Commencement 2003

SOCORRO, N.M., May 17, 2003 - New Mexico Tech awarded 279 degrees, along with several awards, at commencement ceremonies on Saturday, May 17.

Emeritus professor of physics Charles B. Moore was presented with an honorary doctorate in physics, in recognition of his lifetime contributions to the field of atmospheric physics. In presenting the award, President Daniel H. López of New Mexico Tech said, "In a real sense, this is not an honorary award at all. Charles B. Moore has done research that would have earned him a Ph.D. many times over, had he consented to accept one before now."

[See related article:  C. B. Moore Awarded Honorary Doctorate]

Moore was chairman of New Mexico Tech's Langmuir Laboratory for Atmospheric Research from 1969 until his retirement in 1985. While there, he was instrumental in establishing many of the lab's research facilities and in solving problems related to launching instrumented rockets into thunderstorms. Among his other accomplishments were: the first major improvement to the lightning rod since Benjamin Franklin invented it; development and testing of polyethlene balloons as atmospheric research tools; the discovery of traces of water vapor in the atmosphere of Venus; and the design and fabrication of instrumentation for early ionospheric probes. Moore also achieved a degree of notoriety as the man who launched the weather balloon that is enshrined at Roswell as a UFO.

New Mexico Tech presented the Founder's Award, its highest award to a graduate student, to Rebekah Silva, daughter of Matthew and Deborah Silva of Albuquerque and a graduate of Sandia High School. Rebekah received her master's degree in biology, having earned her bachelor's degree in mathematics with highest honors, also at New Mexico Tech. In the course of her studies, Rebekah spent a year studying in Mexico, at the Instituto Tecnolocico y De Estudios Superiores de Monterrey. She also worked in the Emergency Room at Socorro General Hospital, which played a key role in her decision to go to medical school. She will be attending UNM Medical School next year.

The Brown Award, to the senior judged by the faculty to be highest in scholarship, leadership, and conduct, went to Elizabeth Fernandez, daughter of Rosalie and Joseph Fernandez of Albuquerque and a graduate of St. Pius X High School. Elizabeth graduated with highest honors in physics.

She was named recipient of the New Mexico Tech's prestigious Macey Scholarship in 2002. Last summer, Fernandez was chosen for the National Science Foundation's prestigious Research Experiences for Undergraduates program and performed research for three months at the University of Hawaii's Institute for Astronomy. She has three publications to her name in referred journals, one being from her high school years.

Beth is also the founder and past president of the New Mexico Tech Creative Writing Club and is an accomplished poet, having won the annual campus-wide poetry writing contest three times in the past four years.

The Cramer Award for the male student with the highest scholastic achievement in engineering went to David Ladner. Ladner is the son of Ken and Kathleen Ladner of Silver and a graduate of Silver High School.

Ladner put his environmental knowledge to use last summer, on a job with the USDA Forest Service, on abandoned mine reclamation projects. He also contributed to the community as a participant in a "New Mexico First" Town Hall dealing with international border issues. He will soon be entering the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to work on his Ph.D.

The Cramer Award for the female student with the highest scholastic achievement in engineering went to Candice Scheffing, who graduated with highest honors in chemical engineering. She is the daughter of Regina and Charles Scheffing of Farmington and is a graduate of Farmington High School. Scheffing is a member of the student chapter of American Society of Chemical Engineers and the Society of Women Engineers. For her senior design project, she and her team designed a coal gassification electrical power plant.

Scheffing has been an intern at Los Alamos National Laboratory and spent a semester as an exchange student at the University of Tennessee. She was chosen from a nationwide candidate pool to receive a fellowship from the prestigious Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education to attend graduate school in nuclear engineering, which she plans to do at North Carolina State.

New Mexico Tech also took the opportunity to honor faculty who have distinguished records in teaching and research. The Distinguished Teaching Award for 2003 went to Dr. Carl Popp, longtime professor of chemistry, who is retiring this year. In addition to teaching chemistry to over 10,000 Tech students during 35 years, Popp also served as Academic Vice President from 1985 to 2000. Dr. Popp was nominated for the award by many current students and alumni for clear teaching style, his excellent mentoring abilities, and his impact outside of the classroom. One student recalled that, "Using songs about the periodic table, dust explosions, and occasional bad puns, Carl helped sharpen the minds of thousands of eager young students, and a few who weren't so eager, as well."

New Mexico Tech's Distinguished Research Award went, for the first time, to a professor in the humanities. Dr. Rafael Lara-Martinez, associate professor of Spanish, Since then, he has amassed an extensive record of publications and conference presentations.

In presenting the award, Dr. Van Romero, vice president of research, said, "The interdisciplinary nature of his degrees - anthropology, linguistics, religious studies, semiotics, and literature - and his acquaintance with the three cultures in which Spanish, French, and English are the dominant languages, has given him a wide range of expertise, one that goes far beyond what is expected of a language professor."

In particular, Lara-Martinez has come to be recognized at the leading expert on Salvadoran poet Roque Dalton. His critical and annotated collection of Dalton's poetry is regarded as the definitive book on this important Latin American writer. He has coined the term "magical Marxism" to describe the unique blend synthesized in Dalton's poetry.

In addition to his extensive publishing record, Dr. Lara-Martinez has been awarded research fellowships by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. This year, Dr. Lara-Martinez was honored by his native country by being asked to deliver keynote addresses at both the Universidad de El Salvador and the Universidad Tecnológica in San Salvador and was visiting professor at the University of Costa Rica.

The New Mexico Tech Alumni Association presented its Distinguished Achievement Award to Dr. Ronald J. Roman of Tucson, Ariz. Dr. Roman earned two degrees in metallurgical engineering at New Mexico Tech: a bachelor's degree in 1963 and a master's degree in 1965. He went on to earn his Doctor of Science in metallurgy at Colorado School of Mines.

Since then, he has held a number of increasingly important positions in the field of metallurgy. Among his notable achievements was the establishment of new programs in mineral processing and hydrometallurgy at the University of Zimbabwe. From 1969 to 1977, he was Chief Research Metallurgist at New Mexico Tech's Bureau of Mines and Mineral Resources. He was also an adjunct faculty member, and occasionally served as Acting Director of the Bureau.

Roman is currently the principal of his own company, Leach, Inc. This Tucson-based company provides consulting services to companies involved in testing, developing, or operating copper or gold leaching operations in South America, Australia, Africa and the US.


Kathleen Hedges