The four honorees in this 29th year of the Hall of Fame awards are Gary Gordon, treasurer of Albuquerque Academy; Sheila Mendez of PNM Resources; Stephine Poston, owner of marketing firm Poston & Associates; and Anthony Trujillo, president and CEO of HOLMANS USA.
“They’re incredibly qualified candidates,” Anderson School Dean Craig White said.
The University of New Mexico’s Anderson School honors alumni who are making significant contributions to the community as well as achieving professional success. Candidates are nominated by alumni and others and then selected by a committee of the Anderson Foundation Board.
The board this year also named Matthew Sanchez of Jaynes Corp. and Daniel Trujillo of Kubiak Melton & Associates winners of the 15th annual Young Alumni Awards.
“We want to encourage them to go further in their careers,” White said.
This year’s winners will be honored at a banquet Tuesday at Sandia Casino.
Showcasing the accomplishments of alumni sends a strong message to current students about what is possible and lets people know the Anderson School is invested in the community, White said.
A Distinguished Service Award given at the dean’s discretion goes this year to Christopher Carian, a UNM alum and senior project/construction manager who is overseeing construction of a new building for the Anderson School, meeting the school’s needs while saving money, White said.
The final award, the Faculty Community Leadership Award, is bittersweet this year. It was given to Distinguished Professor Sul Kassicieh of UNM, who died last year. Kassicieh, the first two-time winner of the award, had a huge impact on the school and the broader community, White said.
The committee making the awards knew the professor was ill.
“He just did so much in the community over the years,” White said, adding that he was active in economic development efforts.
UNM ANDERSON SCHOOL OF MANAGEMENT HALL OF FAME INDUCTEES
It’s tough to find someone more dedicated to the University of New Mexico than Gary Gordon.
He graduated from the Anderson School of Management in 1983 and earned his law degree at UNM three years later. He went on to serve as a trustee of the UNM Foundation for 12 years, including seven as chair of the investment committee and two as board chair. During his tenure, he helped to double fundraising goals and the endowment.
“I’m very proud of the investment growth,” he said.
He and his wife, Terri Giron, met at UNM, were married at the Alumni Memorial Chapel and are the first Anderson Hall of Fame husband-and-wife honorees. He was awarded the honor this year, and she was inducted in 2012.
They also have been generous donors to the Anderson School through an endowed scholarship, the School of Law, the Honors College and the Cancer Center and have long been Popejoy and New Horizon Society members.
Gordon is in the midst of his second successful career. After making a name for himself in the world of law, defending physicians in medical malpractice lawsuits for Miller Stratvert P.A., Gordon turned his talents to the job of treasurer for Albuquerque Academy in 2009.
“I loved trials, I loved being in the courtroom,” Gordon said, adding that he also is lucky to have the opportunity to help the Academy through challenging times. “The combination of my financial training and my 23 years of being a lawyer is why I have this job.”
Former Anderson School Dean Doug Brown, a friend and former Albuquerque Academy board chairman, calls Gordon “a first-rate fellow” and an asset to the community. “He’s a very intent listener … and he has very good insights on whatever the topic,” Brown said.
Retired District Court Judge Bill Lang said the one word he’d use to describe Gordon is “focused.”
“He’s in the top tier of lawyers who ever tried a case in front of me,” said Lang who now golfs with Gordon. “He’s got a huge, huge amount of commitment to the city and the state. … He is unafraid to get his hands dirty.”
Gordon is active in Albuquerque Economic Development, Albuquerque Economic Forum, United Way of Central New Mexico, the New Mexico State Bar Foundation and the Albuquerque Community Foundation. He is no stranger to awards and honors but said the Hall of Fame award was a surprise. “I’m always very grateful,” he said. “People are very generous with their recognition.”
Besides golfing, he has a talent for water dowsing, calling himself a “water witch” and saying he has helped ranchers and others find wells.
Balancing work and family isn’t enough for Sheila Mendez. She balances work, family and sports.
As director of PNM Resources’ office of Operations Technology and Portfolio/Program Management, Mendez has a demanding career in the IT field. She also has two sons and travels regularly with her fiancé to places as far flung as Chile, Greece and destinations around the U.S.
But Mendez also is a diehard Lady Lobo. She’s a former Division I player for the University of New Mexico women’s volleyball team, a member of the team from 1987 to 1990. Now, she regularly goes to Lobo games and plays soccer.
“I’m a sports fanatic,” she said.
