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Senate confirms 5 regent nominees

SANTA FE – In what could be considered a new chapter for the state’s flagship university, the New Mexico Senate on Friday confirmed all five nominees to the University of New Mexico Board of Regents.

By unanimous vote, Kimberly Sanchez Rael, Sandra K. Begay, Robert Schwartz and Douglas M. Brown were confirmed as regents. Melissa C. Henry was unanimously confirmed as student regent.

Sanchez Rael, who served on the New Mexico Board of Finance for several years, and Schwartz, who boasts more than 40 years of experience teaching law at colleges, including the UNM School of Law, where he holds the title Henry Weihofen Professor of Law Emeritus, will serve six-year terms concluding Dec. 31, 2024.

Begay, a UNM alum and past regent who works in engineering and energy development, and Brown, another previous regent who also was dean of the UNM Anderson School of Management for several years, will serve four-year terms concluding Dec. 31, 2022.

Henry, a licensed mental health counselor who is pursuing a doctorate at UNM, will serve a two-year term concluding Dec. 31, 2020.

The terms begin immediately.

“I’m glad the new UNM regents will soon be getting to work,” Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said in a statement. “We organized a rigorous screening process that produced excellent candidates, and I appreciate the Senate’s expeditious handling of our appointments.

“The University of New Mexico, and indeed every institution of higher education in our state, needs and deserves high-quality regents, and this administration will deliver them. Indeed, today marks the beginning of that new era of leadership.”

Whatever doubts senators may have had with the governor’s “first of its kind” screening process, which included establishing advisory committees to interview and evaluate candidates, were dispelled after a Senate Rules Committee hearing earlier in the day. Sen. Mark Moores, R-Albuquerque, a former UNM football player, said he was one of those doubters.

“I’ll say it for all five nominees we’re going to review today – I was a little leery – everyone in this chamber knows what my feelings for UNM are – my love for the institution,” Moores said during debate on the Senate floor before the confirmation vote. “I was quite impressed this morning, looking at the resumes, the passion, energy and the backgrounds of these five individuals. I felt very comfortable.”

In what was a rare case, five seats on the seven-member Board of Regents opened simultaneously because the members’ terms were ending, or were completed, and the Senate had failed to hold confirmation hearings on then-Gov. Susana Martinez’s UNM appointments over the past two years.

Regents Robert M. Doughty, current president of the board, and Marron Lee, who serves as chair of the Health Sciences Center and Finance and Facilities committees and the Lobo Development Corp., are the only holdovers, with their terms set to expire in 2020.