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Arizona Western College Hall of Fame

Established in 2011, the AWC Hall of Fame honors alumni, former students, faculty and community leaders who have made a major contribution to the mission and goals of Arizona Western College, or, as former students, have contributed to in a significant way to the lives of others after being a part of the AWC Student Body. Those eligible for recognition include students, faculty, administrators, community leaders that have a significant connection to AWC, as well as those who have made a significant contribution to the College through personal time, effort and interest.

Arizona Western College is seeking nominations for the 2021 AWC Hall of Fame Award!

Nomination window open from January 21 - March 21.

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.

When interviewed for the college’s 50th Anniversary in 2015, Professor Huerta said “AWC Is a family. My son, who is now a local welding teacher, literally grew up at that AWC welding lab.”

He also said, “Except for my oldest sister, who graduated from high school in Texas, all five of my siblings went to AWC. AWC is responsible for all five of us having good careers and excellent opportunities. We’ve been able to raise our families comfortably. Having a community college locally was very important. Culturally, being Hispanic, it’s hard to leave family. Having AWC right here was very fortunate for us.”

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.

Gonzalo 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.

Mr. 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.

2020 Hall of Fame Inductee Dr. Jim Carruthers

Dr. Jim Carruthers dedicated 28 years of his life to Arizona Western College, including 12 as President from 1984-1996, demonstrating dynamic and visionary leadership. After retiring from AWC, Dr. Carruthers served four two-year terms in the Arizona House of Representatives, bringing perspective as a strong advocate for education across the state. Dr. 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 Dr. 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 of 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, Dr. 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.

In his nomination letter, a long-time colleague noted, Dr. Carruthers’ leadership style was guided by two key concepts: one is that “The institution is the people that work there,” so building strong relationships that foster an atmosphere of warmth, effectiveness, kindness, and success was critical. The second was the concept that all employees should be driven by the “excitement of learning,” which served as inspiration behind all of his decisions about how the college should serve students, staff, and the community. Colleagues remembered him as a “genius with people” and able to create a “sense of community” beyond just a place of work.

2020 Hall of Fame Inductee Charlene Fernandez

Mrs. Charlene Fernandez is a remarkable example of an AWC graduate who has created a life rich in public service to uplift and improve the life of her neighbors.  Charlene has been a public servant for virtually her entire career, serving the communities of Yuma County and the state of Arizona. She is 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.

Charlene 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.   

Mrs. 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.

2019 Hall of Fame Inductee: Dr. Don Schoening

Dr. Donald Schoening’s almost 13-year tenure as the 6th president of Arizona Western College yielded a 50 percent increase in enrollment.  He served from 1997 to 2013. Under his leadership,
a $74 million bond was passed by voters that allowed for construction of new buildings on the Yuma campus as well as the establishment of campus sites in San Luis, Quartzsite, Parker
and Wellton.  Under Schoening’s leadership, he implemented many new practices at the district to increase productivity and build a positive culture. He also brought long-range planning to the district
and annually published a 5-year vision for the district. Schoening oversaw the development of a facilities master plan that was shared with the campus community and the community at large.
A 100-member citizen group helped pass the historic two-county $74 million bond in 2004 that allowed the college to open three more campuses and doubled the original campus
academic buildings. The buildings themselves received several national architectural awards. Dr. Schoening developed new fiscal management practices through priority-based budgeting
and new funding sources for the college through federal grants. The large solar installation on the Yuma campus came about through Dr. Schoening’s leadership. Dr. Schoening is credited with enhancement
of the AWC Foundation, and community adoption of a life-long learning model. Schoening oversaw the college during adoption of innovations like interactive television, online learning, and live televised coverage

of classes, events and sports to the district. The modern approach to marketing, recruitment and assessment began under Schoening’s leadership, and those key investments continue to pay dividends for the
college district. Published during his presidency, Schoening’s book “Running a Juice Stand: The 6 E’s of Wise Management” highlights successful business management practices he used while at AWC.
Before assuming the presidency at AWC, Schoening was President of Independence Community College (Kansas). He also served 25 years at Wenatchee Valley College (Washington),
in roles ranging from Personnel Officer, Director of Athletics, Vice President of Administrative Services and Vice President of Student Services.

