Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has announced the nomination of three appointments to The University of New Mexico Board of Regents including Jack Fortner, William “Bill” Payne and Randy Ko. The nominees were submitted to the Senate Rules Committee for appointment and were approved unanimously in the Senate Rules Committee and were confirmed unanimously by the New Mexico Senate on Friday, March 12.
Fortner and Payne were appointed to six-year terms, while Ko, a student regent, was appointed for two years. Their terms end Dec. 31, 2026, and Dec. 31, 2022, respectively. They replace Regents Rob Doughty, Marron Lee and student-regent Melissa Henry, whose terms expired Dec. 2020.
“I appreciate that Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham has been thoughtful in her nominations for the UNM Board of Regents, all of whom are committed to serving UNM and the people of New Mexico,” said UNM President Garnett S. Stokes. “It is an honor to welcome them to the Board, and I look forward to working with each of them to advance our state’s flagship university. I also want to recognize and thank Regents Melissa Henry, Marron Lee and Rob Doughty for their leadership and dedicated service to The University of New Mexico.”
A native New Mexican, Fortner is a UNM alumnus who has previously served as a UNM regent for 18 years. Fortner was first appointed to a six-year term on the UNM Board of Regents in 1998 by Gov. Gary Johnson. Gov. Bill Richardson re-appointed Fortner to the Board of Regents for a six-year term from 2004 to 2010. He was re-appointed to the Board of Regents by Gov. Susanna Martinez in 2010. Fortner's latest six-year term concluded in December 2016, but he continued to serve on the board pending Senate confirmation of new appointees until his resignation in May 2017.
Fortner served as president of the Board in 2005 and has also served as president for four years from 2011-2015. He also served as vice president of the Board from 2001 to 2004, and again from 2006 to 2010. From 1998 to 2010, he served as chairman of the Health Science Committee of the Board of Regents.
He previously served on the San Juan County Commission; the Labor Management Relations Board for the City of Farmington; the New Mexico Environmental Improvement Board; and as president of the San Juan County Bar. He is also a member of the New Mexico Bar and San Juan County Bar Association.
Fortner, who grew up in Farmington, is an attorney and senior partner in the firm of Fortner & Quail, LLC. Fortner graduated from UNM with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in 1978. He then obtained his Juris Doctor Degree from the University of Michigan in 1981.
Payne was raised in Albuquerque, and following completion of undergraduate and graduate degrees at UNM, and entered the Navy in 1975. During his first 11 years of active duty, he served in Underwater Demolition Team ELEVEN, SEAL Team ONE, the U.S. Naval Academy, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Naval Special Warfare Unit ONE. Additionally, the Navy sent Payne to Georgetown University where he earned an MA in Government and a certificate in National Security Studies, eventually earning a Navy designation as a Middle East/Africa/South Asia Politico/Military sub-specialist.
Payne returned to Albuquerque from active duty in 1986 and completed his Juris Doctorate at the UNM School of Law where he was associate editor of the Natural Resources Journal. He is currently licensed to practice law in New Mexico and the District of Columbia.
He served in the Navy for nearly 35 years of active and reserve service including multiple recalls to active duty before retiring in October of 2009 (1975-2009). He eventually became the first career reserve Navy SEAL to be promoted to Rear Admiral. Among his senior-level positions, he served as deputy director for Strategy, Plans and Policy at United States Central Command, director of Operations at United States Special Operations Command, and deputy commander, United States Navy Special Warfare Command.
First elected to the New Mexico Senate in 1996, Payne was the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, a member of the Energy Council, a Commissioner of the Uniform Law Commission, and the recognized leader for utility, veteran/military affairs, and natural resource issues in the Senate. He served as Minority Whip for 12 years. Payne was made an Honorary UNM Letterman in 2012 and was recognized by the UNM Alumni Association with the Higher Education Distinguished Legislator Award in 2013.
Payne is married to Deborah, a retired Commander U.S. Navy, and a retired manager at Sandia National Laboratories.
Ko began his combined M.D./Ph.D. program in 2018 with the UNM School of Medicine and the Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program. Ko is a graduate student actively conducting research under the guidance of Dr. Eric Prossnitz with the Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Molecular Medicine at the UNM School of Medicine. He has previously conducted research with institutions abroad and locally with the UNM Cancer Research Facility, and Sandia National Laboratory Center for Integrated Nanotechnologies (CINT). As a result of his research profile, Ko was named a 2017 Goldwater Scholar.
As a medical student, Ko served on the UNM School of Medicine Learning Environment Office Advisory Committee and the UNM School of Medicine Curriculum Committee, among others. He also served as a UNM Trailblazer Student Alumni Ambassador. As an undergraduate student, Ko served as a senator for the Associated Students of UNM (ASUNM) and as a voting member of the Student Fee Review Board for the FY 2016-2017 budget cycle, Student Publication Board and ASUNM Finance Committee.
Ko received a B.S. in Biochemistry and a B.A. in East Asian Studies (Chinese) from UNM in 2018. He is a lifelong New Mexican, born and raised in Albuquerque.
The appointees assumed their duties, responsibilities, and authorities as regents immediately upon having been submitted to the Senate. They join current Regents President Douglas M. Brown, Vice President Kimberly Sanchez Rael, Sandra K. Begay, Robert L. Schwartz,
For more information, visit UNM Board of Regents.