Stars shine at NMSU fundraiser ‘A Starry Night’

By Isabel A. Rodriguez 11344991415_84dc6a39c2_o

“A Starry Night” was indeed was indeed an evening that shined the spotlight on some of the greatest supporters of New Mexico State University’s College of Arts and Sciences.

The fundraising event honored four individuals who went above and beyond in supporting and promoting the college: Ammu Devasthali (Arts), Pat Sisbarro (Sciences), New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez (Arts and Sciences) and Heather Pollard (Town and Gown).

“The four extraordinary women we celebrate stand as pillars of selfless service to others and visionaries who see far beyond the here and now,” said Dean Christa Slaton. “Their contributions to our university will be long-lasting and long-remembered. Their examples inspire us all.

“For any university to thrive, it needs the support of its community leaders and visionaries – those who understand the importance of Town and Gown relations and who understand that we all mutually benefit when we work together to achieve ambitious and noble goals.”

11345072456_da72ca52cbDevasthali is an alumna of NMSU. She also holds a bachelor’s degree in Russian Language from Nehru University and a master’s and doctorate in Soviet literature from Moscow State University.

In addition to currently serving as secretary of the board of the Community Foundation of Southern New Mexico, Devasthali has dedicated her efforts to numerous organizations, including the Board of the Ocotillo Institute for Social Justice and the Downtown Las Cruces Partnership Thank Tank.

She and her family are long-time supporters of NMSU. They’ve helped fund KRWG public radio as well as renovations to Willams Hall, among other projects.

“I thoroughly enjoyed my experience at NMSU,” she said. “It was wonderful. I’ve always been interested in the arts and I think we have enormous talent here, and yet we don’t get as much of the limelight as other parts of the state. I think it’s important to showcase the talent we have here. The arts promote creative thinking, and that goes into every aspect of people’s lives.

“When you graduate and leave, that’s when you realize that some of the best years of your life were spent in college, learning. College life is unique, and I encourage students to take full advantage of that.”

Sciences honoree Sisbarro is known throughout the Las Cruces community for her role as vice president and director of marketing for Sisbarro dealerships. At NMSU, though, she’s recognized mostly as one of the original co-chairs of the NMSU Aggies are Tough Enough to Wear Pink campaign. 11345075376_ff7e12fe59_b

The fundraiser is the number one TETWP event in the world, and to date has raised more than $2 million for cancer research.

“We did a great job raising money for this year’s fundraiser,” Sisbarro said. “I started with TETWP seven years ago. Now, it’s bigger and better than ever. When I was diagnosed, I was stunned. My friend Laura Coniff heard enough TETWP. The excitement and the potential really exploded in my mind. What really excited me was that the money was going to stay here in Las Cruces. I loved that. I feel like we’ve caught lightening in a bottle here. And, it’s all being done here at NMSU. We raise it, we invest it, and we watch the dollars being spent right here, for research at NMSU.”

Sisbarro has been recognized as the Hispano Chamber of Las Cruces Citizen of the Year and the Las Cruces Citizen of the Year by the Las Cruces Association of Realtors. She is also recipient of the Las Cruces Mayor’s Distinguished Service Award, in addition to many other accolades.

Dean-Martinez Since taking office in 2011, Gov. Martinez has earned a reputation as a strong advocate for education reform. Most recently, she has been promoting a $5,000 stipend to recruit STEM teachers in the state.

A former district attorney, Martinez was twice named New Mexico’s Prosecuter of the Year. Heart Magazine named her Woman of the Year in 2008.

“New Mexico is filled with uniquely talented people who create and foster the arts in every form imaginable,” she said, accepting her award. “The college is representative of the creativity that must be fostered in students to master science as well. The study of both arts and sciences is achieved through education, a topic near and dear to my heart.”

Pollard, honoree for town and gown, is a former executive director of the Dona Ana Arts Council. She has undertaken various projects to help preserve the historical integrity in Las Cruces, including the restoration of the Rio Grand Theatre in Downtown Las Cruces.

Her husband, retired Army Col. Warren Pollard is a former NMSU electrical engineering professor, and her two daughters are graduates of the university.

Now president of the Amador Museum Foundation, Pollard is working the restore the historic building.

“I’ve gotten to work with some fabulous people here,” she said. “I cannot imagine the university without the city, and the city without the university. They’re integral. They city flourishes as the university flourishes. I hope these awards will inspire others to get involved in what we’ve been doing. It’s been a joy and a privilege to be part of the university and this community.”

Some of Pollard’s honors include the YWCA Reach Award, the New Mexico Main Street Award for her involvement in the Downtown revitalization project and the New Mexico Governor’s Public Service Award.

NMSU Faculty Brass Quintet and the NMSU Jazz Ensemble kept the audience entertained with performances throughout the evening.

Videos produced by NMSU’s Creative Media Institute introduced the honorees as they took the stage to receive their respective awards inside the Mark and Stephanie Medoff Theatre.

“It was not by design that we decided to honor four women; it just happened that way,” Slaton said. “These individuals have given so much of themselves to so many different areas of NMSU and our community. They’ve lived their lives well. When they look back on their lives, they will be able to see all the lives they’ve touched.”

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