2019 Hall of Fame Inductee: Dan Beaver

Dan Beaver is a leader in community service,business, and governance of Parker, Arizona. Born in Wickenburg and raised in Parker, Dan Beaver is first a product of the Parker school system,
as a standout athlete, and then Arizona WesternCollege, where in addition to his studies, he was a member of the AWC Matador baseball team from 1973 to 1975, playing for revered coach
Jack Watson. Dan transferred to Northern Arizona University, graduating in 1977 with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration Management. After graduating from college, Beaver returned
home to join the Parker Motor Co. business team, where he has since assumed the position of dealer principal and the responsibility for the livelihood of 23 employees. While leading the
Parker Motor Company team, the dealership has received numerous national awards and recognition from Ford Motor Company. Beaver has served as mentor for its minority leadership
intern program, and he’s received the Ford Motor Company President’s Award 12 times. Beaver’s biggest accomplishment since attending Arizona Western College is his civic
service to the town of Parker. He was elected to the town council in 2007 and then to mayor in 2011. He has devoted his life to making Parker a better place to live. The “sleepy little town along
the Colorado River,” as so many pundits describe Parker, is alive and kicking and poised to experience an economic resurgence, largely because of the vision of Mayor Beaver. Beaver
has worked to keep alive Parker’s largest event, an annual off-road race, which dates back to the mid-1970s. This event has huge economic impact on the area and when Parker was at risk
of losing the national organization that produced the event, Dan nurtured a new partnership and sustained this highly-regarded event. Dan’s commitment to economic development,
public safety and opportunities for youth have been demonstrated by improvements and new investments in the area. Beaver’s history of volunteerism and service spans almost five
decades and includes dozens of positions and appointments, from the Chamber of Commerce, Economic Development, Parks and Recreation, Planning and Zoning, to Elks, Rotary, Little
League and Industrial Arts-Welding coach. Beaver’s dedication to his community and service to the greater good has been recognized repeatedly throughout his career.

2019 Hall of Fame Inductee: Arnold Trujillo

Arnold Trujillo became an Arizona Western College student in August of 1971, receiving an associate’s degree and going on to earning a
bachelor’s in Liberal Studies from Northern Arizona University. Born in the small mining town of Miami, Arizona, Trujillo was raised with a
strong work ethic and high regard for education.  When he was 19, AWC Coach Ray Butcher, Jim Carruthers, and Paul Waddell gave him an
opportunity to move to Yuma and help manage the football team, and that opportunity helped shape his life. Trujillo also spent time as the Student Head
Resident of the De Anza Hall.  Before he could complete, in July of 1973 Trujillo joined the U.S. Army and served 2 tours of duty in South Korea during the Vietnam Era.
Upon his return to Yuma in 1976, he started his career at AWC as the Veteran Services Coordinator. Mr. Trujillo spent over 37 years advising students through their college careers, helping
them achieve success while at AWC and into their professional careers. Trujillo served in many capacities, including Student Head Resident at De Anza Hall, Veteran Services Coordinator,
Financial Aid Assistant Director, and Coordinator of Student Services in South County. His career was marked with numerous accolades, including the President’s Award in 2005. During this time,
he also proudly served 25 years in the Arizona Army National Guard where he retired as a Master Sergeant. He was awarded the U.S. Army Arizona Meritorious Service Award.
Arnold Trujillo loved his role as an encourager of students. He impacted many lives by just sharing his time and attention. He regularly advised students that education as a fundamental
asset is something no one can take away. Mr. Trujillo lived and breathed AWC, and his positive impact on thousands of students is difficult to calculate.

2018 Hall of Fame Inductee 1983 Softball Championship Team

1983 Softball Team, National Champions

The teammates on the 1983 softball team jelled early, and coach Charlie Dine “said he thought way back in January his girls had a good chance (to play for a championship)” according to an article in the August 15, 1983 edition of the Western Weekly.

“The championship was very satisfying - to the players and the coaches,” Dine said in the article by Joyce Christie. “It was a realization of all our goals. They all came true this year. At the national there wasn’t anything better or bigger than here in the Arizona Conference.”

Two players on this roster were named to the NJCAA Softball All-Americans: Debbie Mygind (pitcher) and Missi Vassar (centerfield). Mygind was the nation’s top strike-out pitcher, and Vassar led the country in RBI’s. Six players were named to the all-conference team: Theresa Sims (third base), Nikki Woo (catcher) joined Mygind and Vassar on the first team, while Cindi Garcia (shortstop) and Tammy Braskett (second base) were named to the second team.

Many players went on to university-level competition, including Vassar (Oklahoma State), Sims and Braskett (both to Northeast Louisiana University). Mygind spent the summer with the New Zealand National Team participating in the mini-world softball series in China.

