McLeod, the late Esther Martinez, Elena Montoya and Lifetime Award recipient Sherman McCorkle.