Even her community service, which she calls an integral part of her life, leans toward sports. She is president-elect of the UNM Alumni Lettermen’s Association and a founding member and mentor for the UNM Lobo Women’s Society.
“We very much focus on the women athletes,” she said, adding that she and other mentors help prepare the current Lady Lobos for life after college by offering guidance with etiquette, résumé-writing and other skills.
Of course, Mendez is involved in other arenas as well. She is vice chair of the New Mexico Technology Council and past president of the Greater Sandoval County Chamber of Commerce.
All that makes it easy to see why she was named to the Anderson School Hall of Fame.
“It’s absolutely an honor to be selected for this prestigious honor,” Mendez said. “It’s amazing to be part of such a great group.”
Mendez attended UNM on an academic scholarship, originally aiming for a degree in engineering. But she discovered she likes the business side of computer programming and earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the Anderson School.
She will celebrate 19 years with PNM Resources in May, having held leadership roles in technology, strategy and management.
“Sheila is very smart and talented, but what she also brings is her great compassion for people and how she grows people in the company, mentoring them,” said fellow Anderson School alum Becky Teague, vice president of external affairs for PNM. “It seems whatever Sheila touches she leaves better.”
Mendez has other honors under her belt as well. She is an honorary commander for Kirtland Air Force Base, received the 2016 Woman in Technology award for promoting the role of women in the field, and in 2013 was named Woman of the Year for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society after raising more than $27,000 for blood cancer research.
As a member of Sandia Pueblo, Stephine Poston has created a successful business focused on helping other tribes with communications and public-relations projects ranging from increasing voter turnout at Santa Clara Pueblo to the U.S. Census’ American Indian “I Count” initiative.
“I was shocked and humbled,” said Poston, president and CEO of Poston & Associates. “It’s a pretty awesome feeling when your university … says ‘I see you.'”
She graduated in 1990 and took a job with the U.S. Forest Service in Arizona before returning home to work for her tribe, first as a tribal planner and eventually in public relations. In 2004, she decided to put her skills to work to help other tribes and tribal organizations by forming her own company. Poston & Associates has been doing that ever since.
“When you work in something you’re passionate about, it’s not even work,” Poston said.
“Stephine is a positive influence through her work as a businesswoman, and she makes important contributions to her tribe and her family,” said LaDonna Harris, a Comanche activist and founder of Americans for Indian Opportunity, one of Poston’s clients.
One of Poston’s core values is to reciprocate.
“When you have, you share,” she said. “Having built the business to this point, I feel it’s my responsibility to reach out to other pueblo women and encourage them to look at entrepreneurship as a sustainable economic tool.”
She and other native women from New Mexico are organizing what they hope will become the first annual Native Women’s Business Summit to be held April 13 and 14 at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center.
Poston also serves in other ways. She is on the boards of the Southwestern Association for Indian Arts, the Santa Fe Community Foundation and the Native American Advised Endowment Fund; she also volunteers with the Brave Girls program at Santa Fe Indian School.
Poston said she has had several mentors over the years and believes it’s important to seek one out and to be one, taking time to give back.
“One of my mottoes is ‘Class is always in session,'” she said, adding that when she is working with clients, they always teach her something. One thing she’s learned is that we are more alike than we are different.
Poston was named Native Woman Business Owner of the Year by the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development last year.
When she’s not working, Poston enjoys traveling and playing golf.
Anthony D. Trujillo, president and CEO of HOLMANS USA, believes in making time for the important things in life.
“The time’s there. You’ve just got to budget for it,” he said, adding that one way he finds time for a demanding career and busy volunteer life is by not watching any TV.
Trujillo runs an award-winning company, has created the HOLMANS Foundation for Autism and established the Anthony D. Trujillo Hispanic Scholarship to support Hispanic high-school students seeking degrees in higher education. Trujillo was the first in his family to earn a four-year degree.
In addition, he is chairman of both the National Hispanic Cultural Center Foundation and the Albuquerque Small Business Regulatory Advisory Commission, vice president of the New Mexico Philharmonic board and a member of the Friends of UNM College of Education and the CNM Foundation board.
“I definitely believe in giving back to the community, and I do that in a big way with my time and resources,” Trujillo said.
The autism foundation was inspired by his daughter, Sophia. “She’s now 14 and she’s very, very bad on the spectrum,” he said. “She inspires me every day to help other families.”
