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'A Starry Night' fundraising gala announces award recipients, tickets on sale


For the first time since 2019, New Mexico State University’s College of Arts and Sciences will host "A Starry Night" in-person gala fundraiser from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday, March 23 at the ASNMSU Center for the Arts. The college was forced to postpone the event since 2020 due to the pandemic lockdown.

The evening will begin with hors d’oeuvres and desserts in the lobby at 6:30 p.m. made by the students of Alma d’arte Charter High School, followed by the awards presentation beginning at 7:30 p.m., which will include musical performances and video tributes of each of the honorees. Tickets are available online at $100 each for the general public and $75 for NMSU faculty and staff.

All funds raised will support the Aggie Jumpstart program, which provides an on-campus summer experience including academic support and special skills training for incoming freshmen to become acclimated to the university before they start college. “A Starry Night” began in 2013.

“These honors recognize individuals who have achieved state, national or international distinction through their accomplishments and leadership while supporting their community and NMSU’s College of Arts and Sciences,” said Enrico Pontelli, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “But Starry Night is not just a celebration of the accomplishments of these amazing individuals and their contributions. It is also the lead fundraising event for the College of Arts and Sciences; funds raised at the gala will support the Aggie Jumpstart program, which is designed to help incoming freshmen students each summer to prepare for their first semester at NMSU, through a program that not only will refine their skills in English and mathematics, but also help them get a head start on college life, develop their sense of belonging to NMSU and build their confidence towards academic success.”

This year’s honorees exemplify the four categories of Star of the Arts and Humanities, Star of the Sciences, Star of the College of Arts and Sciences and the Town and Gown Award. However, a new category was added this year to recognize Barbara Hubbard with a Lifetime Achievement Award.

Hubbard spent 30 years as special events director at NMSU. At 95 years old, she is remembered for attracting some of the biggest names in entertainment to Las Cruces. “Mother” Hubbard is a nickname given to her by Bob Hope because of her dedication to her students. She remains active in promoting concerts, mentoring and providing student scholarship funds. She has generated over $750,000 in scholarship funds for NMSU students alone, where she continues teaching a venue management class.

This year’s Star of the Sciences will be awarded to the late Karen Trujillo, who passed away in 2021 while serving as superintendent of Las Cruces Public Schools. She was an undergraduate and graduate student in the College of Arts and Sciences before earning her Ph.D. in education. She served as an administrator conducting research at NMSU for more than 10 years. She was appointed secretary of the New Mexico Department of Education in 2019 before being named superintendent in 2020.

The Star of Arts and Humanities award will go to Jennifer Cervantes, a New York Times-bestselling author of more than 13 books, who earned a bachelor’s degree in communication studies from NMSU. Writing as J.C. Cervantes, her books have been published in more than 12 countries and have appeared on multiple national lists, including the American Booksellers Association New Voices, Barnes and Noble’s Best Young Reader Books, and Amazon’s Best Books of the Month. She has earned multiple awards and recognitions, including the New Mexico Book Award and the Zia Book Award.

The Star of the Arts and Sciences award will go to David Wilson, founder of Wilson Binkley Advertising and Marketing, one of the largest full-service agencies in New Mexico. Over his 30-year tenure as an agency owner and partner, Wilson has employed approximately 30 to 40 NMSU graduates in a professional capacity and a roughly equal number of paid interns. Wilson has always been a strong proponent for NMSU graduates and, with his partners, helped create the Steven R. Pasternack Endowed Scholarship at the NMSU Department of Journalism & Media Studies.

Denise Welsh will receive this year’s Town and Gown Award. With over three decades of experience and service to NMSU, Welsh has worked closely with deans, department heads and faculty to improve access to education, facilitate technological change, and support the university and community as director of instructional media services. Welsh has participated in many committees and boards at NMSU, including the Advisory Council on Administrative Policy, the NMSU Benefit Advisory Board, the NMSU Insurance Committee and the NMSU Distance Education Advisory Board. She also served the High-Tech Consortium of Southern New Mexico, NMSU Pioneers and the American Southwest Theatre Company. In addition, she has been a volunteer for the Starlight Theatre Company of Las Cruces and is currently with the Action Program for Animals.

The presentation also will recognize the College of Arts and Sciences’ department stars, which may include alumni, faculty, staff or students of the various departments in the college.

For information about “A Starry Night,” contact Marissa Holguin at madoming@nmsu.edu  or 575-646-3500. Learn more about the Aggie Jumpstart Fund.