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Nava, Taylor honored at NMSU College of Education scholarship event

New Mexico State University's College of Education honored state Sen. Cynthia Nava and the Honorable J. Paul Taylor with the first Aggie Cornerstone Awards at a dinner event June 5.

State Sen. Cynthia Nava and the Honorable J. Paul Taylor holding their Aggie Cornerstone Awards, presented by the NMSU College of Education.
New Mexico State University's College of Education honored state Sen. Cynthia Nava and the Honorable J. Paul Taylor with the first Aggie Cornerstone Awards at a dinner event June 5. (Courtesy Photo)

The College of Education established the award to celebrate excellence in education and recognize individuals who have made a significant impact on children and families in New Mexico. Proceeds from the dinner event will support College of Education scholarships.

"J. Paul and Cynthia have had a special purpose. They have been a bedrock in our state for many years," said NMSU College of Education Dean Michael Morehead. "These two individuals have left a legacy of accomplishments that have impacted thousands of children and families in New Mexico."

NMSU President Barbara Couture said she had enjoyed getting to know both Nava and Taylor.

"To me J. Paul has always exhibited grace, integrity, dignity and generosity," Couture said. "The one thing I could count on with Cynthia was her 'What can I do to help' attitude."

Garrey Carruthers, dean of the NMSU College of Business, who served as the keynote speaker, said that Nava and Taylor were great New Mexicans who always possessed a quiet confidence. He explained that quiet confidence was a primary attribute of a true leader and indicated that traits of an individual with quiet confidence were a caring attitude, being willing to help others, holding on to your principles no matter what, making your point even when it is not popular and being yourself.

When Nava and Taylor accepted their awards, they both attributed their successes to teamwork.

"I have been so fortunate to be a member of some really great teams," Nava said.

Taylor agreed, "You cannot do it alone. You have to have people to encourage and support you."

Taylor has dedicated a lifetime to public service. From his more than three decades with Las Cruces Public Schools as a teacher, principal and superintendent, to his 18 years in the New Mexico House of Representatives, Taylor has made numerous contributions to the state. As a State Representative in District 33, Taylor was known as a champion of programs for New Mexico's poor and disabled, as well as an advocate for K-12 education, most notably early childhood and bilingual education. He also is a passionate supporter for arts and culture initiatives.

Taylor has served on numerous boards and commissions including the Museum of New Mexico Foundation, the New Mexico Border Commission, the Rio Grande Historical Collections, the New Mexico Historical Foundation, Branigan Library, Dona Ana Mental Health Association and Rivers Academy. He also has received many other honors for his public service, including a New Mexico Endowment for the Humanities "Contribution to the Arts" award in 2000 and a state Historic Preservation Division "Heritage Preservation Lifetime Achievement Award" in 2004.

During her five terms as a state senator, Nava has served as chair of the senate education committee and the Legislative Education Study Committee. She also co-chaired the Capital Outlay Committee Task Force and was the lead sponsor on several significant pieces of legislation to improve education in New Mexico.

In addition to her legislative service, Nava has served the Gadsden Independent School District in various capacities since 1980, ending her extensive career with them when she retired in 2011 as the superintendent. As the Gadsden superintendent, which is New Mexico's fourth largest school district with more than 14,000 students, she was responsible for 22 schools, more than 1,000 employees and in excess of $2 million. Nava inherited a district with a $3.7 million deficit and left the district with a balanced budget and restored fiscal responsibility. She also redesigned four schools, turning underperforming schools into those that made A's and B's in the state rating system.