The foundation aims to increase awareness, recognize deserving teachers and provide technology for autism-specific classrooms in public schools — – something Trujillo found is important after discovering that Sophia’s communication skills improved after he gave her an iPad. Trujillo also started and raised money for The Symphony for Autism, a first-of-its-kind private concert for children and parents who are living with autism.
His father and mentor, Tony Trujillo, said his son is committed to the community.
“That’s the way HOLMANS has been, and he’s taken it to another level,” Tony Trujillo said.
Trujillo got his start in the family business at age 14, emptying trash cans, working in the warehouse and then moving up through the ranks. He helped to expand the business, moving to El Paso and then Tempe, Ariz., to set up new offices. Eventually, he bought the business from his father.
“He’s always been a go-getter since he was a young person,” Tony Trujillo said, adding that Mr. Holman hired his son after spotting him selling flowers in the rain on a street corner to earn extra money.
HOLMANS is a national company selling HP and Apple products to federal contractors at the national laboratories. The company’s surveying equipment business now focuses on public safety and includes training to teach investigators and detectives how to use the technology to collect evidence.
“We’re part of that process now,” Trujillo said. “It’s very cool.”
15TH ANNUAL YOUNG ALUMNI AWARDS
Daniel Trujillo earned his master’s degree a decade ago, but he hasn’t stopped learning.
In fact, when Trujillo is traveling around New Mexico to meet with clients, he turns his car into a mobile university with podcasts and audiobooks like “Principle: Life and Work” by investor and entrepreneur Ray Dalio or “Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t” by Simon Sinek. He also enjoys listening to The Great Courses, essentially college-level classes.
“I just have a growth mindset,” Trujillo said.
That mindset spurred Trujillo to earn a bachelor’s in business administration from the University of New Mexico Anderson School of Management in 2007, and then a master’s in accounting one year later.
“It’s just so flattering that it’s hard to verbalize how proud I am,” he said of receiving one of two Young Alumni Awards.
Trujillo joined Albuquerque accounting firm Kubiak Melton & Associates in 2009 to help grow the company’s audit practice and is now a partner. He also has become a certified government financial manager to better serve local government clients and earned his fraud examiner certification as part of his commitment to decreasing waste, fraud and abuse.
“Given the environment in New Mexico, we’re not dealing with publicly traded companies. Really, our landscape is more governmental,” Trujillo said, adding that he works mainly with governments, school districts, tribal organizations and nonprofits.
Right out of college, Trujillo joined Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central New Mexico and then spent every Saturday for the next two years with his 7-year-old little brother, an experience he said was great. After the boy’s family moved away, Trujillo moved on to other volunteer opportunities.
He figured that, as a CPA, he might be able to add value to nonprofit boards. He served on the board of a Bernalillo charter school and now is the treasurer for the UNM Alumni Association board. He also sits on the board of the New Mexico Society of CPAs and on the city of Albuquerque’s Accountability Government Oversight Committee.
“Giving back is really big to me,” he said, adding that he also talks to accounting classes at UNM and mentors students through a partnership with the New Mexico Society of CPAs and the Beta Alpha Psi honor society. “I’ve always been active in making sure I’m engaged with UNM.”
In his spare time, Trujillo enjoys traveling, playing golf and spending time with his family.
Looking back, Matthew Sanchez admits he might have been a little crazy to embark on a joint MBA-JD program, but he has no regrets.
He graduated from UNM in 2010 with a master’s in business administration from the Anderson School and a law degree.
“It wasn’t easy, but I’m glad I did it because in the job I now have, both degrees are indispensable to me,” he said.
Sanchez is the in-house general counsel for Albuquerque construction company Jaynes Corp.
“I get a whole panoply of legal issues,” he said, adding that he could be handling a $60 million contract review along with labor compliance and real estate issues – all in the same day.
“I have to find ways for this company to navigate all these legal issues,” Sanchez said, adding that he uses his business education to help translate legal issues into concepts that make sense to business people. “I speak their language.”
Before joining Jaynes in 2015, Sanchez clerked for law firms and then worked as an attorney for Sheehan & Sheehan. In 2017, he took over supervision and strategic direction of Jaynes’ human-resources department.
As part of his community involvement, Sanchez was appointed a Client Protection Fund commissioner by the New Mexico Supreme Court in 2014. In that role, he investigates client claims relating to attorney dishonesty, which he says helps bolster the public’s confidence in the New Mexico Bar.
Sanchez also helps students through the UNM School of Law’s Mentorship Program and is in the 2017-18 Leadership New Mexico class.
“It’s really opened my eyes to look all across the state on different issues,” he said.
