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President’s Gala: Dollars for Scholars to Fund Scholarships

New Mexico Highlands University will host a President's Gala, ‘Dollars for Scholars,’ April 21 as a scholarship fundraiser that will also celebrate Highlands University President Jim Fries’ five-year anniversary.

The gala will start at 6 p.m. in the university’s Wilson Complex, 1241 9th St.

Highlights of the evening include a roast and toast of President Fries, a dinner and dance, a silent auction, and a raffle.  

“This gala is in support of scholarships for deserving students, and our goal is to raise $250,000 for this worthwhile cause,” said Sharon Caballero, executive director for the Highlands University Foundation. “We want to help students achieve their dreams by breaking down some of the financial barriers.” 

Each year, approximately 80 percent of first-time Highlands University students receive some form of financial aid, which often includes scholarships, according to Eileen Sedillo, financial aid director.

“Scholarships have always been an important part of the equation for how our students fund their education, and scholarships are more vital than ever in these economic times,” Fries said. “When we invest in scholarships for our students, we invest in their future and that of New Mexico.

“However, except for freshmen who enroll directly from high school and qualify for a New Mexico lottery scholarship, Highlands has very little institutional aid for other talented students regardless of their academic success. As a result, too many of our best students transfer to schools where they can get a scholarship,” Fries said.

The dinner will be catered by Charlie’s Spic & Span restaurant, a local favorite since 1950 with a national reputation. Charlie Sandoval is the owner.

Los Tropicales, the popular and versatile local seven-member band, will perform its brand of “Sweet Island Latin” music with a jazzy flair. They’ll also play a repertoire of many dance styles, including big- band swing, rock, country, funk and soul.

The gala will feature a silent auction highlighted with work by local artists.

Individual tickets for the gala are $100. One hundred individual tickets have already been sold. Caballero said that $65 of each ticket is tax deductible.

Sponsors who donate more than $2,000 will receive publicity in the program as well as a reserved table for eight. Sponsors who give $10,000 will also receive an original belt buckle designed for the gala by award-winning Western artist Duke Sundt.

Tickets are available online through the foundation’s ‘Dollars for Scholars’ website www.purpletieaffair.comor in person in the Alumni Office in Margaret Kennedy Alumni Hall, 905 University Ave., or call 505-454-3248.

“We’ve had tremendous support from local community leaders and the university community in planning the President’s Gala,” Caballero said. “We are so grateful for their enthusiasm, ideas and hard work. We have committee chairs ranging from local author Sharon Vander Meer to Tom McDonald, Las Vegas Optic publisher.”

Questions? Please contact Caballero at 505-454-3198 or

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