Koch, Overton, Gallegos
Outgoing regents Jamie Koch, Heidi Overton and Gene Gallegos attended the event in their honor.
Credit: Carolyn Gonzales

The University of New Mexico recently honored outgoing regents Gene Gallegos, Jamie Koch and student regent Heidi Overton. Organized by Faculty Senate President Pamela V. Pyle, the event, Faculty Focus, offered a showcase of faculty giving brief presentations in their areas of expertise, interspersed with remarks on the contributions of Gallegos, Koch and Overton.

Professor Alex Ritchie, UNM School of Law, offered a few words on behalf of Gene Gallegos, the 1998 recipient of the School of Law Distinguished Achievement Award. Ritchie marveled at how Gallegos finds time to practice law on top of his duties as regent, “Since graduating from the law school in 1960, Gene has been a lawyer of record in many of the biggest oil and gas legal disputes in our state’s history. In those cases, he often represents landowners, and in a dispute with an oil and gas company, this means representing the little guy.”

Gallegos and his wife Felice, also a graduate of the UNM School of Law, have provided the law school with financial support, “including an endowed scholarship in honor of Gene’s father, Judge J.V. Gallegos,” Ritchie said, adding that he is a frequent guest lecturer, sharing his expertise on landowner royalty litigation and oil and gas law.

Ritchie, whose salary, in large part, is paid from an endowment created for a program in oil and gas law, added a note of gratitude to Gallegos: “When the law school tried to figure out what an oil and gas law curriculum should look like, Gene was there to provide significant guidance. He helped convince the school that they should hire someone to teach legal topics like the ownership of oil and gas mineral interests, the spacing of oil and gas wells, and, of course, the calculation of landowner royalties.

“UNM is now one of only a handful of law schools in the nation that employs a fulltime tenure or tenure track oil and gas law professor. It is very possible that we would not have such a program, and that I would not be here as a professor, without Regent Gallegos. We have been honored to have him serve as a Regent.”

Chancellor Paul Roth offered recognition of student regent Heidi Overton. Roth met Overton when she was admitted to the second combined BA/MD program as a Regents Scholar in the University Honors Program. She is a Gallup native who was valedictorian of her class.

“I have watched her trajectory with amazement and pride. As an undergraduate, she received UNM’s Clauve Outstanding Senior Award, the University Honors Program Outstanding Senior Award and the Associated Students of UNM Exemplary Service Award. She graduated summa cum laude with her bachelor’s degree in Health Medicine and Human Values,” he said.

In her four years in the School of Medicine, she received the Combined BA/MD Degree program scholarship for academics, served as the BA/MD program admissions committee and treasurer for the Health Sciences Student Council.

“And that was before Gov. Martinez nominated her as the student appointee to the UNM Board of Regents during her second year of medical school,” Roth said.

Since then, she juggled her responsibilities as a regent with her clinical rotations, conducted the necessary research on issues before casting her vote and discussed topics with the constituents involved, he said. “She exercised her responsibilities as a regent in the same manner in which we would want her to do so as a physician – evidence-based and scientifically, but also with compassion,” Roth said.

He concluded, “Heidi represents the very best of what we expect in our students and I am proud to claim her as one of our own.”

Kevin Stevenson, director of strategic projects in the Office of the President, recognized Jamie Koch. Stevenson borrowed a page out of David Letterman’s book and offered a top 10 list of accomplishments of Koch’s tenure on the board.

Among those items is the creation of Lobo Development Corporation, “which allows the university to capitalize on its physical resources and operate competitively in a 21st century economy,” he said. Horn Mesa – site of an old Cochiti village, was returned to the Pueblo, and the UNM Hospital and Children’s Hospital came about because “Jamie was largely responsible for the cigarette tax increase that made construction of the new hospital a possibility,” Stevenson said.

Stevenson noted Koch for making sure the students got their section back in WisePies Arena, that athletic facilities received necessary upgrades and improvements and the resources were allocated to all Olympic sports.

Koch, who joined the board in 2003, attended a student government meeting, kicking off a “sea change of stakeholder engagement,” Stevenson said. “The reason that student leaders have a formal role and voice they do today is very much a result of Jamie’s efforts.” He also lauded Koch for transparency in budgeting and in committees and within the board itself.