Adams State to honor Joe Garcia with the Billy Adams Award


Joseph A. Garcia

Adams State University will present Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE) President Joseph A. Garcia with its most prestigious honor, The Billy Adams Award at the Adams State University Alumni Banquet and Awards Ceremony during Homecoming, on October 28. To reserve a ticket call Alumni Relations at 719-587-8110.

"The Billy Adams award from ASU is particularly significant to me because I believe the goals of ASU and the goals of Governor Adams align with what has been my highest priority in my professional career, and that is ensuring that all Coloradans have the opportunity to pursue a high quality college education, regardless of where they live, whether their parents went to college, whether they are wealthy or low income, and whatever their cultural or racial heritage or the language they speak at home," Garcia said.

Adams State President Beverlee J. McClure respects Garcia's dedication. "Upon meeting Joe Garcia, I was struck by his positive energy and sincere commitment to education in Colorado. Since then, my respect for him continues to grow as he helped our State system move into the twenty-first century and implemented positive solutions to challenges. Joe is committed to closing the attainment gap for our Latino students. He truly understands the need for a Hispanic Serving Institution in rural Colorado and passionately relates to Adams State's mission to provide a quality education to traditionally underserved populations."

Because he had the opportunity to attend college, Garcia understands significance of receiving an college degree and its life-changing potential. "I know that there is talent in every corner of our state, and that it is our shared obligation and in our mutual interest to develop the potential of all of our residents," he added. "By doing so, we will not only help them improve their lives, but we will build stronger communities, a stronger state, and a healthier democracy."

Supporting teachers

Established in 1971, the Billy Adams Award recognizes those who exhibit the dedication to education shown by the college's founder and namesake. Billy Adams worked for 30 years to establish the college in Alamosa. Adams State Teachers College opened in 1925 to educate teachers for remote, rural areas of Colorado, such as the San Luis Valley.

Garcia shares Billy Adams' belief to support teachers, especially in rural areas. "My philosophy has always been that we can find talent anywhere, if we look for it and are prepared to support and develop it," Garcia said. "Too often, people in rural areas simply don't have access to high quality higher education opportunities and they may even lack an awareness of the degree to which they can improve their lives, and the lives of their families and communities, if they pursue it."

Training quality teachers to prepare to students to perform competitively, either in pursuing degrees in higher education or in the work-place remains a goal of Adams State and Garcia. "We need to support teachers and encourage them to work in rural areas."

Since Billy Adams' time, transportation and mobility has greatly increased in the state and nation. Yet many students from rural areas continue to seek a higher education degree in an environment that reflects their values and in a community where they can relate. "We need higher education institutions in rural communities in order to provide access and opportunities for the people who live there," Garcia said. "There are very few options for people in the San Luis Valley while there are literally dozens of public and private, non-profit and for-profit institutions well within reach of Front Range residents. That is why such a low percentage of rural residents earn post-secondary credentials, which also negatively impacts the economic development of rural communities."

Student support

Since 2000, Adams State has been an Hispanic Serving Institution, with at least 25 percent of the student body identifying as Hispanic. The University continues to support all students and encourage diversity. Nearly 50 percent of the 2016 freshman class identified a Hispanic and Adams State continues to fulfill its mission as an HSI.

"This is the most critical area of need in Colorado right now," Garcia added. "While rural and low-income residents lag behind suburban, urban and wealthier residents, the biggest attainment gap is between Hispanic and non-Hispanic Coloradans. This is especially problematic given the fact that Hispanics are the fastest growing demographic under the age of 18 and they will be our future workforce. As more and more jobs require some post-secondary training, we will face major workforce shortages that will hurt our economy and our competitiveness if we do not do a better job of serving that population. Hispanic Serving Institutions like ASU are critical to that goal."

Throughout his career as a public servant, Garcia has advocated for accessible education for all students at all levels. He continues this passion as president of WICHE, a Boulder-based organization with a $25 million annual budget assists higher education in Western states.

Prior to accepting the position at WICHE, Garcia served as the Lt. Governor of Colorado and as the Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Higher Education, beginning in 2011. He had previously served on the WICHE Commission for nine years, including serving as its chair in 2011. During his time as Lt. Governor and as the SHEEO for Colorado, Garcia focused on increasing equity in outcomes for all students, particularly those from low income backgrounds and communities of color.

Public service

Prior to being elected Lt. Governor, Garcia served as President of Colorado State University-Pueblo, which was named the Outstanding Member Institution by the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities during his tenure. He also served as President of Colorado's second largest community college, Pikes Peak Community College, where he was twice named President of the Year by the State Student Advisory Council.

His previous public service positions included serving as a member of the Cabinet of Gov. Roy Romer and as a White House appointee under President Bill Clinton at the Department of Housing and Urban Development. He also was employed in the private practice of law for 10 years at the law firm of Holme Roberts & Owen, where he became the first Hispanic partner in the 100 year history of the firm.

Garcia earned his B.S. in Business at the University of Colorado-Boulder and his J.D. from Harvard Law School.