Finding A New Purpose, Gutierrez Retires from UNM

June 30, 2022 - Dorene DiNaro

Tim GutierrezDr. Tim Gutierrez has earned several impressive titles during his incomparable tenure at The University of New Mexico—instructor, coordinator, associate vice president, interim vice president—oh, and “noon time legend.” The first four titles refer to his prestigious career, the latter refers to his time on the basketball court during one of what he calls his “facility audits” during his lunch hour.

 Working with Dr. Gutierrez over the last 14 years and for him for the last year, I never remember a day when a “facility audit” wasn’t part of his schedule. It was then that I realized that his hard-nosed-get-to-work attitude didn’t signify there wasn’t time for play. To the contrary, it’s just a paradox indicating a precise balance between hard work and a little fun.

 The hard work part was instilled in Gutierrez by his parents. Growing up in Grants with 11 brothers and sisters—a childhood he says he wouldn’t change for the world—gave him time for the fun part as well.  “We always had our chores to do,” he says. “But we also had a whole football team made up of siblings if we wanted to play.”

 The hard work part, on a professional level, and where he would spend the bulk of his career, began at The University of New Mexico in the mid 70s. Back then the UNM Duck Pond was a parking lot, the Olympic Pool at Johnson Center had just opened, and Gutierrez took a student summer job working with Recreational Services. 

 It was during that time that he met his soon-to-be wife, Cathy at an event they were both working at on Albuquerque’s Civic Plaza. Both were interested in working with the disabled population, he as a program coordinator, and her as a teacher. The two have been married for the last 43 years and have two sons, and four grandchildren together.

 In 1978, Gutierrez earned his bachelor’s degree in Recreation Administration with an emphasis in Therapeutic Recreation. He was subsequently offered a permanent position at the university as an instructor in the College of Education, Health, Physical Education, and Recreation program where he taught a variety of classes including Water Safety Instruction, lifeguarding, swimming, basketball and various other courses. 

 During that time, he also served as a coordinator for special programs at the UNM Leisure Services. His responsibilities included developing and coordinating Special Populations, Getaway, Fitness, Outdoor Shop and Co-Rec programs. Gutierrez was also attending graduate school at UNM during that time.

 Upon earning a master’s degree in Public Administration with an emphasis in Personnel Management in 1987, he continued his work with Leisure Services. In 1997 he took a job as an administrator for the UNM College Prep Program, and as the Associate Director for UNM Recreational Services Natural High Program.

 Fast forward to 1999, when Gutierrez is offered a position as Director for the UNM Special Programs/College Enrichment and Outreach Program in the Division of Student Affairs by then Vice President Dr. Eliseo “Cheo” Torres.  Tim served in this capacity until 2006. During that same time, he also became an intern (later known as fellow) in the VP for Student Affairs office, working on developing, planning, implementing, and monitoring community outreach, recruitment, and retention of minority students in both K-12 and post-secondary level programs.

 “I met Tim when I started my career, 27 years ago.  He was manager of Johnson Center, and later became one of the first Fellows for the Division of Student Affairs,” says Torres.

 “I’ve been so fortunate in my tenure at UNM,” Gutierrez says. “I’ve been at the right place at the right time and consider myself lucky to have worked with extremely supportive people.”

 Gutierrez subsequently earned his doctoral degree in Educational Leadership from UNM through his thesis: The Value of Pre-Freshmen Support Systems: The Impact of a Summer Bridge Program at UNM. “Tim was appointed to the associate vice president of Student Services position in 2006,” Torres says.

 During his time as AVP and even prior to that, Gutierrez has been responsible for bringing over $40M in grant funding to the University. He served as the PI for several grants and was able to secure U.S. Department of Education funding for the Ronald E. McNair Post Baccalaureate Achievement Program; Title V Grant, STEM Collaborative Center; HSI STEM Grant, STEM Undergraduate Pathways; and College Assistance Migrant Programs, just to name a few.

 Under Gutierrez’ leadership, the University also received funding from the U.S. Department of Defense and the United States Air Force for ROTC programs, as well as the Daniels Fund, WK Kellogg Foundation, and Albuquerque Public Schools.

 Gutierrez says he enjoyed working on grants.  “It’s always been exciting for me to look down the road,” he says. “I like to brainstorm on how we ‘get there’ and find realistic, ambitious ways to solve problems.”  All of this funding helped specialized populations at UNM and aligned with the University’s overall mission to recruit, retain, and graduate students.  And, the students appreciate Gutierrez’ efforts. 

 “Because of all your efforts, sacrifices and willingness to help others, I was granted the opportunity to continue my education,” says Pablo Cabrera, supervisor for Community Education Programs at UNM Continuing Education. 

 Gutierrez served in his AVP role until 2021 when he was appointed Interim Vice President for Student Affairs upon Torres’ retirement. Gutierrez says he always felt fortunate to work with individuals who wanted to create, develop and implement, new initiatives.

 UNM staff echo the sentiment and feel they have benefitted from Gutierrez’ leadership throughout the years.  Dr. Jenna Crabb, who will be taking over the helm as Interim Vice President for Student Affairs on July 1 during the transition to the new permanent vice president who arrives August 1, has known Gutierrez for the entire time she’s been at UNM.

 “I want to thank you for being such a great supervisor, mentor, colleague and work friend,” Crabb says. “I know UNM will not be the same without you, but I’m excited for you to begin this new chapter in your life.”

 Gutierrez says he plans to spend time on the family ranch in Grants where it all started—a place where Torres has had the fortune to visit from time to time.  “I have always referred to Tim as an urban cowboy,” Torres says 

“Tim has contributed so much to improving the lives of hundreds of UNM students during his tenure at UNM, he’s earned this retirement and time to relax.”

 And so, after 45+ years at UNM helping to improve the lives of our students, Gutierrez is retiring and turning in his signature “get to work” button for a “full-time grandpa-in-training” badge—a job where he will have 4 little bosses.

 And as for his legacy at UNM, one former student says it best when talking about Gutierrez’ impact on his education. “Because of you and others along the way, the education that I pursued gave me new opportunities, new experiences, and great friendships,” Cabrera says. “It helped my family and generations to come.”

 Congratulations on your retirement, Dr. Gutierrez!  We’ll miss you!