By Bill Wadt, LANL Foundation Board Treasurer & Jenny Parks, CEO
As the citizens of New Mexico mourn the passing of Senator Pete Domenici, we reflect upon his many legacies that have enriched our State. One such legacy is the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) Foundation. Without the vision and legislative acumen of Senator Domenici, the nonprofit LANL Foundation would not have the resources needed to make sustainable investments in public education in Northern New Mexico. He recognized that the long-term health of the Laboratory with its national security science mission required ongoing regional investment in teachers and students to grow the workforce of the future and nourish the vitality of our communities.
Senator Domenici and his legislative partner in the Senate, Jeff Bingaman, were innovators in seeking more effective ways of leveraging hard-earned tax dollars through public-private partnerships to improve the quality of life for their constituents. Twenty years ago, this dynamic duo crafted legislation to create an endowment at the LANL Foundation to fund in perpetuity educational enrichment for public schools in the vicinity of LANL. Over seven years, Senator Bingaman set the stage through authorization, and Senator Domenici did the heavy lift through appropriation to build an endowment of $35 million for the Foundation to manage. We know of no other such public-private partnership for the sustained benefit of public education.
The original endowment has grown to over $80 million, while funding over $30 million in education programs and program support, such as the Inquiry Science Education Consortium that currently provides professional development to 600 teachers and high-quality inquiry STEM learning materials and curriculum for more than 11,000 students in 42 schools across eight districts and two Pueblo schools. Pete Domenici was a leading advocate of science. He knew that research and technology were essential to build a brighter future for New Mexico, the Nation, and the World. The joy and curiosity of these students stimulated by inquiry science are a great and appropriate legacy of Pete Domenici.
Ten years ago when the Senator announced his retirement, we at the Foundation created and raised funds for another endowment to support a high school senior from each of the seven counties surrounding LANL with a four-year $10,000 scholarship in his name. Each year, seven Domenici scholars are selected who demonstrate exceptional leadership and community service, meet academic standards and demonstrate financial need. We felt this was the best way to honor and “pay forward” the incredible leadership and strong commitment the Senator had to building better communities for New Mexico. Since starting this scholarship, 54 outstanding Domenici Scholars have received $540,000 in support of their higher education and career dreams.
We, the Board and staff of the LANL Foundation, are incredibly fortunate to live and foster the legacy of a man who demonstrated what inspired, people-focused political leadership can achieve. We say thank you, Pete Domenici, for a life well lived and job well done.
Bill Wadt helped to create the LANL Foundation in 1997 and has served multiple terms on its Board of Directors to guide the Northern New Mexico nonprofit. He retired from Los Alamos National Laboratory after 34 years where he held a variety of scientific, project, and management positions.
Jenny Parks is the CEO of the LANL Foundation located in Española. As a grantmaking and operational foundation, it has been investing in education, learning and human potential for 20 years.