Sheryl Abetya and Armando Valdez received emeritus assistant professor of business and emeritus assistant professor of management, respectively, at the Board of Trustees April, 2022, meeting.

Sheryl Abetya always accounted for students

Article by Garrett Carroll

From tax firms to classrooms to ironman triathlons, Sheryl Abeyta has a knack for achievement for herself and those around her.

“I am proud to be a part of Adams State,” said Sheryl. “I believe everyone should follow their dreams. I am a product of a great education. I believe education is power and I am inspired by the students. I wanted to inspire them in return. I am grateful for the opportunity to teach for the last several years and assist my students in seeing their dreams come true.”

An Adams State alumna, Class of 1990, Sheryl can relate to many of her students’ background and stories. “I grew up extremely poor. I lost my father in a car accident when I was six-years-old. I learned my work ethic from working in the lettuce fields as a child. I owe all that I am to my mother, Maria DeHerrera.”

Sheryl Abetya and John Owsley
John Owsley receives first place at Student Scholar Days and credits Sheryl Abetya with his success.

She credits her own Adams State mentors and teachers for helping her become a disciplined professional with strong ethical values, morals, and standards. She strived to bring those same traits to her students.

She ran the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program (VITA) for six years, applying for and receiving grants for five years. The grant money paid the students and helped them achieve their own collegiate goals. Sheryl managed the VITA program like a small firm allowing for promotions from one year to the next. The program was highlighted as a model for the state and was featured in news articles and interviews.

In 2004, Sheryl completed a Master of Taxation from the University of Denver Sturms College of Law. Once she began her career at Adams State, she encouraged Adams State accounting students to continue their education at Sturms College of Law. Through a strong relationship with her alma mater, Sheryl helped establish financial assistance for her students.

“We had students go to Sturms College of Law with as much as 90 percent scholarship. I cannot count the number of students who have benefited from this relationship. We currently have three students going with 70 percent scholarship.”

She received the 2013 Presidential Teaching Award and was the advisor for the accounting club Pacioli for the last ten years. Additionally, she served on the Faculty Senate for one term, including serving on the retention committee for several years.

After receiving her bachelor’s degree from Adams State, Sheryl accepted a position with Wall, Smith, Bateman and Associates, where she remained for 18 years. A passion of hers, she continued to practice taxation and manage client loads.

She has been a fitness instructor for over 30 years. With certifications as a personal trainer, step instructor, and spin instructor. Sheryl has completed over 50 triathlons of all types. In 1999, she completed Ironman Canada, which involved a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, followed by a 26.2 mile run. She has completed the Pikes Peak Ascent four times, a half marathon from Manitou Springs to the top of Pikes Peak. Additionally, she also completed a half ironman in Grand Junction, Colorado.

A well-versed traveler, Sheryl has visited all continents and subcontinents around the world, excluding Antarctica. “I plan to complete this list in retirement. I currently live in Santa Fe, NM but plan to split my time in retirement between Alamosa, Santa Fe, Costa Rica and my favorite cities around the world. My husband, Justin Tade, has supported my work here. His support has been imperative as well.”

Armando Valdez focused on student success

Article by Garrett Carroll

With over 20 years of leadership and teaching in higher education as well as administrative management experience in many dynamic organizations, Armando Valdez retired from Adams State University at the end of the 2021 fall semester.

He currently serves as the Colorado State Director of the USDA Rural Development.

Armando’s initial career plans were to enter into the business sector. “I started thinking about my vision for life instead of my vision for my career. That vision for life positioned me in the San Luis Valley on the farm and ranch enjoying time with family.”

Armando Valdez in classroom
Armando Valdez inspires students in classroom.

This change prompted Armando to suspend his job search, and he began looking into doctorate programs instead, finding his passion and direction in education. “That changed my life and career trajectory.”

In 2006, Armando accepted the position as an Adams State assistant professor in the School of Business.

Coming from northern New Mexico, north of Santa Fe in the 1600s, his family history in the San Luis Valley dates back to the 1860s, when his family settled in southern Conejos County, west of Capulin. “Oral histories from my family have us raising sheep 12 generations back, but it could be longer than that.”

With such a long family history in the Southwest, the local community is incredibly important, and he recognizes the importance of Adams State. “Our rural college provides opportunity where one would not exist without an Adams State. Not only for the educational opportunities, but for community engagement with arts, sciences, sports, cultural exposure, and economic development.”

Armando has a lengthy list of accomplishments throughout his illustrious career at Adams State. Among his accolades are the 2010 Presidential Teacher Award, the 2008 and 2015 Student Engagement in Teaching Award, and the 2013 Excellence in Advisement Award.

From his days at Trinidad State Junior College as an instructor and grant development leader to his position as a visiting instructor at Colorado State University to his role as dean in technical education programs at Front Range Community College, Armando brought an extensive history and background rooted uniquely in Colorado to his professorship at Adams State. As School of Business Healthcare Administration program director and assistant professor of management, bringing success to the college and the valley has been a touchstone of his life and work.

“There is a community service role teaching at a small rural college. And for me, it provides great responsibility to represent my local communities of Conejos County, Capulin, and La Jara.”

Armando Valdez is fall 2021 Adams State commencement speaker
Armando Valdez was the 2021 Fall Commencement speaker.

Armando went to great lengths throughout his career to procure and help create financial success for many businesses and institutions throughout Colorado and the valley. Among them, he helped to make Valdez Land and Livestock over $13.5 million in assets. He was instrumental in turning Guadalupe Parish Credit Union in Conejos County into a $30 million institution.

He is a presidential appointment to the USDA executive committee. He is also a vice-chair of the Colorado State University Board of Governors. Additionally, Armando currently serves on the board of the Rio Grande Water Conservation District.

At Adams State, the focus was always on the success of the college and the students. “Adams State students are as talented as any group of students I have been around. They are diamonds in the rough that bring their talents to Adams State for guidance on how to extract those talents.”