Dr. Margaret Vázquez-Geffroy
Distinguished Professor Emerita
Cultural anthropologist Dr. Margaret Vázquez-Geffroy joined the Highlands faculty in 1974, the beginning of a 29-year career with the university.
Vázquez-Geffroy’s parents migrated to the United States from Puerto Rico, and she grew up in Spanish Harlem in New York City.
“Growing up in New York there was such a rich variety of cultures, and my friends were from countries across the world,” Vázquez-Geffroy said. “I was always interested in learning more about these cultures. The unity of humanity in New York drew me to study anthropology.”
She earned her B.A. and M.A. in anthropology from Hunter College of the City University of New York (CUNY) before heading west to complete her Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of New Mexico.
Vázquez-Geffroy’s geographic areas of interest are Latin America and the American Southwest. Her research on kinship and social organization was published in scholarly journals such as the Journal of Biosocial Research, La Confluencia, Journal of Caribbean Studies, and Southwestern Educational Cooperative Laboratory.
She presented her research to organizations such as the Society for Applied Anthropology, Physical Anthropology Association, and Association of Folklorists.
At Highlands, Vázquez-Geffroy taught Native American culture, Latin American culture, anthropological linguistics, physical anthropology, and many more subjects.
“The most important aspect of teaching anthropology is to achieve cross-cultural understanding. I love teaching, and my students meant everything to me. I was drawn to the fact that most students shared a similar socioeconomic and ethnic background from Spanish traditions. God has given me the grace of seeing my students succeed and become contributing citizens of the world,” Vázquez-Geffroy said.
She said one highlight of her tenure at Highlands was in the 1970s and 1980s when she taught a class on Mesoamerica from prehistoric to contemporary times. Then she led these students to Mexico for an anthropological fieldwork class.
“First we’d visit the museums in Mexico City to delve into ancient and modern culture. Then we’d venture into the countryside for ethnographic fieldwork, writing observations of contemporary people and their cultures. The students were fascinated and learned so much. This kind of personal, in-depth immersion experience opens up your world,” Vázquez-Geffroy said.
She also has fond memories of advising the Native American Club for 25 years and advising the Anthropology/Sociology Club for 20 years.
Vázquez-Geffroy held numerous leadership positions during her tenure at Highlands such as Faculty Senate president, Student Affairs Committee chair, and Behavioral Sciences Department Executive Committee member, to name a few.
“I wanted to serve on these university committees so I could have impact in planning and policy that impacted students,” Vázquez-Geffroy said.
She worked alongside Robert Mishler, another anthropology professor emeritus, to develop and teach the anthropology curriculum.
“Bob Mishler and I were the best of colleagues at Highlands and are still working together today through Friends of the Las Vegas Museum,” Vázquez-Geffroy said.
This year Vázquez-Geffroy and her husband, John Geffroy, celebrate 50 years of marriage. It was a shared passion for anthropology that brought them together at Hunter – CUNY. John also completed his Ph.D. in anthropology at UNM and taught at Highlands early in his career. After that, he taught anthropology at the United World College – USA for 29 years.
“We have a strong partnership and always supported each other in our academic pursuits,” Vázquez-Geffroy said.
Her active engagement in the Las Vegas community continued after Vázquez-Geffroy retired from Highlands in 2001. She has served on the San Miguel Community Health Council since its inception, is active in the Highlands Retired Faculty and Emeritus Association, and serves on the parish council for Immaculate Conception Catholic Church.
Vickie Oldman-John is a national leader in culturally relevant community and organizational development for Native American and rural communities. She is the founding partner and co-manager of Seven Sisters Community Development Group, LLC and Kitseallyboy Consulting, LLC, which serve clients across the country.
Oldman-John earned her master of social work from Highlands in 2004 with a concentration in community planning and administration. She completed her BSW at Arizona State University.
She has been recognized for honors such as the 2006 National Association of Social Workers President’s Award and the 2004 American Indian Graduate Center Women of Vision Award.
Oldman-John has more than 15 years of consulting and community development experience, with expertise in asset building, leadership training, strategic planning, board development, and more. In 2010 she established Seven Sisters Community Development Group.
“Seven Sisters is a consulting firm representing diverse cultures and communities,” Oldman-John said. “Our team of women has a broad range of expertise working in nonprofit, corporate, grassroots and government environments. We strive to facilitate organizational growth and change ranging from executive coaching of community members to building coalitions for native housing programs.”
Oldman-John founded Kittseallyboy Consulting in 2001 and is still the principal consultant. Some other positions include director of the Financial Education and Asset Building program at First Nations Oweesta Corp. and technical assistance counselor for the New Mexico Community Development Loan Fund.
“Seeing the progression of native communities working towards self sufficiency, seeing more native businesses growing, and seeing native art being part of the economic engine is energizing. I’m happy to be a part of it,” said Oldman-John, who is Navajo.
