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International group of communicators to honor author Tony Hillerman

ALBUQUERQUE - An international organization of communications professionals will pay tribute to New Mexico author Tony Hillerman when they meet in Albuquerque June 16-19.

On June 19, Hillerman will receive the Reuben Brigham Award, which is presented each year by the Association for Communication Excellence to a communicator who has made a major contribution in the field of agriculture, natural resources, or life and human sciences at the regional, national or international level.

"Hillerman's writing sets a good example of reaching out to diverse audiences, and helps promote better understanding across cultures," said Terry Canup, a New Mexico State University program development specialist and one of the meeting organizers.

"Hillerman's insights are steeped in his boyhood in a tiny rural town, where he attended a boarding school for Potawatomi Indians," Canup said. "Interestingly, he grew up to write about the Indian culture of people in one of the lower 48 states' most rural and remote regions. His respectful service to these people makes him a particularly apt Brigham Award nominee."

A perennial best-selling author, Hillerman has written 18 mystery novels, four other books of fiction, and 11 nonfiction books. Four of his books have been made into films. His mystery books have Indian protagonists, a rarity in American fiction. His writing is noted for the details he provides about the culture of the people he writes about - Navajo, Hopi, European Americans and others. The Navajo Nation honored him with the Special Friend of the Dinč Award for the positive influence his works have had for their nation.

"For many of us, your fiction has been a gateway to a better understanding of ourselves, let alone a respectful and inviting path into the great cultures of the Southwest that we could not see before," said Bob Sams, in a letter inviting Hillerman to accept the award. Sams is president of ACE and director of Agriculture and Natural Resources Communication Services and Information Technology at the University of California-Davis. "For me, reading your novels has been a deep pleasure."

Hillerman was a farmer in Oklahoma prior to serving in World War II, where he won the Bronze Star and Silver Star for gallantry. He attended Oklahoma State prior to World War II, but earned his bachelor's degree at Oklahoma University.

From 1948 to 1962 he worked as a journalist for the Borger News Herald in Borger, Texas; Morning Press-Constitution in Lawton, Okla.; United Press International; and the Santa Fe New Mexican. He was an assistant to the University of New Mexico president from 1963 to 1966, and earned a master's degree. He joined the university's journalism faculty, where he taught until 1987. He was department chair from 1976 to 1981. He has written novels and non-fiction books from 1970 to the present.

The Reuben Brigham Award is offered in memory of Reuben Brigham (1887-1946), a native of Marlboro, Mass., and graduate of the University of Maryland. He served as a Cooperative Extension Service editor and 4-H Club agent in Maryland and was called to the Federal Extension Service office in 1917 to develop an editorial and visual aids service for Extension editors. Brigham traveled the nation, conferring with editors and directors, and helped states develop their own editorial offices as separate units.

He organized the American Association of Agricultural College Editors and served as its president, secretary and treasurer. He established the Extension Service Review in 1939 and participated in the Farm and Home Hour of the National Broadcasting Company. During the Depression, he helped develop action agencies of the Agricultural Adjustment Administration. As head of a regional section of the AAA information office, he ensured that Extension staffs were involved in that organization's information plans. He later was appointed assistant director of the Federal Extension Service and was associated with Extension directors, the land-grant college association and policy-making committees of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Brigham died in Chicago while attending a meeting at the National 4-H Club Congress.

More than 450 members of ACE and the National Extension Technology Conference will come to Albuquerque from across the U.S. and include numerous members from Canada and international research institutes, such as the International Livestock Research Institute in Nairobi, Kenya. NMSU and the memberships of ACE and NETC in Arizona and California are hosting the event, which will be headquartered at the Embassy Suites Albuquerque. The two organizations meet together in odd years and separately in even years. The last time ACE met in New Mexico was in the 1960s in Las Cruces. This is the first NETC conference in New Mexico.