Scholarships Helped Outstanding Highlands Alumni
A couple that owns a successful title company, an award-winning mental health advocate, and an internationally known scientist are all outstanding New Mexico Highlands University alumni who were awarded scholarships in their student days.
Their stories drive home the importance of the April 21 President’s Gala: Dollars for Scholars, a scholarship fundraiser that also celebrates President Jim Fries’ five-year anniversary with Highlands.
Ruth and Ken Mares
Ruth and Ken Mares are respected local business leaders who have owned Territorial Title of Las Vegas since 1996. Ruth oversees the day-to-day operations and Ken is the comptroller. The full-service title company employs seven longtime staff.
The pair met when they were neighbors during junior high and walked together to West Las Vegas schools. While students at Highlands, their friendship blossomed. Ken proposed on Valentine’s Day and they married 36 years ago.
They graduated from Highlands in 1979 – Ruth with a degree in home economics and business; Ken with a degree in music education. Later, Ken earned his M.A. in school counseling at Highlands.
Academic scholarships paid their tuition while the young couple juggled their studies and jobs.
“We’re passionate about education and scholarships,” Ruth said. “Without the scholarships, paying for our education would have been overwhelming. Scholarships also give you a sense of pride and encourage academic achievement.”
After graduating, Ken had a rewarding 27-year career as a music educator, including 18 years as the band director for the West Las Vegas School District, where his bands received numerous top awards. He was also a music teacher for Las Vegas City Schools.
Meanwhile, Ruth worked as a secretary at Territorial Title and rose to office manager, learning the business from the ground up. Her experience was invaluable when the couple had the opportunity to purchase the business.
Along the way, the couple raised three daughters.
The Mares’ established the Territorial Title of Las Vegas Endowed Scholarship for Highlands students in 1997. Ruth also helped convince the New Mexico Land Title Association to sponsor the Chili Currier scholarship at Highlands.
“Having scholarships helped us get a head start in life and our careers without big debt,” Ken said. “Our success in our lives is due in large part to the education we received at Highlands. We owe a debt of gratitude and give back however we can, especially through scholarships.”
Ane Romero, 31, is a key legislative aid in Washington, D.C. for U.S. Rep. Grace Napolitano. Romero has worked for the California congresswoman since 2007, staffing mental health, health and veteran affairs issues.
In 2011, the National Resource Center for Hispanic Mental Health tapped Romero for an Excellence in Federal Government Leadership Award for her work on suicide prevention and other mental health issues.
Also in 2011, Romero was the lead staff for the Mental Health in Schools Act the congresswoman introduced that aims to provide more mental health services to youth and prevent teen suicide.
As a student, Romero helped establish a Yellow Ribbon Suicide Prevention Chapter at Highlands. When she was Miss New Mexico in 2005, Romero chose suicide prevention as her platform.
She earned her B.A. in political science with a minor in professional writing in 2004, and also completed her M.A. in public affairs at Highlands. Romero served two terms as student body president.
“Scholarships allowed me to focus on my studies and have more time to be involved in my career interests,” Romero said. “At Highlands, I received a quality education that prepared me to be competitive in the workforce. Scholarships played a huge role in helping me not acquire a large amount of student debt. I’ve met individuals who went to big-name schools who graduated with $100,000 in debt.”
Dr. Lou Guillette
Lou Guillette is internationally known for his research in reproductive and developmental biology. His research examines the role of environmental contaminants that induce birth defects in certain wildlife species, and children.
Guillette completed his B.S. in biology with a minor in chemistry from Highlands in 1976. He earned his M.A. and Ph.D. in comparative reproductive biology from the University of Colorado – Boulder.
During his distinguished 30-year career as a research biologist and professor, Guillette has published more than 300 research papers and edited five graduate-level textbooks. He has served as a science adviser to numerous U.S. and foreign agencies, as well as the National Academy of Sciences.
Guillette transferred to Highlands because he wanted a small college where biology professors did research. His father was in the U.S. Air Force and Guillette was awarded an armed forces scholarship that helped with tuition.
“Scholarships are especially critical for undergraduate science students because the money allows them to spend more hours in research labs rather than waiting tables,” Guillette said. “You need research experience if you’re applying to graduate programs, or medical or dental school.
“In my 25 years at Florida State, more than 300 students worked in my research labs and about 90 percent of them were able to do that because they had scholarships,” said Guillette, who joined the faculty of the Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology in 2010.
Tickets and more details about the President’s Gala are online at www.purpletieaffair.comor at the Alumni Office, 905 University Ave., or call 505-454-3248.
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