According to a story in the April 28, 1983 edition of the Western Weekly, Coach Dine said he hoped the team would peak during the tournament. “At least that’s our goal,” he said in an interview. He seemed philosophical about his team’s errors and development, saying, “Errors are going to happen. Hopefully, they have them out of their system. They still have the best record in the league. I wouldn’t trade these kids for anyone else. They’re a great bunch. The other teams still have to come to Yuma to face the dirty dozen.”


1983 National Women’s Fast Pitch Softball Champions:
  • Co-Captain Missi Vassar
  • Co-Captain Theresa Sims
  • Nikki Woo
  • Tina Leon
  • Cindi Garcia
  • Patty Sheals
  • Jinny Iodice
  • Tammy Braskett
  • Monica Lopez
  • Patty McNulty
  • Debbie Mygind
  • Dawn Draper

2018 Hall of Fame Inductee 1987 Softball Championship Team

1987 Softball Team, National Champions

Bolstered by remarkable pitching from three players, the 1987 Softball team (54-11) dominated regular-season play and sailed to a national title with tough defense and great coaching.

It’s remarkable that the team’s lead pitcher, Kim Stoner, earned top billing as the country’s best. What’s even more remarkable is the team included pitchers Kim Beatty and Adrianna Bojorquez, who finished fifth and seventh in the nation - creating a pitching juggernaut. That powerhouse was coached on the field by ACCAC Player of the Year and AWC catcher Tammy Turner, who called every pitch from behind the plate.

Just as noteworthy is the way this team took the national title: by winning 1-0 over Illinois Central College in a game that started after midnight in between storms. The game was originally scheduled for 12:30 p.m., but was postponed for a rain delay. The decision to begin play after midnight - 12:40 a.m., to be exact - was approved by both teams because the forecast for the next 4 days included an 80 percent chance of rain.

Three players on this roster were named to the NJCAA Softball All-American Team: Turner (catcher) and Brandi Hust (infielder) were named to the first team, and Stoner (pitcher), the NJCAA national tournament MVP, was named to the second team.

1987 National Women’s Fast Pitch Softball Champions:
  • Lora Prince
  • Tammy Turner
  • Kim Carroll
  • Brandi Hust Clark
  • Noreena Mares
  • Julie Grounds
  • Jackie O'Connor
  • Kim Beatty Brooks
  • Adrianna Bojorquez
  • Kim Stoner (deceased)
  • Carmen Domingues (deceased)

2018 Hall of Fame Inductee Charlie Dine

Arizona Western College will induct the 1983 and 1987 championship softball teams along with late head coach Charlie Dine into the AWC Hall of Fame on Saturday, April 20, 2019. The day’s events will start at 10:00 a.m. on the Yuma Campus in the Frances Morris Board Room (3C). The itinerary begins with introductions and an awards ceremony followed by a campus tour leading to the Charlie Dine Softball Field for an AWC softball doubleheader.

Dine arrived in Yuma in the spring of 1970 where he was a member of the AWC family for approximately 27 years. Dine served 10 years as Athletic Director, and then from 1982-1991 as AWC Head Softball Coach. In addition to coaching two NJCAA championship teams, the team earned runner-up status in 1986. During both championship years, Dine was named NJCAA National Softball Coach of the Year; he ranks ninth as the Winningest Softball Coaches in NJCAA history with 248 wins and 99 losses. The College named the softball field in his honor in 2014. Dine passed away in the fall of 2004.


2018 Hall of Fame Inductee Dr. George Montopoli

AWC Professor Emeritus Dr. George Montopoli has spent his career working to make the world around him better. Montopoli spent 19 years on the faculty of AWC, and 13 years as an adjunct professor with NAU-Yuma. He taught a wide range of subjects to thousands of students, including statistics, calculus, ecology and environmental science. Besides his teaching load, he also drew on his statistical expertise and independently evaluated 36 grants in 30 years. His work in a wide variety of fields has been widely published over the past 20 years.

Beyond higher education, Dr. Montopoli has championed protected lands, wildlife preservation, and health and human service education in the US and abroad. Montopoli has served as a climbing/rescue ranger since 1977 in the Grand Teton Park, averaging 40 rescues per summer, where he developed and led Emergency Response training with a Wilderness First Aid focus. During four years with the Peace Corps in Chile and Ecuador, he trained locals in Advanced First Aid, provided medical care, and assisted in 80 childbirths. As a leading researcher on bald eagles in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem for the better part of 30 years, his team has contributed significantly to the species’ recovery, including the banning of lead when hunting or fishing in Grand Teton National Park. Montopoli is also a Master Falconer, and a principal avian rehabilitator of birds of prey in the Southwest region of Arizona.

