NMSU volunteers, donors honored at AFP National Philanthropy Day

December 7, 2011 by Julie M. Hughes, NMSU News Center

The New Mexico Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals honored many New Mexicans at their annual National Philanthropy Day banquet in November, including several New Mexico State University volunteers and donors.

NMSU Foundation board members Del Esparza and Michael and Judy Johnson were honored as Outstanding Leaders in Philanthropy; Cowboys for Cancer Research was honored as an Outstanding Philanthropic Foundation; and Calculex, Las Cruces was honored as Outstanding Business/Corporation in Philanthropy.

“The Philanthropy Day event provided a wonderful venue to celebrate the generosity of donors across New Mexico,” said Dennis Prescott, president of the NMSU Foundation. “I was proud that so many individuals, businesses and organizations with ties to New Mexico State were among the honorees. I salute them for their work on behalf of this university and all of New Mexico.”

Esparza, owner of Esparza Advertising in Albuquerque, was named Outstanding Leader in Philanthropy for central New Mexico. He has served on the NMSU Foundation Board of Directors since 2007. Esparza and his company have given countless hours of time to a variety of non-profits and charities throughout the state. In 2010, Esparza Advertising donated more than $250,000 of in-kind donations of time supporting many different organizations.

“I try to focus on areas in which the greatest impact can be made,” Esparza said. “Now, more than ever, we need to foster a culture of giving back.”

The Johnsons were named Outstanding Leaders in Philanthropy for southern New Mexico. Michael Johnson retired from ConocoPhillips Co. in 2002 and currently serves on several corporate boards of directors. He has served on the NMSU Foundation Board of Directors since 2007. Judy Johnson has been a certified public accountant for 33 years and retired from the City of Houston. She serves on the NMSU College of Education’s Board of Advocates.

The Johnsons have established many endowments at NMSU including a $1 million gift to the College of Arts and Sciences for the establishment of its first endowed chair in the Department of Geological Sciences and the Daisy Gray Undergraduate Endowed Scholarship Fund for special education majors in the College of Education. Recently, after donating $250,000 toward the creation of a professorship in accounting in the NMSU College of Business, the Johnsons issued a challenge to fellow NMSU alumni and members of the business community to match an additional $100,000 gift with a goal of establishing the first fully endowed chair for the accounting department.

“Philanthropy to us means looking at where society is and what needs to be done, then looking at your passions and things you find most important and where you can make a difference, and then finding that nexus, or overlap, and putting your time and money on that,” the Johnsons said.

Cowboys for Cancer Research Inc. has been raising money to support cancer research since 1982. Currently led by Denny and Geraldine Calhoun, the organization announced in April a commitment to establish a $1.5 million endowment through the NMSU Foundation to fund cancer research. An initial gift of $275,000 launched the endowment, with a plan to add funding each year until the principal value reaches $1.5 million. This endowment is an addition to the Alma Cohorn Memorial/Cowboys for Cancer Research Endowment already established at the UNM Cancer Center, which they also will continue to support.

“We feel that ultimately, research will cure cancer,” the Calhouns said.

Calculex is a Las Cruces based company that specializes in the development and production of state-of-the-art electronics and software systems and an avid supporter of the NMSU College of Engineering. Company president Martin Small, who has three degrees from NMSU, said he likes to focus his philanthropic efforts where they can make a difference.

“I am particularly interested in K-12 education in all disciplines, with emphasis on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics,” he said.

National Philanthropy Day is celebrated across the nation in November to recognize the great contributions of philanthropy – and those people active in the philanthropic community. For more information about the AFP New Mexico Chapter, visit http://www.afp-nm.org/index.htm

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