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Campus News
Your faculty and staff news since 1965
Current Issue:  May 6, 2002
Volume 37, Number 20

Author, advocate honored at May 11 Commencement
2,578 to receive degrees

An author and an advocate for children—both of whom have had a profound influence on the lives of many New Mexicans—will receive honorary degrees at the UNM 2002 Spring Commencement ceremony, Saturday, May 11, at 9 a.m. in the University Arena (The Pit).

A total of 2,578 degrees are projected to be conferred upon UNM main campus graduates at the ceremony. Of the total, the projected breakdown is as follows: 1,911 bachelor’s degrees; 338 master’s degrees; 63 doctorate degrees; 102 juris doctorate degrees; 3 post-master’s degrees; 69 medical doctorate degrees; 84 pharmacy doctorate degrees; and 8 education specialists degrees.


New Mexico resident, author and poet Simon J. Ortiz will receive an Honorary Doctorate of Letters Degree and Angela “Angie” Vachio, executive director of Peanut Butter and Jelly Family Services, Inc. (PB&J), which she helped found nearly 30 years ago, will receive an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters Degree.

Simon J. OrtizOrtiz, who is widely regarded as one of today’s most important Native American poets, is the author of 15 books and the editor or co-editor of five others. These include poems, short stories, essays and children’s books. His principal collections of poetry are “Going for the Rain” (1976), “A Good Journey” (1977), “Fight Back: for the Sake of the People, for the Sake of the Land” (1980), “From Sand Creek” (1981), “Woven Stone” (1992), and “After and Before the Lightening” (1994). His short stories are published in “Howbay Indians” (1978), “Fightin’” (1983) and “Men on the Moon” (1999).
In his writing, Ortiz draws strength from the storytelling heritage of his people. He “uses straightforward and fluid language reminiscent of the Indian oral tradition to depict Native American life—the struggles, sufferings, triumphs and pains of everyday existence,” according to “Contemporary Authors.” His grand theme is the survival and continuance of Native American culture against the many threats to its existence, past and present.

Ortiz has received two fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Pushcart Prize for Poetry, a grant from the Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Fund and the Western States Arts Association Lifetime Achievement Award. A selection of his work appears in the Norton Anthology of American Literature, a prestigious collection of American writing used in classrooms around the world.

Ortiz was born in Albuquerque and raised at Acoma Pueblo. He attended Fort Lewis College, UNM and the University of Iowa. He has taught creative writing and Native American literature at many colleges and universities, including UNM, 1979-81; the University of Arizona, the University of California at Irvine and the University of Toronto. He has given many readings at UNM’s main and Gallup campuses. He has also served as lieutenant governor of Acoma Pueblo.

Angela "Angie" VachioIn 1972, Vachio and Christine Ruiz Boyd founded PB&J in Albuquerque’s South Valley as a therapeutic and supportive learning environment for pre-school children who were often at risk of being abused or neglected. Since then, PB&J has grown from a volunteer organization operating out of a donated storage room to a nationally accredited, multi-county, comprehensive family services program.
In 1985, Vachio opened a second facility in Bernalillo County that focused on parents with mental retardation who sometimes lost custody of their children because they did not always have strong parenting skills.

In 1988, Vachio established the Importance of Parents and Children Together (ImPACT) Project that provides prison and community-based staff to work with inmate parents and their children at the men’s facility in Los Lunas. It was recently expanded to include the Penitentiary of New Mexico.

The program, now regarded as a national model, was deemed so successful that the Department of Corrections asked Vachio to begin a similar program at the women’s correctional facility in Grants. Such a program was established in 1993, one that provides parenting and educational experiences to help women effectively and positively participate in their children’s lives.

Vachio and the PB&J staff have since begun other programs such as one for delinquent teen parents at Albuquerque’s Youth Diagnostic and Detention Center and another at Cuba High School that helps teen mothers return to school.

The National Institute of Corrections recently selected PB&J to develop a model system of care for children whose parents are incarcerated. Additionally, Vachio has recently received the Liberty Belle Award of the Albuquerque Bar Association, the YWCA Woman on the Move Award and the Governor’s Award for Outstanding New Mexico Women of the New Mexico Commission on the Status of Women.


Master of Ceremony for Commencement will be Dr. Richard Holder, UNM Deputy Provost and Professor of Chemistry. Selections for the Prelude and the Processional will be performed by University Band under the baton of Eric Rombach-Kendall, conductor. Following the Presentation of Colors by the UNM Air Force ROTC, the National Anthem will be sung by Masters in Music Graduate Jennaya Robison.

Greetings will then be offered by UNM President William C. Gordon and UNM Board of Regents President Larry D. Willard.

The Commencement Address will be delivered by John C. Probasco, who is receiving his bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry. Probasco has an extensive record of service to the University and to the Associated Students of UNM. He has been inducted into a number of honorary organizations and is the recipient of various honors and awards. Most recently, he was selected as a Harry S. Truman Foundation Scholar and also won further distinction and prestige by being selected as a Rhodes Scholar.

Following the Commencement Address, additional greetings will be conveyed by UNM Faculty Senate President John Geissman.
UNM Provost Brian Foster will then recognize UNM Honors graduates and then Gordon will award the $1,000 Tom L. Popejoy Dissertation Prize to Dr. Michael Anne Sullivan of the UNM Department of History for her dissertation on “Healing Bodies and Saving the Race: Women, Public Health, Eugenics, and Sexuality, 1890-1950.”

Following the awarding of the honorary degrees and the conferring of degrees in course by Gordon, UNM Alumni Association President Connie Beimer will offer Congratulatory Remarks. Robison will lead the singing of the Alma Mater and Los Reyes de Albuquerque will perform the Recessional.

This year, 49 members of UNM’s 50-year-class, the Class of 1952, will participate in the ceremony.

Following the ceremony, all degree candidates and their guests are invited to a reception hosted by President and Mrs. William C. Gordon from 1-4 p.m. at University House on main campus at 1901 Roma NE.

For more information, call the Office of the UNM Secretary, 277-4664.