Marguerite Salazar to address ASC Commencement Dec. 18

(12-06-2010)

Marguerite Salazar reads the fine print. Her address to Adams State College's December graduates draws inspiration from the message printed on diplomas and is, therefore, entitled "With all rights, privileges and responsibilities."

Adams State's fall commencement ceremony will begin at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 18, in Plachy Hall gym. The college will award 9 associate's degrees and 82 bachelor's degrees. Steve Valdez, vice chair of the college Board of Trustees, will give a greeting on behalf of the board, while Nicholas Karpilo will present a message from the class of 2010.

"Traditionally, our fall graduation address is delivered by an ASC alum who has illustrated success and who is a role model for graduating ASC students," said Adams State President David Svaldi. "Ms. Marguerite Salazar exceeds both of these criteria. There is no better role model for ASC graduates -- she is a paradigmatic ASC great story! I am extremely pleased that Marguerite will deliver this commencement address."

ASC alumna Marguerite Salazar will address the fall graduates.

ASC alumna Marguerite Salazar will address the fall graduates.

Salazar was recently appointed by President Barack Obama to serve as Regional Director for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services - Region VIII, which includes Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming. As Regional Director, she plays a vital role in the Department's effort to implement the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. She earned a bachelor's and master's degree from Adams State in 1975 and '76, respectively.

"What an honor to be asked to be commencement speaker. Completing college is a great accomplishment, and I intend to look the graduates in the eye and help them feel good about their achievement," Salazar said. "When you think about what rights you acquire by earning a college degree, one is the right to apply for jobs that require that diploma. People will tell you that a college degree is not necessary to command a high salary, but a rewarding career is not all about making money. An education makes you a more well-rounded person with a broader perspective on the world."

Salazar will draw on her experiences working in healthcare and with government to illustrate the "rights, responsibilities, and privileges" of possessing a higher education. "I spend so much time talking with different groups about how to be healthier, the need to exercise, and practice preventive health care, but what do we do about exercising our civic rights and civic duties?" she said.

"Sometimes people think that civic duties are not that important, and that being active politically is a spectator sport. I want to convey to the new graduates how important it is to be involved in government and politics. It's not just about voting. Everyday people bring up great ideas and put causes in place. Not all politics is bad. It's so important to be at the table. Our government is not some foreign body somewhere else. We are government."

Prior to accepting her new position, Salazar served as President/CEO of Valley-Wide Health Systems, Inc., (VWHS) in Alamosa for over 21 years. Arriving at Valley-Wide in 1985 to implement the first federal grant of $1.4 million, she rose to become the CEO in 1989. She turned the organization, then consisting of three small clinics, into one of the largest and most successful rural community health centers in the country, providing primary care to over 40,000 residents of the San Luis, Lower Arkansas, and Upper Arkansas valleys in Southern Colorado and in the western corner of Mancos, Colorado. In addition, Valley-Wide was chosen to administer a voucher program for seasonal and migrant farm workers who were working in the orchards of the Western Slope and the fields on the Eastern Plains.

Today, with federal grants topping $7 million and an annual budget of $32 million, VWHS employs over 350 people. It is recognized for exceptional outcomes with prenatal care and reducing emergency room utilization through a unique Convenient Care Clinic in some of the poorest areas of Colorado. Building a strong workforce in the community became another hallmark of Salazar's tenure, as the number of clinics began to grow and the demand for services followed.

Salazar is a Fellow in the National Hispana Leadership Institute, as well as a Livingston Fellow in the Bonfil Stanton Foundation. She was a Trustee for the Temple Hoyne Buell Foundation and was appointed by Governor Bill Ritter, Jr., to the Board of Governors for the Colorado State University System. She was appointed by Governor Bill Owens to serve as a Policy Board Member for the Colorado Children's Basic Health Plan. She served as Chair of the Colorado Humanities for two years during a six-year term and also served on the Board of Trustees for the Nature Conservancy. In 1999, she was awarded the Bernie Valdez Award for Excellence in Health from the Latin American Research and Service Agency (LARASA). She received two national awards through the National Association of Community Health Centers for leadership and ingenuity in 2008 and 2009.

By Julie Waechter