Inductees include Dr. Jim Carruthers, Charlene Fernandez, and Gonzalo Huerta Sr.
Yuma, AZ (January 20, 2021) – Alumni and community partners are invited to join in online for the Arizona Western College Hall of Fame Celebration at 12 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 21. AWC’s 2020 Hall of Fame Inductees Dr. Jim Carruthers, Charlene Fernandez, and Gonzalo Huerta Sr. will be honored during the virtual event on Facebook Live.
The AWC Hall of Fame recognizes individuals who have made a significant contribution to the mission of the college. The Hall of Fame Award criteria encourages a broad range of nominations that represent students, faculty/staff, athletic or academic teams, or community members who have brought significant prestige and recognition to AWC through outstanding success in a career, a body of work or special event, or dedicated promotion of the mission of higher education in the greater Yuma and/or La Paz region.
“It is an honor to recognize these 2020 Inductees for their dedication and leadership in Yuma and La Paz communities. Their service continues to inspire students, staff, and community members,” said Laura Campbell, Executive Director of the AWC Foundation.
Those interested in attending this virtual event can visit www.facebook.com/ArizonaWesternCollege to view the event on Facebook Live. Participants are asked to RSVP at firstname.lastname@example.org or (928) 344-1720.
2020 Hall of Fame Inductee Dr. Jim Carruthers
Dr. Jim Carruthers dedicated 28 years of his life to AWC, including 12 as President from 1984–1996, demonstrating dynamic and visionary leadership. After retiring from AWC, Carruthers served four two-year terms in the Arizona House of Representatives, bringing perspective as a strong advocate for education across the state. Carruthers changed the landscape of AWC and the surrounding educational environment profoundly through his work to create and implement the higher educational consortium model that brought a formal 2+2 partnership with Northern Arizona University, opening the doors for students to receive Bachelor’s, Master’s and even Doctoral degrees without having to move away from Yuma. This paved the way for University of Arizona and Arizona State University to formalize their transfer partnerships and led to all three schools holding in-person classes in Yuma County, hosting entire degree programs here, and co-hosting a shared commencement ceremony which is the only one of its kind across the state. As an emblem of his work to build these partnerships and his endless pursuit of excellence in education, the NAU Research and Education building on the Yuma campus was named for Carruthers in 2009.
Carruthers’ relationship with the college began in 1969 when he was hired as the Financial Aid Director. He went on to serve as the Director of Housing and Student Activities, Assistant Dean of Students and Dean of Students in addition to a stint as Assistant Football Coach before assuming the top role. It was 1988 when Carruthers signed an agreement with former NAU President Eugene Hughes to create NAU-Yuma. This partnership evolved into “K-20 Educational Consortium” through which students were afforded the option to complete all their education, from kindergarten to doctoral work here in Yuma. This “educational park” located on 24th street in Yuma saw the development of multiple elementary schools, a middle school, and a high school. As an outcome of his driving force behind the creation of this unique plan, several neighborhoods and businesses have arisen over the years and now surround the once-isolated AWC Yuma campus. This consortium concept brought national acclaim to AWC and was replicated around the country.
During his time at the state legislature, Carruthers was instrumental in securing two different five million-dollar allocations for construction of two NAU facilities on the AWC Yuma campus. He also established six new education centers across the 10,000 square mile community college district, championed a district-wide interactive telecommunications distance learning program, and was a key strategist in a $20 million bond issue for campus infrastructure.
2020 Hall of Fame Inductee Charlene Fernandez
Charlene Fernandez is a remarkable example of an AWC graduate who has created a life rich in public service to uplift and improve the lives of her neighbors. She has been a public servant for virtually her entire career, serving the communities of Yuma County and the state of Arizona. She is also one of the first official 2+2 graduates of the AWC-Northern Arizona University-Yuma partnership, finishing with a Bachelor of Science degree in Education.
Fernandez is a local product, born to parents residing in Yuma County, and graduated from Yuma High School, before enrolling at AWC. Just as she was completing her student teaching, the entirely new calling of public service gave her the chance to open Yuma’s first office for U.S. Congressman Ed Pastor, raising the profile of Yuma in national decisions. She is most proud of her efforts during that time to help bring a Veterans Clinic to Yuma for the first time in history, removing the need for veterans to have to make the arduous trip to Phoenix or Tucson for treatment.
Fernandez later served Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano as a liaison for the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality in Yuma County, working with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, as well as its counterpart in the Republic of Mexico, to ensure that the air and water quality in Southwestern Arizona remained safe while ensuring that businesses faced minimal impact.
After two years serving as the District Representative for U.S. Congressman Raul Grijalva, she ran and was elected to Arizona House of Representatives, where she has proven to be a fierce advocate for education, water, land use, commerce, transportation, and public safety. This advocacy has been recognized by many Arizona organizations representing arts groups, educators, and Latinx leadership. Her service includes eight years on the Yuma Union High School Board, with stints as Board President and Vice President.
2020 Hall of Fame Inductee Gonzalo Huerta, Sr.
There are several reasons why Gonzalo Huerta, Sr. is honored in the AWC Hall of Fame. He is a product of the college, a former student who went on to make significant contributions to his community and his field of study. He is also a highly respected colleague who over 30 years helped build the AWC Welding program, mentoring, and nurturing students.
The son of migrant workers, education was an established priority for his parents. They moved for seasonal work but never at the expense of their kids completing their schooling or starting the school year on time.
Huerta graduated from Yuma High in 1967 and enrolled immediately at AWC, completing a dual major of Welding Technology and Manufacturing Technology in 2 years. He started teaching at the college and then enrolled at Arizona State University and completed a degree of Industrial Technology at NAU, all while continuing his teaching career at AWC. He also completed a master’s degree in Community College Administration from NAU and became the Division Chair of Industrial Technology and Agricultural Science.
Huerta was known as a strict but tireless advocate for his students, and frequently planned family trips around welding competitions, so his students could experience an out-of-town event. He challenged his students and brought out the best in them. After retiring from AWC, he became the Dean of Instruction for Applied Sciences at Imperial Valley College where he continued to touch the lives of hundreds of students, and he has contributed countless hours as a volunteer judge at welding competitions.
Coordinator of Development and Alumni Relations
Arizona Western College