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NMSU Alumni Association to honor Distinguished Alumni

The New Mexico State University Alumni Association will honor several accomplished Aggies during a "Distinguished Alumni Dinner" at 5 p.m. Oct. 25 at Corbett Center's Ballrooms.


Distinguished Alumni are selected by their colleges based on personal accomplishment, professional achievement or charitable service for, or outside of, NMSU.

At the dinner, the Alumni Association also will present the James F. Cole Memorial Award for Service to an NMSU alumnus who has demonstrated outstanding involvement with NMSU, as well as civic, humanitarian and professional achievement.

This year, the James F. Cole Memorial Award for Service goes to the Honorable J. Paul Taylor '42, '54, '63, nominated by the College of Arts and Sciences.

The 2013 distinguished alumni are:
-Chris Baker '86, College of Arts and Sciences, Social Sciences.
-Debra P. Hicks '84, College of Engineering.
-Alfred Paul Chavez '10, '12, College of Extended Learning.
-Eduardo Holguin '75, '79, College of Education.
-Calvin Ward '55, '57, College of Agricultural, Consumer, and Environmental Sciences.
-Patrick Kerry Moore '90, '92, College of Arts and Sciences, Fine Arts and Humanities.
-Lee Ellen Banks '88, College of Business.
-Margaret Ruth McCowen '71, College of Health and Social Services.
-Ramoncita R. Maestas '77, '78, College of Arts and Sciences, Sciences.
-Raul D. Prieto '84, '85, International Distinguished Alumnus.

Taylor is a James F. Cole Memorial Award recipient and graduated from NMSU in 1942, 1954 and 1963. He served in the U.S. Navy before working at NMSU for five years. Following his time at NMSU, Taylor worked in public education for 34 years. In 1986, Taylor was first elected into the New Mexico State Legislature. He was re-elected eight times before retiring from public office in 2004. Taylor secured funding for three major facilities at NMSU, including the Zuhl Library, the Chemistry and Biochemistry building expansion, and the College of Health and Social Services building.

Baker is one of the distinguished alumni from the College of Arts and Sciences and graduated from NMSU in 1986 with a degree in journalism. He has served as the publisher of the Taos News, which has been named the "Best Weekly Newspaper in the United States" by the National Newspaper Association. In addition to his professional achievements, Baker also has contributed to the university by providing paid summer internships totaling more than $100,000.

Hicks is the distinguished alumna from the College of Engineering where she received a degree in civil engineering in 1984. She currently serves as the president and chief executive officer of Pettigrew and Associates, and has owned the family firm since 1990. She is involved in numerous organizations, including College of Engineering organizations. Some of her projects include a 1983 airport lighting project, water and sewer systems design and local streets. She continues to serve NMSU by providing internships and co-op opportunities for undergraduate engineering students.

Chavez is a distinguished alumnus from the College of Extended Learning. He earned a bachelor's degree from NMSU in applied science in 2010 and a master's in communication studies in 2012. Currently, Chavez works as an adjunct instructor for Dona Ana Community College and has served on the Fire Science Advisory Board for the past 12 years. He also is a full-time graduate student working toward his second master's degree in education.

Holguin is the distinguished alumnus from the College of Education. He received his bachelor's from NMSU in science elementary education, as well as his master's in counseling and guidance. For 27 years he taught as a bilingual teacher at Booker T. Washington Elementary School. Holguin helped create, support and pass the Three Tiered Licensure bill, giving teachers compensation for their continued improvement through demonstration skills.

Ward is the distinguished alumnus from the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences. He earned a bachelor's degree from NMSU in entomology, plant pathology and weed science in 1955 as well as a master's degree in 1957 in plant pathology, genetics and physiology. Ward is a tenured faculty member at Rice University and has served as a charter member and contributing founder of the ACES Alumni Chapter. He also has been a consistent donor to the Era Rentfrow Memorial Fund.

Moore is a distinguished alumnus from the College of Arts and Sciences. He graduated in 1990 with a bachelor's degree in history and government and a master's in public history in 1992. Moore works as the public history program director at the University of West Florida where he was the co-creator of the Next Exit History, an application providing users the opportunity to learn more about the history and culture of America. In addition, he is currently the president-elect for the National Council of Public History and returns to Las Cruces to mentor and lecture for the NMSU graduate history program.

Banks is the distinguished alumna from the College of Business and graduated from NMSU in 1988 with a degree in accounting. Currently, she is working at Varay Systems, a finance company based in El Paso. She also is the treasurer of the NMSU Foundation Board of Directors and a member of the President's Associates Scholarship Board of Directors. She is a lifetime member of the NMSU Alumni Association, joining as a lifetime member shortly after graduation.

McCowen is the distinguished alumna from the College of Health and Social Services. She graduated with a bachelor's degree in sociology and social welfare in 1971. McCowen has held several positions, including her role as CEO of Mesilla Valley Hospital. She also runs her own fitness business. She sits on the College of Health and Social Sciences advisory board.

Maestas is a distinguished alumna from the College of Arts and Sciences. She graduated with a bachelor's degree in biology in 1977, as well as in 1978 with a bachelor's in chemistry. Maestas is a family physician and is working as an associate professor in the Department of Family Medicine at the University of Washington.

Prieto is the distinguished alumnus from the International and Border Programs. He graduated from the College of Business where he received a degree in accounting, and a minor in economics. His career has focused on international tax and accounting for more than 25 years. His firm, Strickler and Prieto, is a leading accounting and consulting firm in the El Paso and Juarez region. Prieto serves NMSU as an advocate and ambassador.