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Danny Villanueva Scholarship Endowment reaches goal, breakfast will not be held

The Danny Villanueva Scholarship Endowment has reached the goal of $500,000 set by its founder and as a result there will not be a fundraising breakfast in October.

Danny Villanueva (NMSU Courtesy Photo)

Established in 1991 by New Mexico State University alumnus Danny Villanueva to recognize NMSU students who excel in leadership and community involvement, the endowment through the NMSU Foundation has funded 38 scholarships to date and will continue to fund student scholarships for years to come.

"We have reached our half a million dollar goal, so this is a good time to put a close to the breakfast event," Villanueva said. "There will be a steady stream of potential leaders who will benefit from this legacy."

One of those benefiting this fall is Elizabeth Fernandez, who is pursuing a master's in social work at NMSU. Fernandez, who has worked at the Community of Hope and is currently working with migrant workers, said the scholarship has made a big impact on her ability to pursue her graduate education.

"I was really nervous about how to pay for graduate school, but when I learned that I had received the scholarship, it was such an amazing feeling knowing I would not have to worry so much," Fernandez said. "I have attended the Villanueva Scholarship breakfast for several years as a volunteer with my student organizations, so it was wonderful to become a recipient."

Fundraising for the endowment started with golf tournaments, but a suggestion from NMSU's Chicano Programs resulted in the establishment of the breakfast event, which has brought many national leaders to the university.

Villanueva, who has continued to match funds raised each year for the endowment through the breakfast, said it would have been simpler to just give more money each year, but by inviting his friends to speak at the breakfast event he was able to expose NMSU to national leaders.

"I also selfishly wanted the speakers to learn about NMSU," Villanueva said.

Villanueva credited the success of the breakfast each year to the dedicated support of Chicano Programs Director Laura Gutierrez Spencer and Christina Chavez Kelley, a university administrator.

"This breakfast would not have happened each year without the total commitment and dedication of Laura and Christina," Villanueva said. "They have been the heart and soul of this breakfast."

Spencer said the breakfast was a success because of the many supporters.

"Due to the Villanuevas' generosity and the hard work of several individuals, many more students will be able to enjoy the benefits of this endowed scholarship in the future. This fundraiser would not have succeeded without the support of the NMSU administration, deans, faculty, staff and students, as well as NMSU's Dona Ana Community College, all of whom supported this important effort," Spencer said. "I also want to extend a heartfelt thanks to the NMSU Foundation, community businesses, organizations and elected officials, who provided corporate sponsorships, donated services, volunteered and purchased tickets to the breakfast."

Villanueva, a native of Tucumcari, N.M., attended NMSU on a football scholarship and after graduating in 1961 played for the Los Angeles Rams and the Dallas Cowboys. After he retired from professional sports, Villanueva became a Spanish language television pioneer. He co-founded the investment firm Bastion Capital in 1992 and more recently co-founded Rustic Canyon/Fontis Partners, an investment firm aimed at helping family businesses. In 1999, NMSU awarded him an honorary doctorate. He and his wife, Myrna, have funded the Villanueva Victory Club in the Stan Fulton Center as well as Myrna's Children's Village and many other programs at NMSU.