Oldman-John is at the forefront of co-creating curricula for building financial capability and developing a nationwide cadre of Native American trainers to deliver the workshops.
“In this curricula every chapter begins with a native concept and traditional cultural stories about managing resources, like how rare shells were once an important form of currency,” Oldman-John said.
She started her social work career at the micro level delivering one-on-one services to clients in Child Protective Services and Head Start.
“I wanted to move to the macro level – the big picture where you can affect broader change like building financial literacy,” Oldman-John said.
She started the Highlands MSW program in 2002.
“The thing that helped me most in the MSW program was learning about policy development because everything in organizations relates to policy, from finances to affecting change,” Oldman-John said.
She said the professors at the Highlands Rio Rancho Center were very supportive, making it possible to complete her degree while juggling family responsibilities and full-time work.
“I’ll never forget when I became pregnant as a graduate student and considered quitting. Dr. Julius Harrington urged me to stay in school and said to bring my baby to class, which I did,” Oldman-John.
While she was born in Cleveland, Oldman-John was raised primarily on the Navajo reservation in St. Michaels, Arizona.
“My parents were both born on the Navajo reservation and sent to Bureau of Indian Affairs boarding schools. The placement program sent them to Cleveland where my father was a welder and my mother was an administrative assistant. Like many native people they didn’t like the city and came home to their Navajo roots.
“Being Navajo has always grounded me in my work. Just one example is how in the Navajo way, good listening is highly valued and you don’t interrupt. Intentional listening is an essential skill that influences every part of my world, from my interaction with clients to family and friends,” Oldman-John said.
Dr. Von Evans, Jr.
Dr. Von Evans, Jr. is a partner in Lone Star Orthopedic and Spine Specialists in Fort Worth, Texas and has served residents of Johnson and Tarrant Counties for more than 22 years, earning “Top Doc” honors. He is Chief of Surgery at THR Huguley Medical Center in Burleson, Texas.
The Texas native and high school football standout came to Highlands on a football scholarship in 1978 with dreams of being a doctor someday. In 1982, he earned his B.S. in biology cum laude and completed his M.S. in biology 1983 summa cum laude with a 4.0 GPA.
Evans earned his medical degree from the University of Texas Medical Branch – Galveston. He completed a residency in orthopedic surgery at John Peter Smith Hospital in Forth Worth where he was named an outstanding intern. Evans is also board certified in sports medicine.
“I wanted to be a doctor from a young age. Being involved in sports, especially my years at Highlands playing football, motivated me to pursue a career in orthopedic surgery and sports medicine. I was lucky not to have any serious football injuries, but some of my teammates weren’t so fortunate,” Evans said.
Evans primarily performs knee surgery, ranging from anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) reconstructive surgery for young athletes to knee replacements for his older patients.
“It’s very satisfying when my patients say they’re glad they had the surgery done. It’s wonderful to see the young athletes play the sports they love again and the elderly people cruise into my office with no limps and smiles on their faces,” Evans said.
He serves on the Advisory Board in Sports Medicine for Texas Health Resources Hospital Systems in North Texas and has been named a “Top Doc” multiple times in Forth Worth Texas magazine.
Evans has written numerous articles about sports injuries for North Texas newspapers and magazines. He serves as an orthopedic surgery consultant for many local high schools in the Fort Worth area.
As a high school senior himself considering different football scholarship offers, a trip to Highlands where academics was stressed sealed the deal.
“Defensive coordinator Coach Fred Bleil recruited me and when I visited campus, he asked me about my academic interest. Within 30 minutes he had me talking with the chairman of the Biology Department. Highlands was the only school that asked me about academics, and I was very impressed. Coach Bleil always put academics first,” Evans said.
In Evans’ freshman year, the football team struggled through a 1-9 season. The next year Bleil was promoted to head football coach, eventually leading his team to a RMAC championship in 1981 – the same year Evans was a senior and won RMAC Scholar-Athlete honors as well as All Conference Offensive Line recognition as a guard.
“Coach Bleil was a passionate, honorable coach who was a great motivator and leader. Winning the RMAC championship was a phenomenal experience,” Evans said.
Today, Evans serves on the Board of Directors for the Fred Bleil Memorial Scholarship Fund at Highlands.
From his first days at Highlands, Evans was determined to excel academically, with his professors playing a key role.
“My biology professors at Highlands like Dr. John Spenser, Dr. Sean McEllin and Dr. Maureen Romine were great. Dr. Robert Amai in chemistry was another exceptional professor. These professors took a personal interest in their students and gave us valuable hands-on lab experience that helped us think critically and apply classroom knowledge. Highlands prepared me for medical school,” Evans said.
Outside the classroom, Evans was a graduate teaching assistant and worked as a science tutor for the Upward Bound Program at Highlands.