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Tech Staffer Wins Prestigious Statewide Service Award

SOCORRO, N.M. October 21, 2009 – New Mexico Tech staff member Tony Ortiz was selected to receive one of the state’s most prestigious civil service awards – the 2009 Governor’s Distinguished Public Service Award.

Ortiz is being recognized for his efforts to expand and improve the state Science Fair and state Science Olympiad. Since taking over as state director of the program in 2002, Ortiz has significantly increased participation among high school students across the state.

Tony Ortiz, director the New Mexico state Science Olympiad and Science Fair.

“I was shocked and surprised to hear I had won,” Ortiz said. “I’m very appreciative for the recognition. This is huge. Now, I feel challenged to do even more so that I’m truly deserving.”

Ortiz and the other winners will be honored during an awards presentation dinner and reception Thursday, Nov. 12, at the Marriott in Albuquerque.

New Mexico Tech president Dr. Daniel H. Lopez said Ortiz is an exemplary choice for the state’s highest civil service award.

“Tony Ortiz is a tireless champion of education in New Mexico,” Lopez said. “His office is directly responsible for opening the world of science, engineering and technology to thousands of youngsters in the state. At a time when the United States is lagging behind the rest of the world in these areas, it’s vital that we have leaders like Tony to serve as leaders and mentors.”

New Mexico Tech has played host to both the state Science Fair and state Science Olympiad events for many decades. By virtue of his tireless leadership, recruiting and promotional efforts, the two high school science programs have exploded in participation. Both programs offer more than $100,000 in scholarships to deserving high school students.

Ortiz was also instrumental in bringing the International Science and Engineering Fair to Albuquerque in 2007, an event that attracted more than 8,000 participants and visitors to New Mexico and gave the state unique visibility and recognition. Lopez said Ortiz volunteered to co-chair the committee that organized the International fair, helping to raise money and generate publicity for the event. Lopez said Ortiz’ efforts on the International Science and Engineering Fair certainly played a large factor in the award.

“Tony’s record shows that he goes above and beyond the call of duty,” Lopez said.

Dr. Peter Gerity, Tech’s vice president of academic affairs, said Ortiz puts forth extraordinary effort to champion the Science Fair and Science Olympiad. Ortiz is the liaison between New Mexico Tech and the six regions of the state and he has built relationships with high school science teachers around the state – from the small districts like Roy to the largest programs, like Albuquerque Public Schools.

“Tony is a consummate leader,” Gerity said. “He consistently goes the extra mile to help others. He has demonstrated the capacity to serve his community in an exceptional manner and I am honored to have recommended him for this award. As a one-man show, he is the champion for science and engineering in New Mexico’s schools, making him extremely deserving of this award.”

Ortiz said he truly believes in the importance of Science Olympiad and Science Fair as effective tool to encourage the next generation of scientists to pursue their dreams.

“This award tells me we’re doing the right thing, but it’s truly a statewide effort,” Ortiz said. “Working with high school students and teachers is both challenging and rewarding.”

He foresees a coming challenge in coming years to convince school districts to fund these academic activities.

“It’s sad when students are selling cupcakes just to raise money to pay registration fees to compete in science events,” he said. “With school districts cutting their budgets, it’s a challenge to find resources to keep these programs alive.”

Ortiz served on the Socorro Consolidated School board from 2005 to 2009, coordinated the Socorro Relay for Life in 2002 and is a member of the advisory council of the Society for Science.

A native of Socorro, Ortiz earned his bachelor’s from College of Santa Fe in psychology and counseling. He first started working at Tech in the accounting department in 1993. From 1996 to 2000, he served as the coordinator of residential life and summer conferences. After two years as coordinator of the Advising Resource Center, he took over the Science Fair and Science Olympiad programs.

– NMT –

By Thomas Guengerich/New Mexico Tech