As an Adams State student athlete, Ken Marquez propelled himself through the air, cleared the bar and then free-fell onto the thick pit. His pole-vaulting technique, skill and success were future indicators of his approach to his life and profession.

Marquez, Class of 1987 and 1994, still moves with quick precision, sees obstacles ahead as challenges to overcome, and knows when to relax his grip and follow his instincts, talents he has used the last 10 years as Vice President of Student Affairs at his alma mater. He retired on April 30.

“I love it and I will miss it so much,” he says of his former job and Adams State.

His impact on students continues long after their graduation. Patrick Cleary, Adams State Class of 2017, is currently a practicing attorney with Schwabe, Williamson & Wyatt in Portland, Oregon. “I was fortunate enough to learn from Ken in multiple settings and witnessed him speak up for what he thought was right, regardless of popularity. This is something easy to preach and hard to practice. I specifically remember cabinet meeting votes or resolutions where Ken was the only one to call out flaws in otherwise popular opinions. I was impressed then, remain impressed now, and strive to emulate him as I shape my career.”

Marquez’s story is one of paying it forward. What Marquez did for Cleary, and hundreds of other students, came from kindness shown to Marquez by a resident assistant his first semester at college. “He took the time to pay attention to me and bring me out of my shell and I knew that was the kind of person I wanted to be,” Marquez says. “Someone who sees and really cares about others, who is compassionate and takes the time to listen and really give them your time.”

Students first

In college, Marquez became a resident assistant and after graduation a resident director before leaving for Northern Arizona University in 1994 to gain additional experience in housing and student life.

Fortunately for Adams State, Marquez accepted the position of associate director of housing and residence life in 2000 and was promoted to the director position when it became available. His supervisors saw nothing but promise in Marquez, whose positive attitude and energy are his hallmarks. In 2004 he was responsible for the overall operations of Adams State’s campus housing system and broad overall program of the Student Union Building as director of auxiliary services.

Ken Marquez and Sheniqua Griffith 2019 Award Ceremony
Ken Marquez and Sheniqua Griffith 2019 Award Ceremony. Photo by Jonah Bricker

His skill set and welcoming personality truly found their place when he accepted the full-time Dean of Student Affairs, eventually promoted to Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs, and retiring as VP of Student Affairs.

“Often the higher up you go in administration the further you get from students. I was not going to let that happen,” he says.

He stayed in touch with students’ needs and expectations as the Associated Students and Faculty (AS&F) advisor. “I can’t advocate for them if I don’t know what is happening from their perspective.”

AS&F Presidents say ‘true that’

Mariah McDermott, Class of 2020, appreciated Marquez as a down-to-earth and approachable advisor when she was AS&F president. “Ken genuinely cared for everyone on the team and he made an effort to get to know each team member,” she says. “He was available and present during each meeting, event, retreat and interaction I shared with him. Ken went above and beyond to make sure students knew who he was and stood out compared to all other administrators.”

Cleary served as AS&F president from 2015 through 2017.  “Ken inspired me during my time at Adams and continues to serve as an inspiration today,” the attorney says. “Ken’s deep caring nature, not only for the university, but the development of each student, was contagious and unmatched. He took a genuine interest in the success of students and always encouraged continued growth through extracurricular activities, which he ardently supported. If it mattered to a student, it mattered to Ken and that permeated throughout everything he was involved in, and AS&F was no exception.”

Ken Marquez potato sack race
Ken Marquez is already ready to participate in events for Adams State.

After decades of working with college students, Marquez has seen many of the same issues arise over and over again. “Here is the deal: I treat everyone like an individual. I really take the time to listen and give them my time. Every situation is different and everyone needs to be heard.”

His dedication inspired Cleary. “There is no one who cares more about Adams State and its students than Ken. It is difficult to explain the magnitude of the impact Ken has had on me,” he says. “He is a huge part of where I am today and I hope to one day be the leader he is. As a corporate lawyer, I encounter difficult decisions daily and am able to maneuver each [one] thanks to the guidance that Ken provided during my time at Adams State. Throughout my career, I strive to emulate his traits of leadership, amicability, and passion.”

Marquez earned his Master of Arts in community guidance and counseling from Adams State in 1994, which he says was invaluable during his career working in higher education.

“Ken’s empathy and genuine interest in the lives of students inspired me,” McDermott adds. “Ken is a good person, and that makes him a good leader and I was inspired to try to do the same.”

Open door open mind

In the world of student life, there are no office hours or scheduled appointments. His final semester on campus, Marquez arrived at 8 a.m. and unexpectedly found five students and a mother waiting for him. “I missed a meeting to help them. I know I can’t fix everything but if I tried, I can live with that.”

Cleary testifies to the truth in that philosophy. “He took the time to learn about students and their priorities, needs, and struggles. His door was always open and he was always willing to help however he could. Having been at other institutions, I can confirm that Ken is one in a million. He always made time for students whenever they needed it — whether it was picking up the phone or stopping into his office. It was never ‘set up a meeting’ or ‘I can look at this next week’ … Ken was there when a student needed it, period. Ken’s commitment to students made him the best mentor possible and he will be irreplaceable.”

Marquez is not ready to leave the profession altogether. He and his wife, Dolores, plan to remain in Alamosa and he hopes to continue serving students, possibly in the public school system.

“Mine is a great story, every single bit of the way. I am the luckiest guy in the world.”

In addition to…

  • 2011-2021 Adams State Vice President for Student Affairs/Services
  • 2010-2011 Adams State Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs
  • 2006-2010 Adams State University (ASU) Dean of Student Affairs
  • 2005-2006 ASU Interim Dean of Student Affairs
  • 2004-2005 ASU Director of Auxiliary Services
  • 2002-2004 ASU Director of Housing and Residence Life
  • 2000-2002 ASU Associate Director of Housing and Residence Life
  • 1996-2000 Northern Arizona University (NAU) Area Coordinator
  • 1994-1996 NAU Residence Hall Director
  • 1991-1994 ASU Residence Life Coordinator (bi-lateral assignment)
  • 1988-1994 ASU Residence Hall Director
  • Course Instructor at ASU and NAU

Recent Committee Experience

  • 2019-Present COSLI Board, appointed by Governor Polis
  • 2014-2016 Colorado Alcohol and Drug Educators Steering Committee
  • 2006-Present Colorado Coalition for Educational Advancement of Latinos
  • 2007-2014 Kiwanis of Alamosa Community Service Organization
  • 2006-2015 ASU CASA Executive Board
  • 2005-2010 SLV Human Services Council

Some Presentations

  • 2018 Annual Black, Latinx, Native American Male Summit, keynote
  • 2015 AIMHO Conference
  • 2015 HLC Conference
  • AMIHO College Faculty Member, presented on “Human Resources and Personnel Issues
  • “My Way, Not the Highway” –  multiple keynote addresses on positive attitudes
  • National Society for Leadership and Success Induction, keynote
  • “Cool Runnings,” maintaining your positive attitude
  • Crisis Management and Emergency Response
  • Humor in the Workplace
  • Time and Stress Management Skills