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Achievement Award: Mr. Conrad Chavez

Mr. Conrad Chavez

Financial Aid Administrator

2011 is Mr. Conrad Chavez’s 40th year at Fort Lewis College (and last as he is retiring). Four decades is an impressive tenure for anyone, especially for someone like Conrad who has seen and done so much.

He was born in Kansas where his father traveled the plains as a member of a harvesting crew. Eventually, the Chavez family found their way to southeastern Colorado where Conrad, the oldest of eight children, spent time on farms and ranches. In his teenage years, his family moved again, this time to the Denver area.

Conrad graduated from North Denver High School before going on to Colorado State University. His education was in Spanish and Latin American studies, and he also earned a teaching certification.

Instead of taking a traditional classroom teaching position, Conrad decided to work with an Upward Bound program in the Denver area. Upward Bound is a federal program that helps high school students on their path to higher education. The program often takes its students to college campuses and Conrad’s group was no different when they came to Fort Lewis College on one such trip.

Despite his visit to Fort Lewis, it would take a little more for Conrad to find his way to Durango permanently. After leaving Upward Bound to work at Metropolitan State College of Denver, he met an admissions representative from Fort Lewis College named David Sterns. After some convincing by Mr. Sterns, Conrad decided to give Fort Lewis a try for one year and he applied for an unpaid leave from Metro State.

“At the end of the year, I really hadn’t accomplished what I thought should have been accomplished,” he says. “There was more work to be done.”

Conrad’s first year at Fort Lewis College was 1971. Three years later he moved to the Financial Aid Office and he has served there ever since, helping countless students and their families navigate the sometimes complicated road to affording a college education.

Forty years is a long time to stay in one place, but Conrad’s explanation is simple, yet profound.

“I think that Fort Lewis and Durango are very special places,” he says. “They are special places for a lot of people for a lot of different reasons, but I do think there’s something almost magical about them and I know I’m not the only one who shares that perspective.”

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