“Doing the work and being a part of something that makes a difference is where the fun is.” This joy in advancing the operations and growth of The University of New Mexico has been a defining characteristic of Ava Lovell’s career. After nearly 28 years of service to UNM, Lovell, who is currently the HSC Senior Executive Officer for Finance & Administration, has announced her retirement. She has been at the helm of the UNM Health Sciences finances and operations since 2007.
“It has been a distinct pleasure to serve at New Mexico’s flagship university in support of our public service mission,” Lovell said of her time at UNM. “The past 28 years have given me a continued opportunity to serve a community and state that I love and be a part of the incredible physical and programmatic growth of this ‘city within a city’.”
As HSC Senior Executive Officer for Finance & Administration, Lovell’s responsibilities include fiscal and administrative oversight for the HSC, including academic and health system enterprises. The departments within her responsibility provide a wide range of financial, administrative, and student and patient support services.
“Ava has been a great leader, team builder, and mentor who has made extraordinary contributions to the University, and we are so grateful in health and health sciences,” said EVP for Health Sciences and CEO of the UNM Health System Doug Ziedonis. “Her excellent skills and knowledge combined with tireless efforts has helped create stability in a rapidly changing healthcare and health sciences landscape, and we have been very fortunate to benefit from her leadership.”
Lovell has been a big part of expanding the UNM Health Sciences campus footprint. She recalls that when the UNM Comprehensive Cancer Center was built, it was powerful to be involved in the creation of a building that incorporates healing – from the texture of building materials to the style of the artwork – into the process. More recently, seeing the long-awaited UNMH tower project come to life has been incredibly rewarding for her, after the many years it has taken to for it to become a reality.
“Ava and I were hired out of the same candidate pool into UNM, and I have continued to be blessed since then with having a mentor, friend and colleague as our families grew up and our careers evolved” recalls Mike Schwantes, Chief Financial Services Officer at the HSC. “She is an accounting genius, honest, to the point, and caring, and she knows that the balance of career and personnel life are as key as building relationships within a very complex university system.” He went on to praise her skills in executing and adapting financial guidance, compliance and creating stability over the years with changes in leadership and direction. “She also knows that the best part about being a parent is when your promoted to grandparent!”
A first-generation college student and fifth-generation New Mexican, Lovell knows the value of education and says that being a part of UNM’s educational mission is what has been most important to her. She began her career at UNM in 1994, having previously worked for a national auditing firm and several Fortune 500 companies. She acquired experience in the offices of Research Accounting, Property Accounting, Accounts Payable, Financial Reporting and Financial Systems. Later she served as Associate University Controller, Project Director for Banner Finance and Associate Vice President for Financial Services at the UNM Health Sciences Center.
In 2007, she accepted the position of Vice President and University Controller over both Main Campus Financial Services and UNM Health Sciences Center’s Financial Services, and in 2012 started her current position as Senior Executive Officer for Finance & Administration. She shared that “building up this financial organization – from recruiting mission oriented people and providing them the tools to succeed, to building trust across all dimensions of the University – is one of the hardest, yet rewarding things I’ve ever done.”
Just as UNM has evolved over the past three decades with the ever-changing global business climate, the role of the chief financial officer, too, has changed. Ava has had to learn to go beyond being ‘the finance operations expert’ to become an academic medical center strategist.
Lovell’s colleagues praised her leadership and financial acumen. “Ava’s ability to present financial reports in an understandable yet engaging way to our governance ranks among the best I have seen,” said Scot Sauder, Deputy University Counsel for Health Sciences. “More importantly, I truly appreciate Ava’s financial knowledge and her mentorship. I will miss her leadership and guidance.”
“I have had the pleasure of working with Ava for the entirety of my career at UNM and was even in the trenches of the original Banner implementation with her in the early 2000’s,” said Duane Arruti, UNM Chief Information Officer. “Ava is an exceptional communicator who values people as much as delivering great service. She inspires people to do their best and makes it a point to share both the impact of what is being accomplished and how everyone’s contributions make it possible.”
She received her Bachelor of Science degree in Accountancy from Northern Arizona University, her Executive Master of Health Administration from University of Southern California and is a Certified Public Accountant in the State of New Mexico. Ava has also taught Basic Fund Accounting for Colleges and Universities through NACUBO, the National Association of College and University Business Officers.
“I feel so proud of being a part of the phenomenal growth of the UNM Health Sciences Center, and fortunate to have been part of this great organization with such a noble mission. I have every confidence in its continued success,” Lovell said. When it comes to what’s next, she says she’s always up for learning something new and that what she looks forward to the most is, “spending more time with family and friends – especially my grandchildren. I also want to dedicate more time to the food ministry with which I’m involved…no one in this country should ever have to go hungry.”
Her last day as Senior Executive Officer for Finance & Administration will be June 30, 2022, and she will stay on in an advisory capacity to assist in the transition through the remainder of the year. An internal search will be conducted for an Interim Vice President for HSC Finance who will assume primary responsibility for oversight of the HSC fiscal portfolio until a national search is implemented for the role.
“We are working closely with the outstanding team that Ava has cultivated and mentored to ensure that our financial and administrative operations continue to successfully advance our mission,” said Ziedonis. “We have a transition plan in place and at this time, I want to celebrate Ava’s career and thank Ava for all she has done and the legacy she has created.”