Hispanics make up 46% of students enrolled in the University of New Mexico’s College of Pharmacy, according to COP Dean Donald Godwin, and another 10% are Native American.
Godwin attributes that to the leadership, determination and compassion of Reynaldo V. Saenz, who retired as associate dean of UNM’s pharmacy college in 2002 after 13 years at the university.
“He set the stage for diversity and we continued it,” said Godwin, who was a colleague of Saenz at UNM. “He cared deeply about people, about students. And he was extremely proud to be a pharmacist.”
Cynthia Miller, Saenz’s daughter, said her father was often recognized for his outstanding teaching and devotion to the interests and welfare of students, not only at UNM but also at the University of Louisiana-Monroe, where he was on faculty for more than 22 years before moving to New Mexico.
“He was so passionate that everyone could get an education in the pharmacy world,” she said.
Saenz died Jan. 23 at his Albuquerque home. He was 82.
Survivors include his wife, Guadalupe; daughter, Cynthia Miller and husband, Thane; granddaughters, Thalia and Isabella Miller; a sister; and two brothers.
Visitation begins at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 31, followed by recitation of the rosary at 6:30 p.m., at French Funeral Home, 7121 Wyoming NE. Mass will be celebrated at 10 a.m. Wednesday, Feb. 1, at Risen Savior Catholic Church, 7701 Wyoming NE, followed by burial at Gate of Heaven Cemetery, 7999 Wyoming NE.
The right thing
Saenz grew up in Pharr, Texas, and graduated from Pharr-San Juan-Alamo High School in Pharr. He received his bachelor’s degree in pharmacy and his master’s and doctorate in pharmaceutical/medicinal chemistry from the University of Texas at Austin.
“He skipped two grades in elementary school,” Cynthia Miller said. “He was very intelligent, very, very good in math. His parents were not educated, but he, his three brothers and two sisters all got (college) degrees. That was not usual for Hispanics in the ‘60s. I have an uncle who is a medical doctor, an uncle who is a chemist, an uncle who was high up in the Air Force. One aunt was a banker, and the other was a teacher.”
At UNM, Saenz was chair of the Curriculum Committee, which developed and implemented the first doctor of pharmacy program in New Mexico. As chair of the Recruitment and Admissions Committee, he was able to generate the diversity of students that was so important to him.
Godwin said that years ago, UNM established the Reynaldo V. Saenz Endowment for Student Recruitment, Retention and Placement, which funds outreach to and support of under-represented students.
“Ninety percent of (COP) students are from New Mexico,” he said. “We get them interested in pharmacy and make them aware of the College of Pharmacy.”
That’s part of the legacy Saenz left UNM.
“He had a good heart,” Godwin said. “He always wanted to do the right thing. Even when that was the hardest thing.”
At her father’s home, Miller found a birthday card he had bought for her birthday, which is Feb. 28.
“He already had it,” she said. “He always had cards – thank-you cards, birthday cards, anniversary cards. He called his siblings all the time. He’d text my husband to remind him the (basketball) Lobos were playing and to turn them on. He was always there for my girls, every graduation, every volleyball game. He loved to play Mexican bingo with my kids. He’d go to the casino, but more because my mother enjoyed it. He played the penny slots, but she’s more of a quarter-slots girl.
“As much as he loved his profession and the people he worked with and served, he was happiest when he was with family.”