Las Vegas, N.M – Political leader, lawyer and businessman Derrick Lente of Sandia Pueblo, New Mexico, will deliver the commencement address for the Highlands University Albuquerque and Rio Rancho Centers May 9 at 6 p.m.
Commencement will be in the Santa Ana Star Center in Rio Rancho at 3001 Civic Center Circle N.E.
“I’m honored to be selected as a commencement speaker and look forward to celebrating this monumental event in the graduate’s lives,” Lente said. He has been a guest speaker on college campuses from Stanford to Princeton.
He said that he will talk with the Highlands graduates about the meaningful nature of higher education and how it is allows them to contribute to their communities and families.
“I was born and raised in a traditional Sandia Pueblo family where my parents often worked two jobs to raise me and my two older brothers,” Lente said. “Those examples would help mold my values of hard work, dedication, tradition and family. It’s very important to me to maintain my cultural heritage.”
Since 2017, Lente has represented New Mexico House District 65 in the state legislature. “My family has no political experience, and I ran on the platform of using my professional experience to give back to my community,” he said.
Lente made national news headlines in March 2019 after he introduced House Bill 100, which was successful in replacing the name of Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day in New Mexico.
“New Mexico is home to 23 nations, pueblos and tribes as well as other Indigenous people. It’s appropriate to celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day in our state, which is so rich in Indigenous cultures and populations. It’s a new day for the folks who are Indigenous in New Mexico,” Lente said.
Lente has won recognition such as being named a Rising Star by the Democratic Party of New Mexico. In 2019, the All Pueblo Council of Governors honored Lente with the Governors’ Award. He received the 40 Under Forty Award from both the New Mexico Business Weekly publication and the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development.
In his second term in the New Mexico House of Representatives, Lente assumed new leadership responsibilities as the chairman for the House Committee on Agriculture and Water Resources.
In 2006, Lente earned his Juris Doctor degree from the University of New Mexico School of Law, making him the first male from Sandia Pueblo to graduate from law school. He was also elected to the board of editors for the Tribal Law Journal and earned his certificate in specializing in federal Indian law.
“For more than 10 years I worked as a consultant for New Mexico tribal governments as well as tribal governments across the country,” Lente said.
Lente taught as adjunct faculty at UNM on the topic of federal Indian law. He also taught business courses at Central New Mexico Community College.
Lente serves on a number of local and national boards that focus on agriculture, economic development, education and health.
Lente is a businessman who owned Spherion, an employment agency with offices in New Mexico and California, from 2008 to 2013, when he sold the company. During his tenure with Spherion, his company employed more than 800 New Mexicans and thousands more in other states.
“Being an entrepreneur gave me a good understanding of business, finance and economics,” Lente said.
Today, Lente owns and operates his family farm and cattle ranch on the Sandia Pueblo. He makes his home there with his wife Kassandra, daughter Jade and son Mostin.
“To continue to work the land that my ancestors did means a great deal to me,” Lente said.