Story and Photos
By Mark Graven, Staff Reporter
The Joseph M. Montoya Campus of CNM, nestled in the foothills of the Sandia mountains, is quiet these days, which is probably not the way its namesake, Senator Joseph Montoya (1915-1978), would like it, said his daughter, Lynda Montoya Haran.
Of all the issues he worked on, education was his number one priority, said Haran, now in her seventies, interviewed by the CNM Chronicle via phone from her home in Basking Ridge, New Jersey.
“My father viewed education as a pathway from a bad life to a good life,” said Haran. “And he believed that everybody, whether they be in a profession, or a trade, should have the opportunity to get an education.”
She noted that her father was a sponsor of legislation that strengthened vocational education in the United States, through the Community College system, and provided a means of accreditation for such schools.
Haran said her father was a strong consumer safety advocate, who would undoubted be concerned about the health and safety of students as they pursue their education.
In fact, she said, her father and then Senator, (and later Vice -President) Walter F. Mondale of Minnesota were the chief advocates of the Wholesome Meat in 1967 that gave the Federal government the authority to regulate state meat processing facilities under federal guidelines to protect consumers.
Haran called the Montoya campus–located off Morris Avenue in Northeast Albuquerque, which opened in September of 1979– a “very fitting” memorial to her father, who grew up poor and advanced through education.
“He knew at the age of 10 or 11 that he wanted to go into politics,” she said. “A graduate of Bernalillo High School, Montoya went on to receive a bachelor’s degree from Regis college in Denver, and a law degree from Georgetown University in Washington.
It was during a summer off from law school that Montoya returned to New Mexico to run for seat in the State House of Representatives. He won, but had to wait until he turned 21, to be sworn in, according to Haran, adding he was the youngest to serve in that post—which became a pattern in his career.
He was also the youngest to serve as a State Senator, in 1946, and as Lieutenant Governor in 1947, she said. Montoya was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1957 and moved up to the U.S. Senate in 1964, where he served until 1977. Part of his tenure involved serving on the Senate Watergate Committee, in another turbulent time for the country.
Montoya lost a bid for re-election in 1976 even though he was slated to become Chairman of the Appropriations Committee, Haran said.
He died of kidney and liver problems at the age of 62, in June of 1978, so he was not able to see the opening of the campus named in his honor in 1979.
It was as a member of the House, that Montoya co-sponsored the Vocational Education Act of 1963, which gave a big boost to accredited education in trades with funding for programs (including work-study) and facilities, and boosted the prospects for community colleges generally, according to Haran.
Haran said the beauty of the facilities and grounds at the Montoya campus impressed her, when she attended the 25th anniversary of opening of the campus in 2004.
The Montoya campus features courses in business, computers, cosmetology, and dental, and hosts an art studio, and chemistry lab, among other things.
During the challenge of the Coronavirus, the campus has been largely dormant, except for maintenance activities.
“It is a beautiful campus,” noted Haran. “I want to see it again, and this time bring my son.
Haran said she herself graduated from Trinity Washington University, in Washington, D.C., after which she became an assistant editor at Look Magazine’s Washington Bureau.
Haran said that one of the highlights of her days in Washington was attending a barbecue at the office of Senator Robert Kennedy.
“My Dad and Senator Kennedy were in the same freshmen class of the Senate (1964). Senator Kennedy,” she said, “invited all the kids from the senators of that class to the barbecue. They cooked the hamburgers in the fireplace Bobby had in his office, Haran recalled.”
It was just a little more than a year earlier that a young Haran had been one of the mourners who filed past the casket of the slain President John F. Kennedy, in the U.S. capital rotunda–a reminder that the nation has been through bad times before and gotten through them.
“Hopefully, we can get through these horrible times, and move forward,” said Haran.