October 22, 2004
New Mexico Public Education Department
300 Don Gaspar
Santa Fe, NM 87501-2786

Ruth Williams
Legislative Liaison/PIO
(505) 827-7803 or 988-0582 pager


The UNM Alumni Association will honor six alumni with its Zia Award on Saturday, Oct. 23, 2004 at the All-University Breakfast. A part of the University’s homecoming traditions, the breakfast begins at 9 a.m. at the Albuquerque Petroleum Club.

This year’s recipients include: UNM ski coach George Brooks; New Mexico Education Secretary Veronica Garcia; Los Alamos Laboratory computer scientist Thomas Kelley; community volunteer Karen Pharris; educator Jacki Pieracci Riggs; and retired USWEST executive and UNM philanthropist Duffy Swan.

The Zia Award is presented to UNM alumni living in New Mexico who have distinguished themselves in philanthropic endeavors, public office, service to the University, community and volunteer activities, business or professional fields or who have made a significant contribution to education.

George Brooks (‘71 BUS, ‘80 MSPE)
Brooks has coached the New Mexico ski team for 34 years and has been the only head coach in the program’s history. The team won the NCAA overall championship last March, garnering the first championship title in any sport at UNM.

Brooks began his involvement with Lobo ski program as a student-athlete when he spent time not only on the slopes, but also on campus, petitioning signatures for the ski club to take on varsity status. More than 5,000 signatures later, it did; then UNM Athletics Director Pete McDavid appointed Brooks the first coach.

Veronica Garcia (‘73 BA, ‘78 MA, ‘03 Ed.D.)
Garcia was appointed last year by Gov. Bill Richardson as New Mexico’s first Secretary of Education. Garcia comes to the post after 30 years of public education experience. She has worked in the Albuquerque Public Schools as substitute teacher, classroom teacher, school psychologist, principal and regional superintendent. Subsequently, she was appointed superintendent of the Santa Fe Public Schools.

The year before her appointment as secretary, Garcia served as executive director of the New Mexico Coalition of School Administrators. In 2003, Garcia was named Educator of the Year by the New Mexico Research and Study Council. She was nominated for National Superintendent of the Year in 2002 by the American Association of School Administrators; named the 2002 Superintendent of the Year by the New Mexico School Superintendents Association; and honored as a Top Ten Hispanic Woman in New Mexico by the New Mexico Legislature in 2000.

Tom Kelley (‘66 BS, ‘68 MA, ‘73 Ph.D., ‘84 MA)
A Los Alamos native, Kelley began his career as a mathematics professor at Case Western Reserve and the University of Florida. He returned to Los Alamos in 1978 to work in the Los Alamos National Laboratory's radiochemistry group. In 1984, he transferred to the computer applications group, where he worked with other scientists to author a software program, ARIES, that both the United States and Russia would use to dismantle nuclear weapons.

Kelley retired this year, but continues to teach at UNM-Los Alamos and the Los Alamos Graduate Center. He has enrolled at St. John’s University in Santa Fe, working toward a master’s degree in liberal arts and has begun writing poetry.

Karen Pharris (‘68 BA)
Pharris began working as a volunteer for Albuquerque’s Ronald McDonald House in 1981, and she hasn’t quit. She chaired the operations committee that takes care not only of the roof, furnace and boilers, but also policies for the House’s use. Eventually, Pharris chaired the Ronald McDonald House Charities of New Mexico Board.

Pharris has also chaired the Junior League of Albuquerque as it supported the Ronald McDonald House expansion, the New Mexico Museum of Natural History opening and Explora’s evolution. Pharris is still a sustaining member of the Junior League. When her children were in high school, Pharris initiated the Albuquerque High All-Night Prom that recurred for years afterwards. Pharris operates her own desktop publishing business, designing newsletters for non-profit organizations.

Jacki Pieracci Riggs (‘84 MA, ‘92 Ph.D.)
Riggs is the former president and CEO of the New Mexico Business Roundtable for
Educational Excellence. Along with key community representatives, the Roundtable led the statewide collaborative on school reform. In 2003, Gov. Bill Richardson signed the School Reform Act creating greater school accountability and higher teacher pay. Riggs formerly served as Cabinet Secretary of the New Mexico Youth Authority.

She was the first woman in New Mexico to lead a correctional cabinet department and one of only a handful of women in the nation at that time with those responsibilities. Riggs served as a Commissioner to the Education Commission of the States for six years. Currently, she is a member of the Governor’s Task Force on Higher Education and serves on the Lieutenant Governor’s Steering Committee on Early Childhood Education.

Duffy Swan (‘68 BA)
Swan is a retired vice president for USWEST international and chief operating officer for USWEST’s joint venture in Malaysia. Swan began working at USWEST, formerly Mountain Bell, installing phone lines while attending UNM in the 1960’s. By 1991, he was in charge of building a wireless telecommunication system in the Kremlin. After his retirement in 1997, UNM recruited Swan to serve as development director and president of the UNM Foundation in which capacities he remained until 2000; the university recruited him for the same positions in an interim capacity again in 2003.

An active community player, Swan chaired the Golden Apple Foundation of New Mexico for five years; served as a member of the Albuquerque Economic Forum since 1998, chairing its education forum three times; chaired the Hosanna Ministries Foundation Board since last year; co-founded Leadership Albuquerque and Leadership Farmington; chaired the Greater Albuquerque United Way Campaign; chaired the Albuquerque Business/Education Compact (ABEC); chaired the Governor’s Drug Awareness Program; served on the board of the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce; and was a member of the UNM Anderson Schools Foundation board.

During the same breakfast, the UNM Mortar Board Honorary will present its Lobo Award to Fannye Irving-Gibbs, who earned her BA in 1988, at the age of 74, and her master’s two years later. Irving-Gibbs has been a tireless community volunteer.

The Lobo Award is presented to a UNM alumnus who has given outstanding personal service to UNM or for special achievement in a career that reflects credit on the university.