January 15, 2015 by Isabel A. Rodriguez, NMSU News Center
It’s an evening of music, great food, and awards in February. No, it’s not the Academy Awards, although there might be some local celebrities and a few viral selfies.
The second annual “A Starry Night” fundraiser will celebrate five business and community leaders for their contributions to New Mexico State University’s College of Arts and Sciences on Saturday, Feb. 7, at the ASNMSU Center for the Arts, 1000 University Avenue.
This year’s gala will honor Michael and Judy Johnson, Frank Leto, Lou Sisbarro and J. Paul Taylor.
Lonnie Klein, NMSU music professor and Maestro of the Las Cruces Symphony Orchestra, will emcee the event. The evening will feature entertainment by NMSU musical theatre arts students. Proceeds of the evening will benefit the Dean’s Fund for Excellence, which supports outstanding students, faculty and academic programs.
The event is among many efforts Arts and Sciences College Dean Christa Slaton has initiated to support partnerships in the community that benefit both the university and the region.
“The university-community tie revolves around education and the benefits from the university that spill over into the community,” Slaton said. “It’s much easier to have authentic engagement when you have active partners in the community who care about this university and invest so much of themselves to help our faculty and students. We want to recognize these outstanding citizens and make sure they know how much we care about them and appreciate their efforts.”
The Johnsons are NMSU alumni who have contributed to numerous programs at the university. Judy Johnson is a third generation Aggie who majored in accounting and played violin in the symphony while her husband Michael received his bachelor’s degree in geology and has received an honorary doctorate from NMSU.
Leto has been publisher of the Las Cruces Sun-News since 2010. He joined southern New Mexico’s largest newspaper after working with Houston Community Newspapers. The newspaper has partnered with NMSU on the grand opening of the ASNMSU Center for the Arts and other projects.
Sisbarro is president of Sisbarro Dealership in Las Cruces and Deming. He and his wife, Pat, are major sponsors of the NMSU Aggies are Tough Enough to Wear Pink campaign, which raises money for cancer research at NMSU.
Taylor is a former state representative and renowned arts advocate. Since 2005, the college has sponsored an annual symposium in his name. The social justice symposium is dedicated to building community partnerships through reciprocal education, outreach, and strategizing as part of the land-grant mission.
During the event, the college will also honor a star faculty, student or alumnus from each of its 26 departments.
The program will begin with a reception dinner showcasing department stars at 5:30 p.m., followed by an awards ceremony at 7:30 p.m. in the Medoff Theatre.
Contributions to the dean’s fund provide the college the flexibility to take advantage of unique and unexpected opportunities to enhance the quality of education for students, expand the research abilities for faculty, and support larger community efforts to improve higher education in the state.
Tickets are $50 each or $80 per couple. For more information contact Shari Harris at 575-646-5886 or firstname.lastname@example.org.