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NMSU Foundation presents awards, announces campaign milestone at annual dinner

The New Mexico State University Foundation celebrated its annual Partners in Excellence Dinner as part of Homecoming 2009 Oct. 21 by honoring many distinguished partners and announcing that the Doing What Counts campaign has reached $214 million to date.



Tom Gale, seated, celebrates his Branding Iron Award Oct. 21 with, from left, daughter-in-law Gail Gale, Alexandra Nason Hall and New Mexico State University Emeritus President Gerald Thomas at the NMSU Foundation's Partners in Excellence Dinner. The Branding Iron award is the highest honor the NMSU Foundation gives to an individual. (Courtesy Photo)

The comprehensive campaign is the most ambitious fundraising endeavor undertaken by the university and has already exceeded expectations. The original goal of $150 million by December 2008 was met early in the effort causing the NMSU Foundation Board of Directors to revise the goal to $225 by December 2010.

"As we honored those who contribute to NMSU everyday at our Partners in Excellence Dinner, we wanted to celebrate the campaign's success. The generous gifts we have received are the reason we continue to grow and transform NMSU," said Nick Franklin, vice president of university advancement and executive director of the NMSU Foundation.

Awards presented at the dinner included the Branding Iron Awards, the Spirit of Service Awards, and the Circle of Excellence Awards.

The Branding Iron award is the highest honor the NMSU Foundation gives to an individual. It recognizes significant and unique contributions to the university. Receiving the award this year were Tom Gale, Ed Lujan and Waded Cruzado.

Gale came to NMSU in 1971 to be dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. His impact on the university, community and state was immediate and continued long after his official retirement from NMSU in 1991. Even after retirement, he worked to establish the Center for Latin American Studies, worked with the College of Education to improve the level of teacher education in New Mexico, served on the state Commission on Higher Education, created the Academy for Learning in Retirement, served on the NMSU Foundation Board of Directors and several other university and community boards. He and his wife, Mary, have supported many campus programs and established the Thomas M. Gale endowed fund for excellence in the College of Arts and Sciences.

Lujan earned two degrees from the New Mexico College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts. After a brief teaching career, he joined the family insurance business in the late 1960s. From 1968 forward, he served as the chief executive officer for the Manuel Lujan Agencies in Albuquerque. Now retired, he continues to serve as the company's chairman of the board. He is a very loyal Aggie and has served on many boards and supported many programs at the university. He received an honorary doctorate from NMSU in May 2000.

Cruzado was appointed executive vice president and provost at NMSU Sept. 1, 2007. From August 2008-May 2009, she served NMSU as interim president. Prior to her service as provost, she led NMSU's College of Arts and Sciences as dean for four years. During her interim presidency at NMSU, achievements included gains in the university's Comprehensive Campaign despite a troubled economy and success at the 2009 session of the New Mexico Legislature that included $5.5 million in additional funding for the Center for the Arts. She will leave NMSU in January 2010 to become the president of Montana State University.

NMSU benefits each year from the intangible contributions that come from alumni and friends. The Spirit of Service award is designed to recognize those contributions. This year's recipients were Walter Hines, Bruce Ritter and Danny Villanueva.

Hines, who has two degrees in mechanical engineering from NMSU, has been active with the alumni association wherever he has lived, raising money to support student scholarships and just promoting NMSU. He and his wife, Bette, also established a deferred gift annuity to support NMSU athletics well into the future.

Ritter earned his accounting degree from NMSU in 1971. He has been a CPA in Roswell for many years. Ritter is a behind the scenes man who has been a quiet supporter of the business college, the President's Associates scholarship program and Aggie football.

Villanueva has given back to NMSU in many ways. One of the most impactful has been the Chicano Program's scholarship breakfast held at the start of Homecoming for the past several years. At this event, guests were able to hear nationally recognized speakers invited by Villanueva. He has continued to match funds raised during these breakfasts each year. The endowment reached its original $500,000 goal this summer.

Circle of Excellence donors also were recognized at the dinner. Those recognized in the Circle of Excellence - Gold category for achieving a cumulative giving history of more than $1 million are Jacobs Technology, Lockheed-Martin/Sandia Laboratories, Wells Fargo Bank, the Wolslager Foundation, the late Mr. and Mrs. W.F. "Dub" Martin, and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. There are 25 other donors at this level.

Those recognized in the Circle of Excellence - Silver category for achieving a cumulative giving history of $500,000-$1 million were John Yates Sr. and his wife, Charlotte. There are 29 other donors at this level.

Those recognized in the Circle of Excellence - Bronze category for achieving a cumulative giving history at the university of $250,000-$499,999 were Rama and Ammu Devasthali, Lumina Foundation for Education and Belva Roark. There are 52 other individuals, corporations and foundations at this level.