Continuing a Tradition of Education

Ron Toya ’70 recently completed 25 years of service for the Department of the Interior and the Bureau of Indian Affairs, working with New Mexico’s tribes and pueblos. He currently serves as the BIA’s senior management analyst in the deputy commissioner’s office.

Ron writes, “Because the world of Indian people does not end—or start—at the reservation line, I have been involved in issues affecting Indian people in city, county, and state environments. Many of these have intersected with various types of education and training.”

For instance, Ron served for six years on the board of directors of New Futures School in Albuquerque, a school for pregnant teen-age girls that included Indian students from on and off the reservation, and he has worked hard to develop policies encouraging Native American students to go on to college.

In the early 1990s, the governor of New Mexico appointed Ron to the Governor’s Business Executives for Education (a public/private sector cooperative dedicated to improving public education in New Mexico) as well as to a four-year term on the Commission on Higher Education.

The next governor reappointed him to the commission after his initial term ended, and his fellow commissioners elected him vice-chairman. He also served on an advisory group developing policies and plans for the Western Governors University, a technology-based cooperative system of higher education.

Ron explains, “Education is important to nearly all cultures, including the Indian people, who place a high value on gaining knowledge and abilities and then bringing them back to their homes and communities. My grandfather was the first American Indian in New Mexico elected to a school board, and my aunt was the first member of Jemez Pueblo to graduate from college. It is important for me to participate in continuing this tradition for my pueblo.”

The Council of Presidents of New Mexico Colleges and Universities presented Ron with an award for his service to the higher education system of New Mexico in June 1995, and he has also received the New Mexico Distinguished Public Service Award. Among the honors most meaningful to him, however, was the request of a student at the New Futures School to serve as godfather of her baby girl.

Reflecting on his own college, experience, Ron remarks, “Westmont prepared me for living a quality life. While I may not always be at the level God wants me to be, he keeps giving second chances. If I can help God help others, maybe he’ll keep giving me second chances!”

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