Adams State announces creation of Salazar Rio Grande del Norte Center


The Salazar Rio Grande del Norte Center will occupy the second floor mezzanine of Adams State's Luther Bean Museum.

A quarter-million-dollar donation has made possible the establishment of the Salazar Rio Grande del Norte Center at Adams State University's Luther Bean Museum, as well as a scholarship fund. The gift was announced and naming of the Center approved by the Adams State Board of Trustees at its regular meeting, Feb. 18, held in Denver.

"We are excited to host this center, which will be dedicated to the study and preservation of the natural and cultural resources of the Rio Grande and its tributaries in Colorado," said Adams State President Beverlee J. McClure. "The Salazar family have long been staunch, active supporters of Adams State. This extremely generous gift will produce benefits that will extend well beyond the university and help expand the presence of the Luther Bean Museum."

Adams State Trustee LeRoy Salazar explained the rationale for establishment of the Center: "Culture and history form a part of the identity of a community. The Rio Grande del Norte Center will help to preserve the rich cultural heritage of our area."

The Luther Bean Museum's display of retablos from the earliest days of settlement along the northern Rio Grande.

Artifacts, internships and outreach

The Salazar Rio Grande del Norte Center will be housed in the Luther Bean Museum's second floor mezzanine in Richardson Hall, the oldest structure on Adams State's campus. Established in 1976, the museum houses collections that represent the history of the San Luis Valley and its Native American, Hispaño, and Anglo cultures. Key to the Salazar Rio Grande del Norte Center will be creation of internships for students in a range of disciplines. A web site and virtual gallery will promote opportunities for study and research by faculty, researchers, students, and the public, not only locally, but also nationally and internationally. Both the physical and virtual center will be available to the public by next January. Plans also call for partnering with area groups that promote the center's ideals, such as the Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area, Hilos Culturales, Regional BOCES, and the ASU Archeology Field School.

The center will house artifacts that reflect the rich history and archaeology of the Rio Grande in Colorado. This ranges from the ancient history of Native Americans in the Rio Grande gorge to exploration from Santa Fe into the San Luis Valley that began in the 1700s, and the first settlements in Colorado, begun immediately after the Mexican-American War in 1848.

"It is great to have this legacy in place to recognize those who settled the upper Rio Grande area," said Arnold Salazar, chair of the trustees. "The valley has a lot of proud heritages, and I want to use the Salazar Center as a jumping off point to preserve and share them all. This is what draws a community together." He added the Salazar family has made a commitment to continue fundraising to build an endowment that will support the center into the future.

Some of the Native American artifacts on display in the Luther Bean Museum.

Salazars support power of education

The Salazars continue to farm and ranch in the San Luis Valley, where their ancestors were among the first settlers. The family designated the gift following the January death of the Salazar family matriarch, Emma Salazar. The $250,000 donation includes a $100,000 contribution to the Emma & Henry Salazar Memorial Scholarship Fund for first generation Adams State students, which was recently established by the family. An additional $100,000 will fund development of the Salazar Center. Center start-up, internships, and museum operations will be supported by the remaining $50,000.

LeRoy Salazar said, "This scholarship fund is meant to support our parents' belief in the power of education to help change the world for the better. My mother and father were not able to go to college, but their expectation was for all of us to obtain a college education, and all eight children did."

Also among Emma and Henry Salazar's children is former U.S. Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar. He also served as Colorado's Attorney General and then as a U.S. Senator for Colorado. Their son John Salazar, former Commissioner of the Colorado Department of Agriculture and former U.S. representative from Colorado, is a 1982 graduate of Adams State. Other family members are Adams State alumni, as well.

By Julie Waechter