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Campus News
     
Your faculty and staff news since 1965
Current Issue: July 28, 2003
Volume 38, Number 24

President F. Chris Garcia's farewell address to the Board of Regents,
June 4, 2003

Mr. Chairman (Willard), may I please take a few minutes for a personal message? Thank you…and thank you Members of the Board.

First and foremost, I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude for the opportunity to serve our University this past year as its seventeenth President. This has been a tremendous honor for me…something to which I never aspired or even imagined. As a young boy growing up in neighborhoods just a couple of miles from the university, I only had the vaguest idea, if any, about what a university was. As I attended parochial and public schools in Albuquerque, so fascinated was I by teaching and learning that soon I had my heart set only on someday becoming a teacher. As I progressed through school, I learned about higher education and set my ambitions to attend UNM and earn the degrees and credentials necessary to become a teacher. As good fortune would have it, some of my kind and supportive professors here suggested that I should continue toward a doctorate degree and teach at the college level. A major milestone in my life occurred in 1970 when, on a divided vote by the UNM political science faculty (there was concern about hiring a "local"), I became an assistant professor here. I felt on top of the world. To be a university professor in my own hometown-this was the culmination of my dreams.

Although I never intended to be a university administrator, luck or fate would have it otherwise. Serendipitously, I became an associate Dean…followed by my being selected to be a Dean, a Vice President and Provost, and this past year a President.

This past year, serving in the position of president has been a tremendous experience for me. Being the president of the University of New Mexico is undoubtedly a singularly eye-opening and challenging experience. Although the challenges and pressures are great, overall it has been a fulfilling and satisfying experience-an educational one, to be sure-and I am sincerely grateful for this opportunity. I believe this past year has been a good one for the university. I believe we have had continuity and stability. In spite of some turbulent external events, the good works of our faculty, staff and students have continued with a minimum of disruption and with as much support as possible. We have not been inert or static, nor have we marked time; our momentum on an upward trajectory has been maintained. This is not the time nor place to evaluate this past year's administrative performance or accomplishments. At a later date, I will be providing the Board with my written observations about these. Ultimately, of course, it is for others to judge how we have done this past year.

Instead, at this point, I would like to offer thanks and express my gratitude to the many people who have contributed to any successes we might have had, but more importantly than that, who simply have made my presidency a positive experience for me.

First and foremost, I must thank my family-especially my parents and my wife. My parents are not college graduates. They grew up in two nearby barrios-my father in Martinez town; my mother in the South Broadway area. We didn't have many material riches, but my parents always gave my five younger siblings and me all the love, support and encouragement for education that underlay any success we have experienced. It is my good fortune that my parents are still living close by in the valley of Albuquerque; and in their 80's, they are still supportive, still interested in educational, political and civic affairs. Thank you Crucita and Flaviano. (Yes, that is what the "F" in F. Chris stands for).

My wife Sandy, in spite of many physical challenges, has always been my main source of support, my reality compass, and the "wind beneath my wings." In addition to her being primarily responsible for raising our two daughters, it would have been impossible for me to achieve any professional success without her understanding, assistance, encouragement and constant support. She has graciously accepted the fact that for a year we would be spending time together mainly at University functions. My debt of gratitude to her can never be fully paid.

Then there are many, many here at UNM who made this past year possible. Please forgive me for not having the time to mention you all by name, for I am truly grateful to all of you in this room (as well as those not here) whose talent, dedication, loyalty and hard work make the wheels of this institution go around.

In thanking individuals, I must begin with my faculty colleagues, especially the leadership of the Senate and the AAUP, who organized a petition drive signed by many of my colleagues. I had not even considered being a candidate, but when your peers honor you this way, it does make one think. I was greatly honored, but gratefully refused their petitioning. But they would not accept my answer…and the emails, phone calls and personal visits from faculty colleagues continued…and grew. Then I started to hear from staff members and from students and from members of the off-campus community…all encouraging me to be a candidate.

Very memorable was a visit I had from two members of the Board of Regents who came to my office, sat in chairs in front of my desk and pronounced that they were not going to leave until I accepted the candidacy. Fortunately, I had a class to teach. Regents Archuleta and Fortner left, but warned that they would be back! Thank you Regent Fortner and former Regent Archuleta. I also would like to thank former Regent Toliver, who in his eloquent and intensely spiritual manner almost had me convinced that I was the singularly qualified, optimal candidate ordained to be the next president.