2018 Hall of Fame Inductee Dr. Kathryn A. Watson

Dr. Kathryn Watson’s contributions are visible throughout the AWC campus and the broader Yuma community. During her 33 years as a professor of Family Studies, she taught a wide variety of classes from Child Development to Family Relations. The state-of-the-art Child Development Learning Lab on the Yuma campus is named in her honor for her many professional contributions to this field of study.

Dr. Watson has deep and broad ties to the Yuma region. She is a product of the community college/university partnership, having started with her AA in Home Economics at AWC and finishing as the first Yuma doctoral student to graduate from NAU-Yuma and be hooded at the AWC-NAU commencement ceremony. She is widely published in her field, including a 29-year position as Family Focus columnist with the Yuma Sun newspaper. She was named Yuma County Teacher of the Year in 1994 and earned the Yuma County Chamber of Commerce’s distinguished Athena Award for women in leadership in 2003. Dr. Watson’s commitment to professional growth for both herself and her colleagues is demonstrated by a history of conference participation and presentations. Community organizations that have benefited from her leadership include First Things First, YRMC, Zonta International and the American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences.

2017 Hall of Fame Inductee Bengie Molina

Before Bengie Molina was an Angel, a Blue Jay, a Giant, or a Ranger – he was a Matador. After graduating from high school with honors in Puerto Rico, Molina played shortstop and pitched for Arizona Western College in 1991 and 1992. From there Molina went on to become a catcher in the Major Leagues where he won two World Series rings (Anaheim Angels in 2002, San Francisco Giants in 2010). He was also awarded a Golden Glove as the top defensive player at his position in both 2002 and 2003. Molina’s baseball career includes a rare feat of hitting for the cycle in one game. On July 16, 2010, Molina hit (in order) a single, a double, a grand slam home run, and a triple. He is the first catcher in Major League history to hit for the cycle with a grand slam. After retiring from the majors, Molina went on to coach with the St. Louis Cardinals and the Texas Rangers and made a third trip to the World Series with St. Louis. Molina is also a published author, having written the New York Times bestselling book “Molina: The Story of the Father Who Raised an Unlikely Dynasty.”

2017 Hall of Fame Inductee Lynne Pancrazi

Lynne Pancrazi has helped to change the face of education in Yuma and Arizona for the better. She did this through her work as an elected member of the Arizona House of Representatives (2007–2013) and the Arizona Senate (2013–2017), where she influenced legislation and policy at the state level and beyond on issues related to education, natural resources, public safety, and budget. She’s also known for her dedication to a safe and secure border, managed growth, adequate infrastructure, and rural community issues. A product of Yuma public schools, Pancrazi spent 28 years as a teacher, instructor and athletic coach in Yuma Elementary School District One. She studied Criminal Justice at Arizona Western College and received her bachelor’s degree in Physical Education from Point Loma Nazarene College. Pancrazi also received her master’s degree in Elementary Education from Northern Arizona University. She currently serves District 5 on the Yuma County Board of Supervisors after being elected to the position in 2016.

2016 Hall of Fame Inductee Olivia Zepeda

Olivia Elizondo Zepeda, an immigrant child and binational migrant farm worker from the age of 10, moved from Mexico to San Luis, Arizona when she was 14. After two years at Kofa High School, she enrolled at Arizona Western College, where she earned an Associate in Arts degree. She received a BA in Elementary Education from Northern Arizona University and later her Master’s degree in Bilingual and Multicultural Education. With over 39 years of experience in education, Zepeda has taught elementary through university levels and served as the Associate Superintendent of the Gadsden Elementary School District for 17 years. Zepeda has been an ardent supporter of expanding educational opportunities and immigrant advocacy.

2016 Hall of Fame Inductee C. Candy Camarena

C. Candy Camarena’s determination and consistent efforts to achieve success have firmly established his solid reputation as an attorney and community benefactor.   Camarena has been instrumental in the development and sponsorship of the La Cosecha Banquet at Arizona Western College, where graduates from all walks of life are recognized for their perseverance in attaining an Associate’s degree in the face of obstacles. After studying Criminal Justice at AWC, Camarena majored Economics and Business at ASU and was later admitted to the ASU Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law. Camarena says, “I learned early to work hard to sustain myself, but also to accept help when I needed it, and to help whenever someone else needed it.”