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New Mexico State University

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NMSU Honors Outstanding Alumni

LAS CRUCES - Two alumni of the College of Agriculture and Home Economics were honored for longtime support of New Mexico State University during homecoming Oct. 27-29.

J.R. Chavez of Belen was selected as the New Mexico State University Distinguished Alumnus for the College of Agriculture during homecoming activities last month. For more than three decades, Chavez worked for NMSU's Cooperative Extension Service in Mora and Santa Fe counties. (11/02/2005) Courtesy of Chavez family

Jesus R. Chavez of Belen was selected as the college's distinguished alumnus. Jim T. Dunlap of Farmington was named NMSU's James F. Cole Memorial Service Award winner. They accepted their awards during the Alumni Association's Eye Opener breakfast Saturday (Oct. 29).

After earning an animal husbandry degree in 1938, Chavez combined his knowledge of agriculture with a love for helping others through his role at NMSU's Cooperative Extension Service offices in Mora and Santa Fe counties. He retired as program director in Santa Fe in 1973 after more than 30 years with Extension.

At age 90, Chavez still has a hand in the family cattle operation east of Tomé.

"He was always very proud to represent New Mexico State in everything he did," said his son, Ron, who manages the cattle ranch that stretches from Tomé to the base of the Manzano Mountains. "He was proud that he was able to use his education to help people."

J.R. Chavez was known for encouraging farmers and ranchers when they faced problems, and for his response when they found a solution. He would confirm their conclusions with a drawn-out, enthusiastic: "Coooorrect!"

Chavez was born into a family that had ranched outside Tomé for more than 50 years. "His passion was working out on his ranch. He'd be out there right now if his health permitted," Ron Chavez said.

J.R. Chavez said he attended NMSU after being encouraged by two teachers at Los Lunas High School. Chavez values not only his NMSU education, but also the chances he had to educate others and support agriculture through his Extension work.

"It's a wonderful organization," he said of NMSU. "They help you in every respect."

His nephew, Charlie Sanchez of Tomé, said Chavez's example led him to attend NMSU. "J.R. was a very strong advocate of the College of Agriculture and the programs they were doing, particularly in animal science."

Dunlap, the Cole award winner, is devoted to community service, whether teaching future leaders or developing rural fire departments and a rural water system.

"A longtime belief in my life has been that you need to earn the right to live in a community," Dunlap said. The NMSU graduate and former high school vocational-agriculture teacher tried to pass along that concept during his two years in Dora, three in Farmington and more than 17 years in Kirtland. In the mid-1960s, he encouraged his students to help form a rural water association in San Juan County.

"My ag students called the meeting to start the water system," Dunlap said. His former students also helped start rural fire departments in the county.

"Most all of them are involved in their communities," said Dunlap, who retired in 1976. One of his former students is Les Purcella, director of agricultural education-FFA at NMSU.

"He's an organizer and he knows how to get things done," Purcella said. "He is super busy in the community." Dunlap serves on the New Mexico FFA Association Advisory Council.

Dunlap said he often taps the training in water issues he received at NMSU, as well as the techniques he learned in setting and achieving goals.

Dunlap's water activities also include service as chairman of the Interstate Stream Commission, national director representing New Mexico in the National Rural Water Association and president of the Upper La Plata Water Users Association. He was a founding member of the New Mexico Rural Water Association and served three terms on the San Juan County Commission.

He earned a bachelor's degree in 1954 in agricultural education and a master's degree in vocational education in 1967.

Dunlap continues to promote NMSU to others. "It was the kind of place you would want your sons and daughters to go to, a wholesome environment."

When he's not volunteering his time for the community, Dunlap helps his sons, Larry and Darryl, operate the family business, The Farm Center, a John Deere equipment dealership in Farmington.