I continued to receive urgings from many people, on and off campus, and to have extended discussions with many of them… to the point where I decided I would speak with the Chairman of the Board of Regents, Larry Willard. I had decided that this would be the crucial factor in my decision. Our interaction…the "vibes" that would be present…more than any objective details of the position would be a major, perhaps the deciding factor. Obviously, the meeting went very well. And I thank you, Chairman Willard, not only for that candid and frank first discussion, but also for your continued support and candidness, as well as your numerous contributions in many ways to our university, throughout this past year.

And I would like to thank the other members of our Board of Regents for their support and many contributions-former board members Archuleta, Toliver, Herrera and Anaya; continuing Regents Begay-Campbell and Fortner; and new regents Cook, and Koch, Griego-Raby and Eaves…and a commemorative thanks to my cousin, Donald Salazar.

No President can be successful without a top-notch group of people with whom he works most closely-the members of our Executive Cabinet and the staff in the Office of the President. We are fortunate to have a very talented, dedicated and industrious group of Vice Presidents-Brian, Phil, Julie, Judy, Cheo, as well as the other members of the Cabinet-Jerry, Terry and Ricardo. No President can succeed without a top-notch, top-level team…and this is what I have had. Administration has truly been a team effort. Plus they are a group of the nicest people one could ever know.

And I don't want to overlook all other the staff members-associates, assistants, directors, managers and supervisors who work long and hard in the Cabinet members' offices… and for that matter in offices and on the grounds all over our campuses. They are all due my thanks.

Every day I have been fortunate to be surrounded by a great team of people in the Office of the President. They have kept the more direct business of the President, and sometimes me personally, going on a daily basis in more ways than one. Diane, Patrice, Norma Jean, Liliana, Mitch, Bob-thank you.

Then there are the offices that report directly to me, and help keep us in compliance and hopefully out of trouble. My thanks go to Nick Estes and his colleagues in our Office of Legal Counsel, Susie Mullins and our Office of Internal Audit and to our Office of Equal Opportunity staff.

And when "event planning and execution" were so often necessary, I could always count on Scott, Gale, Lorraine and Ly.

My previous administrative positions have been primarily academic ones. And I would be remiss if I did not recognize the great contributions of our Academic Deans, department chairs and heads, and of course , our notable and accomplished faculty, without whose dedication and contributions, there would be no "flagship" university.

The Presidential position has expanded my view to see many new aspects of our "great people doing great things." This not only includes the divisions headed by our Vice Presidents, but also such organizations as our Athletic Department, which is so important to our communities. Special appreciation goes to AD Rudy Davalos, under whose leadership our athletes have not only reached high levels of athletic competition this year, but have also set an all-time record in their academic achievements.

There are so many others to thank-our Special Assistants -for Diversity, Roberto Ibarra and for Economic Development-John Young-and our branch campus Directors, and the branches' staff, faculty and students.

I also appreciated the positive relationships we had throughout the year with the organizational representatives of our main campus constituencies-Pat Kiska and the Staff council, Beverly Burris and the faculty senate, and our student leaders, Jennifer Onuska and Lorena Olmos.

I have gained an increased appreciation of how important to our well being our Alumni Association and our UNM Foundation are. Thanks, Steve and Bob.

You have heard how grateful I am to so many here on campus…and this is just the tip of the iceberg (or, perhaps more appropriately here, the top of the mesa ) that makes up the UNM community. One of my regrets is that I cannot thank everyone else personally. Although I cannot specifically mention here the other members of our UNM community, my gratitude and appreciation definitely includes all of you.

And of course, we are not an island. We are supported by numerous individuals and organizations off-campus. Although their support is critical to our success, at this point we can only express in a general way our deepest appreciation. We must give our special thanks to our state legislators, Governor Richardson, and those executive agencies which understand the importance of a first-rate university and have done their best to support our efforts.

I have very few regrets about this past year. One major one is that I have not been able to transcend my own physical limitations and be in more than one place at one time. Often I have been requested to appear at three or four functions simultaneously. Also I have not been able to always respond to you as I would like to have. Please realize that oftentimes the spirit has been willing, but it has just been physically impossible. I ask your understanding for this and extend my apologies.

Soon, I once more will be returning to my faculty position from an administrative position. This will be the fourth time I have done this. Surely, this will be a candidate for inclusion into some book of records as the "craziest career in higher education!" I will take with me many pleasant memories of wonderful people and experiences this past year.

My sincere and heartfelt thanks are extended to all who have made it possible for me to serve as the first 13th generation, native New Mexican, Hispanic, alumnus, political scientist president of UNM.

I wish everyone, including President-Designate Caldera, continuing success and well-being.

Thank you all very much.