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One-on-One with Harold Lavender

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Harold Lavender, director of business and financial development for ABQid, has a pretty full plate.

He is the president of the University of New Mexico Alumni Association and a board member of more foundations than it is possible to keep track of.

But despite the busy schedule, Harold is a guy who still finds time to have fun. And fun is what his life is all about.

He loves golf and his wife Judith, and there isn’t a minute of his day that he isn’t doing what he wants. His nights are filled with opera and watching his beloved Cubs on TV.

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Lavender has led a full life, but says he is just hitting his prime. “Seventy-one is the new 41,” he says. “I have an 85-year-old body on a 71-year-old frame with a 12-year-old mind.”

So you went to UNM and Annapolis?

I went to the University of New Mexico right out of high school.

And then midway through that freshman year, I kind of got a bug (to) do something different.

Harold, Lavender, Director of Business and Financial Development at ABQid (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

I went to Annapolis in ’65 and went through plebe year, and went back the second year and determined that I just didn’t want to be an engineer.

So, I decided I was going to leave and come back to New Mexico. I majored in English and American Studies, and I don’t think I ever took another science class after that.

And you still had a military obligation at that time?

That was 1966 and 1967. I went into Air Force ROTC to take care of my military obligation and was commissioned in 1969. And I spent three years on active duty in the Air Force.

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I got out of the Air Force and got the GI Bill, came back to law school, graduated in ’75, passed the bar in the fall and practiced law for about a year.

A good friend of mine, an Albuquerque guy named Larry Berg, had gone to Chicago in the early ’70s and had become very successful at the Chicago Board of Trade. He came back and said, “You’re loud. You’re big. You’re competitive and you’re aggressive. I think you could be a trader.”

I had a lot more fun in law school than I was having practicing law. So I said, “You know what, I think I’d like to check this out.”

So my wife and I pulled up stakes … and moved to Chicago. We lived there for 34 years from 1976 to 2010. I was a trader on the floor of the Chicago Board of Trade for those 34 years. You know those guys who yell and scream at each other?

Like in the movie “Trading Places?”

You know what? “Trading Places.” Of all the movies that have ever used that as a backdrop, they did the best job of kind of portraying, in a sense, what a lot of its really like. You know, in a humorous way. Yeah, they did a great job. I like that movie, too.

So what did you do after that?

I was on the board of directors for the Board of Trade for six years.

In ’08 – it had nothing to do with the fact of the financial crisis of ’08 – but in late ’08, 80 percent of the business was still done on the floor and 20 percent on the screen. A year later, it was completely reversed. I was a floor guy. I said, “You know what, we gotta start looking another direction.”

New Mexico made sense because I could renew my law degree. My wife’s mother and father lived here, and we loved New Mexico anyway, so we naturally were attracted to come back here.

I was asked to serve on the executive committee of the (UNM) Alumni Association.

I became a member of the (State Investment Council) in 2011 and was reappointed in ’13. So I’ve been there about six years. It’s really fun.

I was chairman of the investment committee for about four years.

And then about four years ago I was asked to become an adviser to the investment committee of the Sandia Foundation. And after serving as a member of the investment committee for a year, I was asked to become a member of the board of trustees.

About a year and a half ago, I was asked to join the investment committee and then the impact investment committee of the Albuquerque Community Foundation, which I agreed to do. I have terrific respect for that organization and the things that they do for Albuquerque.

Then in July, I became the president of the UNM Alumni Association.

When did you join ABQid?

In July of last year. And so my initial goal was to help us grow the size of investable funds that we have. And that fund had a little over $2 million in it, and the idea was to grow that so we would have more money to invest in the companies that we’re growing. And now the job is to raise operational funding.

Were you stationed in Vietnam?

I was very lucky. I did not go to Vietnam.

I was in special services, which in the Air Force is where a significant number of the ancillary things go on, like the Officer’s Club, the NCO Club, the sports facilities, the theater, things like that.

Anyway, I was very lucky. That was a difficult time because that was a staging base for Vietnam. And I got an early out when Nixon cut back the forces in ’72.

So you and Judith have pretty interesting children. Can you tell me a little about them?

Jay has had two successful movies. He wrote a movie called “The Break-Up” with Jennifer Aniston and Vince Vaughn, and then he wrote a movie called “The Wedding Ringer” with Kevin Hart that came out about two years ago.

My daughter is Meredith Lavender-Wilson. She got married in 2013. They have our only grandchild, Liam Wilson. Meredith is also a writer and has written on a variety of shows. Four years prior to now, she was one of the principal writers and executive producers of “Nashville.”

Meredith and her writing partner signed a development with 20th Century Fox Television to come to work with them and develop shows. They actually are writing right now on “The Gifted.”

What’s your favorite golf course?

Ever? My favorite course ever is Cypress Point in the Monterey peninsula.

Albuquerque has a lot of really nice courses. The tribal courses in particular are nice. I like UNM South. I still really like and have great affinity for UNM North. I think UNM North is one of the great unheralded secrets about Albuquerque. It’s only nine holes, but it’s still a great old course.

One-on-One

with Harold Lavender


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