2016 Hall of Fame

Brenda Joy Baca Alvarez (’81)

Brenda was born in Denver, CO, and raised in Santa Fe, NM. After graduating from high school in 1976 and prompted by her parents she attended New Mexico State University just as her three brothers did.

In 1981, Brenda earned a Bachelor’s in Business Administration from the College of Business majoring in Managerial Accounting. Upon graduation, Brenda married Joe Alvarez, also an NMSU graduate. Brenda began work in the accounting department at Mutual Building and Loan. After four years, she left the company to dedicate time to raising her son and began part time employment at Energy Optics. She worked there until she and her husband Joe made the decision to start their business. With the assistance and the support of Joe’s family, EMI Technologies became a reality.

EMI began as a small company but has grown to a $22-million-a-year enterprise. EMI’s product focus is engineering fabrication and delivery of custom mobile instrumentation systems, including instrumentation trailers and vans. EMI has the resources to engineer and fabricate instrumentation trailers, vans and other custom mobile instrument systems. Since its inception, EMI has been awarded numerous small business awards. In 1990, 1993, and 1994 EMI received the Award of Excellence from the US Small Business Administration; in 1994 and 2001, EMI was awarded the Regional 6 Prime Contractor of the year, presented to the company in Washington, DC. EMI employs fellow graduates of NMSU.

Brenda was the 2009 Distinguished Alum for the College of Business. She is very active in the community, previously serving on the Memorial Medical Advisory Board, Wells Fargo Advisory Board, Arrowhead Center Advisory Board, Las Cruces Country Club Board, NMSU Alumni Association Board, and the Las Cruces Chamber of Commerce Board.

Brenda says, “We feel blessed for everything and try to give back to the community through supporting various charitable organizations.”

Brenda believes that children are the future and tries to support causes for them such as Coats for Kids and the Ronald McDonald House. In 2003, Brenda and Joe funded the Hispanic Business Students Association, allowing students to attend and compete in a national conference where the NMSU students were recognized as one of the best chapters in the country. Brenda and Joe have long been supporters of NMSU through the College of Business and College of Arts and Sciences and have scholarship endowments to both colleges. Brenda has contributed her time, talent, and resources to help build excellence at NMSU.

Together, Brenda and Joe have built a strong company and family. They have three children, all graduates of the College of Business. Adam, who earned both a bachelor’s and master’s degrees, works in Washington, DC; Nicole, with a bachelor’s in business, works in Albuquerque, NM; and Kaitlyn, who graduated with a Bachelor in Accounting and Finance, works in Glenwood Springs, CO. Brenda comes from a long line of loyal Aggies; her three brothers were also NMSU graduates as well as her husband Joe’s brother and sisters.

Brenda spends her free time with family and friends. She is a social golfer and has become a race horse owner with two other partners. In 2013 her horse won the All American Futurity.

James Holder (’90)

Jim Holder is senior vice president of sales for Cigna’s Mountain States Region, which includes Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming.

Jim started his career at Cigna, where he held numerous roles in sales and sales leadership.

A dynamic leader with over 17 years of executive health care management and business development experience, Jim is dedicated to identifying and building solutions that improve health and health care delivery. He has extensive knowledge of the health care industry, with an emphasis on health care technology and cost containment strategies. Jim also has a proven track record of success in developing new markets, fostering sales growth and implementing innovative and successful client and market-based solutions.

Prior to re-joining Cigna, Jim served as executive vice president for a leading west coast employee benefits consultant, where he was responsible for overseeing all aspects of client deliverables.

Before that, he held a variety of leadership positions at several early stage software and technology companies, including executive vice president of business development and strategy for a company focused on providing hospitals with strategic business intelligence and cost accounting software. In these roles, Jim worked closely with senior executives, board of directors and investors to drive market strategy, sales and business growth.

Jim is actively involved in many charitable and community causes. He is currently serving on the board of directors for the Mile High United Way and Downtown Denver Partnership.

Jim received the 2015 Volunteer of the Year Award from the Downtown Denver Partnership.

Jim was recently appointed by Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper to the eHealth commission board.

Jim graduated from New Mexico State University with a bachelor’s degree in Finance. Jim and his wife, Sarah, have a 15-year-old daughter and a 12-year-old son.

