Las Vegas, N.M. — The New Mexico Highlands University Foundation is honoring Leveo Sánchez, distinguished alumnus and chairman of the Board of Regents, April 26 at 2 p.m. for Legacy Day.
The event will be in the Student Union Building at the northwest corner of National Avenue and 8th Street.
The centerpiece for Legacy Day is the screening of a new biographical film about Sánchez titled, Sánchez International: a Legacy of Foreign and Domestic Service. Tom McDonald of Las Vegas was the writer and director for the film.
A reception follows the screening.
“Leveo Sánchez’ legacy to Highlands University is vast in scope and it is truly fitting that he is being honored at Legacy Day,” said Jim Fries, Highlands University president. “His leadership and vision on the Board of Regents has been exceptional. He also has the heart of a philanthropist, giving generously to Highlands through scholarships, the School of Education, and numerous foundation initiatives.
“Leveo Sánchez has played an important role in moving Highlands University forward and all his contributions are greatly appreciated. His remarkable legacy is destined to live on,” Fries said.
Bill Garcia, Highlands Foundation Board member, played a key role in organizing Legacy Day.
“We are honoring Regent Sánchez to highlight and herald his exceptional service to Highlands University,” García said. “Leveo has demonstrated through actions and generosity his love for Highlands. What’s extraordinary about Leveo is like many great leaders, he has chosen to give back to the university his time, talent and treasure.”
Sánchez and García worked together during the early days of the Highlands Foundation 30 years ago, along with current regent Frank Marchi and others.
“It was a surprise and a tremendous honor to be chosen as a legacy maker,” Sánchez said. “I feel very strongly that one has to give back in useful and productive ways to society, and I’m in a position to do that. I learned that from my mother, Victoria de Sánchez.
De Sánchez was recognized internationally as an education pioneer in a distinguished career that spanned nearly five decades. In addition to teaching and principal positions in New Mexico, de Sánchez spent 17 years with the U.S. Foreign Service, teaching in Latin America and establishing teacher education colleges.
De Sánchez earned both her B.A. and M.A. at Highlands in education and Spanish. In 1944, she joined the Highlands faculty, the first of two Hispanic native New Mexican professors. Following her death in 1995, the university’s regents named the Teacher Education Center in memory of de Sánchez.
“I’ve been running around the Highlands campus since I was 2, when my mother was on campus each summer to renew her teaching license. In a few months I’ll be 84 and I’m still running around campus. My mother and I both felt the same deep love for Highlands and Las Vegas — both were very good to us,” Sánchez said.
Sánchez said he and his mother were very close. She raised him alone after his father died in a truck wreck six weeks before his birth in 1930.
“I’ve always admired my mother’s vision, strength, decisiveness, and willingness to take risks at a time when few men — and even fewer women — would. Imagine going to rural Guatemala in 1946 to establish a teacher’s education college, like she did,” Sánchez said.
He said living in Latin America with his mother opened new worlds that provided endless opportunities. It also sparked an early interest in young Sánchez for Foreign Service.
Sánchez graduated from Las Vegas High School in 1948. After serving three years in the U.S. Army during the Korean War, he earned his bachelor’s degree in economics and business from Highlands in 1954. He went on to complete a master’s degree in foreign affairs and Latin American studies from the George Washington University School of Government in Washington, D.C.
In 1969 in Washington, D.C., Sánchez founded and chaired Development Associates, Inc., an international consulting firm specializing in social and economic development. For 36 years, his firm worked in the United States and more than 120 countries across the globe.
Development Associates’ thousands of contracts — primarily in developing nations — ranged from establishing family planning programs in Latin America to training Ukrainian government workers to conduct the country’s first democratic election.
“My career was always involved in programs focused on improving the lives of people, and providing them with additional opportunities. It was exhilarating to have a positive impact,” Sánchez said.
During his career, Sánchez also served as deputy director for the Peace Corp, Latin American Region; director for the U.S. Office of Economic Opportunity, Mid-Atlantic Region; and director for the U.S. Office of Institutional Development, Latin American Bureau of the Agency for International Development (AID).
Sánchez has served in numerous leadership positions, ranging from president of the Pan American Development Foundation to board chairman of the Latino Economic Development Corporation and president of the Highlands Foundation.
A native of Lamy, N.M., Sánchez returned to his home state in 2005. In 2008, then Gov. Bill Richardson appointed him to the Highlands Board of Regents.
McDonald, owner/manager of Gazette Media Services, said media arts graduate Arianna Andreatta was the videographer for the film, calling her work highly professional.
“This is a film about an extraordinary mother and son who went from rural New Mexico to take on the world in extremely successful careers,” McDonald said. “I had the privilege of interviewing Leveo multiple times for the film, along with many other accomplished alumni from Highlands.”
The film also includes historical photographs, many from the Sánchez family archives that have never been seen publicly. In September, Sánchez will celebrate 58 years of marriage to Patricia Marshall Sánchez. The couple has three children — Lia, Victoria, and Leveo.