When he’s not working, Sanchez enjoys spending time with his wife and 5-year-old son and being outdoors whether it’s feeding his chickens, working in the garden or playing golf.
“I love to fish and to hike with my family,” he added.
Family is important to Sanchez. Before attending UNM, he was working at a real estate investment firm in Northern California when his mother called to say his grandfather was not doing well. He resigned and returned home, caring for his grandfather and helping his mother build a house.
That family support goes both ways.
“My family has supported me to get to where I am,” he said. “I’m very grateful for my family standing by me.”
DISTINGUISHED SERVICE AWARD
Christopher Carian gets a lot of satisfaction from seeing students, professors and researchers excited to go to work in the buildings he and his team have renovated on the University of New Mexico campus.
As architect and senior project manager for UNM’s Office of Planning, Design and Construction, Carian has overseen many changes on campus over the last decade, including the $20 million renovation of Castetter Hall and the renovation of the 1952 Clark Hall chemistry building designed by noted architect John Gaw Meem.
“One thing we’re trying to do is really take care of our neglected gems,” Carian said.
He also said UNM was not a very contemporary university when he started 11 years ago, but that is changing. “I used to be embarrassed,” he said. “Now, I’m proud. We’ll be able to compete with the best.”
One of his most recent projects is the new McKinnon Center for Management, which is replacing an older Anderson School of Management building.
“Anderson was built incredibly badly,” Carian said. “It’s one of those buildings from the ’60s that looks like it should have been a warehouse.”
The new building, which is due to open in August, is modern and will have LEED gold certification for meeting green building standards. Carian said he has enjoyed working with the Anderson school staff because they are motivated, forward-thinking and realistic.
“Working with clients like them is wonderful,” he said.
The praise goes both ways.
Anderson Associate Dean Shawn Berman said the McKinnon Center is the building it is because of Carian. “Christopher pushed the limits of the building,” he said. “He balanced the budget without compromising quality. He value-engineered the building, making sure we got the most building for the money we had.”
As the UNM project manager, Carian oversaw every aspect of the center, from the design phase to the budget to the actual construction. But he gives credit to his whole team for making the project a success.
A UNM graduate, Carian also is a National Council of Architectural Registration Boards member and a LEED Green Associate. In his spare time, he enjoys going to church, gardening, restoring classic Cadillacs and antiquing.
FACULTY COMMUNITY LEADERSHIP AWARD
The late distinguished professor Sul Kassicieh, a longtime member of the University of New Mexico faculty, is now the first two-time winner of Anderson School’s Faculty Community Leadership Award.
Kassicieh, 65, died of cancer last fall.
“He just did so much in the community over the years,” Anderson Dean Craig White said.
Kassicieh was active in economic development efforts in Albuquerque and had a huge impact on the local community, inspiring hundreds of students, businesspeople and others to build the city’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.
“He promoted entrepreneurship continuously over decades, long before many of us were even working in this field,” UNM Chief Economic Development Officer Lisa Kuuttila said last year after Kassicieh’s death. “He pioneered the effort to grow our entrepreneurial ecosystem into fruition. We owe thanks and credit to him for pointing us in the right direction.”
Kassicieh came to Albuquerque in 1973, earning a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and a master’s of business administration in finance from UNM. He earned his Ph.D. in operations research and international business in 1978 from the University of Iowa and joined the faculty at UNM in 1981.
He held UNM’s Endowed Chair in Economic Development and chaired Anderson’s Finance, International, Technology and Entrepreneurship Department.
In 2007, Kassicieh was named the first-ever distinguished professor at the Anderson School, the highest faculty title bestowed by UNM.
Kassicieh founded the UNM Business Plan Competition in 2005, which has since grown into a marquee annual event where scores of students work over two semesters to build strategies for business startups. It culminates each spring in a pitch event with cash prizes for the most-promising business plans.
The program has helped rally the academic and business communities around entrepreneurship as a force for economic development, said Stacy Sacco, director of UNM’s Small Business Institute.
“He really made an effort to get the school connected to the community and to get students directly involved in the real world,” Sacco said. “The business plan competition was key to that.”
Associate Dean Shawn Berman said Kassicieh worked tirelessly for students.
“I was lucky enough to have an office across from Sul, and I was always amazed by the constant stream of students who would visit Sul for help on their entry into the business plan competition or just for general advice,” Berman said last fall. “He cared deeply about Anderson and worked tirelessly to advance the school. I will miss him greatly.”