Mari-Luci Jaramillo, the daughter of a shoe-maker in the small town of Las Vegas, N.M., and professor at The University of New Mexico was the first Latina to become a U.S. Ambassador—accepting an assignment to the Republic of Honduras. To honor the legacy of Jaramillo, fellow UNM colleagues, alumni, and friends came together to establish the U.S. Ambassador Mari-Luci Jaramillo Endowed Scholarship. The scholarship will support doctoral students in the UNM College of Education (COE) whose backgrounds have prepared them to understand the unique needs of the Latino community.

“Diversity in educational leadership is important,” says COE Dean Hector Ochoa. “Our College is delighted that this scholarship will enable future leaders to follow in the footsteps of Ambassador Jaramillo.”

 First Latina U.S. Ambassador
Mari-Luci Jaramillo at American Embassy-Honduras. 

Successful recipients of the newly established scholarship will be students who are committed to social justice and have a history of leadership on issues of equity and inclusion. These were examples set by Jaramillo and have great meaning for the scholarship fundraising committee chaired by UNM COE Associate Professor Diane Torres-Velásquez and UNM Professor Emeritus and former U. S. Senator Fred Harris.

“New Mexico needs more Hispanic teachers, well prepared and socially conscious— this will be the great result of the Jaramillo-initiated scholarships,” said Harris. “One of Mari-Luci Jaramillo’s school teachers gave her $500 for college with the only condition being that Mari-Luci herself should help other students in the same way someday.”

Educational leader and advocate

Jaramillo’s successful career included working as assistant vice president for Field Services for the nonprofit Educational Testing Services and serving as a board member for the Children’s Television Network and other advocacy groups promoting the improvement of human rights. She also served as deputy assistant secretary of state for Latin America under the Carter administration, and as deputy assistant secretary of defense for Latin America during the Clinton administration.

During her years of national and international service, Jaramillo was a keen and persistent Latina civil rights and education innovator. She was an associate dean in the College of Education and vice president for Student Affairs at UNM, and vice chair of the Board of Regents at New Mexico Highlands University. Most notably, she was a caring advisor and mentor to many undergraduate and graduate students.

Jaramillo’s local involvements include initiating the Family Development Center at UNM, and assisting in the development and active support of the first laws passed on bilingual education in New Mexico.

UNM College of Education
CNM President Emeritus Ted Martinez, U.S. Ambassador Mari-Luci Jaramillo and Associate Professor Emeritus Anita Bradley Pfeiffer enjoying talking about their long history with education in New Mexico. The College of Education recently held a luncheon to honor Jaramillo and other emeriti and former faculty.

Jaramillo’s long list of accomplishments did not come easily. As a child, she grew up in extreme poverty. Despite hardships, her parents encouraged and respected the value of education. Her mother often counseled Mari-Luci and her siblings with the reinforcing words, “Mi’jita (my little one), with a good education, you will get out of poverty.” This loving advice from her mother remained with her, instilling a determination to be the first person in her family to attend college. After earning a bachlor’s and master’s degree from Highlands University, she received her Ph.D. from the UNM College of Education in 1970.

Known as a woman who is Puro Oro (pure gold), Jaramillo has received numerous awards, including the Distinguished Citizen award from the U.S. Pentagon, the Order of Francisco Morazán Medal for extraordinary achievement in Honduras, the Anne Roe Award from the Harvard School of Education, the Elizabeth Payne Cubberly Scholar Award from Stanford University, and the New Mexico Good Citizen Award.

Her career has always focused on helping children and families in poverty, through education, policy, leadership and diplomacy. Through the U.S. Ambassador Mari-Luci Jaramillo Endowed Scholarship at UNM, the legacy of “opportunity through leadership, hope and heart,” as she states it, will live on in the dreams, studies and work of future Jaramillo Scholars.