Traders Award

Bill and Sharon Sheriff

Bill and Sharon Sheriff

Bill (’65) and Sharon Sheriff


Bill is a native of Las Cruces, NM. He graduated from Las Cruces High School in 1960 and attended NMSU from 1960-1965, graduating with a B.S. in Mathematics. Bill was a member of Tau Kappa Epsilon Fraternity. He became a member of the New Mexico Amigos in 1973, and served on the Board of Directors, Farmers and Merchants Bank, before leaving Las Cruces.

Sharon moved to Las Cruces in 1958 from Silver City, NM, where she grew up. Bill and Sharon started dating not long after that and became high school sweethearts in their senior year. Following graduation in 1960, Sharon entered Hotel Dieu School of Nursing in El Paso. After Bill and Sharon were married in 1961, Sharon continued her education at NMSU.


In the early years of their marriage and while attending NMSU, Sharon began to manage rental properties. After Bill and Sharon’s relocation to Nashville, TN, Sharon started investing in and managing rental properties.

Bill grew up working for his father in the truck stop business, working weekends and summers through high school and while attending NMSU. Just before entering his last semester, his father was killed in an automobile accident, and Bill began managing the family business as he finished his final semester.

Over the next 9 years, Bill expanded the business. As Interstates 40 and 10 were being built, Bill led the development of new locations in Santa Rosa and Las Cruces. In 1973, the business was sold to Ryder System; over the next 11 years, serving the last 9 of those years as CEO, Bill led the division in becoming the largest truckstop operating chain in the United States.

When Ryder System sold the division in 1984, Bill was immediately recruited to lead American Retirement Corporation (ARC), a senior living company based in Nashville. As CEO, Bill grew ARC into a company with $1 billion in revenue. ARC became publicly-traded with its IPO (Initial Public Offering) on the NYSE in 1997.

In 2006, ARC was merged into Brookdale Senior Living. Bill served as CEO of Brookdale from 2006 until his retirement in 2013, at which time Brookdale was the largest senior living company in the country, serving over 65,000 seniors and employing 48,000 associates. Brookdale had expanded its ancillary services to include rehab clinics, home health, and hospice care.

In total, Bill spent 49 years serving as the CEO for companies which became industry leaders, doing so in two non-related fields. Sharon chose to leave the professional arena at an early age to become a very successful wife, mother, grandmother and volunteer.

Bill was actively involved in many industry related organizations, including the National Investment Center for the Seniors Housing & Care Industry (NIC); Harvard Medical School Health Care Policy Advisory Council; Assisted Living Federation of America (ALFA); American Seniors Housing Association (ASHA); and the Institute for Optimal Aging, a not-for-profit dedicated to coordinating research on aging within the senior living field. Bill currently serves on the Board of Directors for Direct Supply, based in Milwaukee, WI.


Bill and Sharon actively support education. During Bill’s 20 years of service on Belmont University’s Board of Trustees, he chaired several committees and served on the executive committee. Bill has served on the Brentwood Academy Board of Trustees, serving two terms as Chairman of the Board.

Sharon has been serving on the Friends of the Arts Board at Belmont University for over 9 years and is a past Chairman of the Board. She currently serves on the Brentwood Academy Board of Trustees.

Bill’s civic activities include serving on the Boards of the Salvation Army and the Middle Tennessee YMCA. Additionally, he and Sharon have been active in their fundraising efforts for the Mid-South Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association, the Salvation Army, Boy Scouts of America, and the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

As part of their commitment to NMSU, Bill serves on the NMSU Foundation Board, the Real Estate Committee of the NMSU Board of Regents, and the Aggie Development Inc. Board of Directors. Bill and Sharon established the “Bill and Sharon Sheriff Endowed Chair in Entrepreneurship” at NMSU, and also funded endowed scholarships in the College of Business.


Bill is the recipient of three Lifetime Achievement Awards: one from NATSO (National Truck Stops Association), one from ASHA (American Seniors Housing Association) and a third from the Nashville Business Journal as a “Health Care Hero.” Additionally, Bill received a “CEO of the Year” award from the National Association for Senior Living Industries in 1997.

In 2012, Bill was the recipient of an honorary doctorate degree from NMSU.


In August, Bill and Sharon will have been married for 55 years. They have three children (Glenn, Charlotte, and Lance) who were all born in Las Cruces. They have been blessed with eight wonderful grandchildren, all living in Nashville. Bill and Sharon spend their leisure time traveling and with family. Bill also enjoys golf and fishing, while Sharon enjoys hiking and needlepoint.