Dennis Cruz is retiring from UNM-Taos after 16 years of service and he will be sorely missed. Everyone is welcome to stop by Thursday, February 25 from 1-3 p.m. at the new snack bar in Pueblo Hall on the Klauer campus to wish him well.
Cruz started as business manager in 1994, just months after UNM took over the Taos Education Center, as it was known then. During his tenure he has served as Fiscal Officer, twice Acting Executive Director and most recently Campus Resource Director. As he modestly puts it, “It was a case of taking on additional duties as they came up: dealing with facilities, dealing with HR. As the college grew, so did the duties. It was an evolving thing, rather than moving into a job or title.”
Executive Director Dr. Kate O’Neill sees if differently: “Dennis Cruz has been the backbone of UNM-Taos. He has worked with staff, faculty, students and the community. He has been a presence at Intergovernmental Council meetings and has worked with town and county government for many years. He is very responsible, likeable and hugely competent and he has shepherded this campus through all sorts of financial ups and downs. He has helped to train and mentor many staff members and it is going to take no less than three people to step in and take on what Dennis has been doing.
“He is one of the most knowledgeable, skilled people I have ever had the privilege of working with, in terms of his ability to problem solve, to think on his feet and to understand the complexity of all the systems at UNM-Taos. He’s really got a great sense of humor, takes great joy in working with the people on his team and we wish him and his family the best in his retirement, and yet of course we are very sad to see him go.”
When asked about the major changes Cruz had seen over the years, he immediately answered, “Growth. Monumental growth. We’ve gone from 300 students to 1,500 this semester. We went from zero square footage, zero buildings, zero facilities to what we have today. The build out of Klauer Campus is probably the most visible example of this. That took a lot of wind out of my sails—trying to get the buildings up, the funding and infrastructure in place. You’d accomplish one thing and immediately have new obstacles placed in front of you. It couldn’t have happened without the huge support our community has for this institution.
“It was heartwarming to see all the private and municipal entities come together in making this happen. I’d say it’s unprecedented, because everybody believed and still believes in education and they were willing to stand up for it and make it a success. In the future I hope to see the campus come together around the Library Learning Resource Center, along with a student center—a place students can call their own.
“I just want to thank everybody, from the staff I supervised to past directors to the current director for giving me the opportunity in this community to serve.”
When I mentioned that Dr. O’Neill had said he would be putting in a few hours a week for a while to help with the transition, Dennis Cruz chuckled.
“Yeah,” he said, “I suppose I’ll become a fixture and they can put a UNM-Taos tag on me.”
In a related matter, as of February 19 the two million dollar General Obligation Bond funding request for Phase I of the Library Learning Resource Center had passed the Senate, passed the House, and if it survives the governor’s veto pen, it will go before New Mexico voters in November. Mr. Cruz just might get to see his hope for the future become a reality.