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New Mexico Higher Ed Loses Primary Legislative Advocate, Jan. 2, 2008

Sen. Benjamin Altamirano

by George Zamora

Sen. Benjamin Altamirano receives an honorary doctorate from New Mexico Tech in 2006.

SANTA FE, Jan. 2, 2008 – Members of the New Mexico Council of University Presidents, like most New Mexicans, are mourning the recent loss of the late State Senator Ben D. Altimirano, who for more than 35 years ably and honorably served his constituents and the State of New Mexico as a legislative leader.

“In the passing of this great gentleman and statesman, the Council of University Presidents would like to express its collective condolences to the Altamirano family,” said Daniel H. López, council chairman and president of New Mexico Tech.

“Among his many notable achievements, Senate President Pro Tem Altamirano will be long remembered for his outstanding leadership and unparalleled contributions to higher education, public service, economic development, and fiscal management at the highest levels of our state government,” López noted.

Since 1971, Altamirano, who died Dec. 27, 2007, at his Silver City home, represented a diverse district comprised of most of Catron, Grant, and Socorro counties — three of the state’s largest counties in terms of square mileage.

In 2005, Senator Altamirano was elected by his fellow state senators to a four-year term as Senate President Pro Tempore, the state senate’s top leadership position.

“The countless additions and upgrades which have been made to the infrastructures and facilities of all our state’s universities and colleges over the last 30 years can be directly attributed to Senator Altamirano’s hard work and staunch advocacy at every legislative session he participated in or presided over,” López said.

“In addition, it is because of his support that many of our universities can lay claim to having some truly world-class educational and research facilities,” he added.

For 18 years, the late State Senator served as chairman of the critically important New Mexico Senate Finance Committee, and, as such, provided oversight of budget development and implementation, prepared fiscal and policy analyses, and performed numerous legislative and financial audits for the State of New Mexico. In addition, Senator Altamirano had also been a chair, vice chair, or member of more than 40 standing and interim committees, sub-committees, and task forces associated with the New Mexico State Legislature.

“Throughout his long track record of exemplary service to state government, Senator Altamirano distinguished himself and his office by bringing to bear his extensive expertise in the crucial areas of finance, strategic planning and accountability,” López said, “all of which he conducted with his hallmark traits of leadership, vision, direction, and hard work — and without much fanfare — on a regular basis in Santa Fe.

“On behalf of all the presidents of higher education institutions in this state, I can state without reservation that Senator Altamirano’s passing is a tremendous loss that we all share — a loss of not only a great state leader, but also the loss of a great public servant and a true gentleman and friend,” López said.

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