Larry Willard: Profile of a Power Elitist, part 2

(part 2 of 5)

Willard as a Philanthropist, and on the Board of Regents at UNM

Along with his reputation in the banking industry, Willard also made a name for himself in the philanthropic field.

Willard has sat on the boards of many community and non-profit boards.

Here is a nearly complete list of boards that Larry Willard served on (1):

Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce
Albuquerque Economic Development, Executive Committee
Albuquerque Economic Forum
New Mexico Educational AssistanceFoundation
Albuquerque Community Foundation, Board of Trustees
New Mexico Economic Development Partnership
Boy Scouts of America
Governor’s Business Advisory Council
New Mexico Bankers Association
ACCION,Capital Endowment Campaign, Chairman
United Way of Central New Mexico, Major Gifts Campaign, Chairman
Albuquerque Academy, Board
New Mexico Amigos
United Way, Alexis De Tocqueville Society
University of New Mexico Board of Regents
UNM Hospital Board of Trustees
Kirtland AFB Retention Task Force
Next Generation Economy Initiative

This civic engagement was not only altruistic for Willard.  He said, “I began to get involved in community activities and saw the difference it made in the community and for what it did for my organization and in my personal career.  I got caught up in that value.”  (2)(emphasis mine).  He also reportedly “encourages” his employees to engage in civic activities too, while not requiring them to.

Willard was becoming known not only in business but in community efforts and in politics.  When the New Mexico Business Journal started its ranking of Influentials of Albuquerque in 1995, Willard was ranked #7 that year.  By 1997 he rose to #1 most influential person in Albuquerque, surpassing even then-Senator Pete Domenici. (3)  The profile that year said, “Like a Timex watch, Norwest’s New Mexico chief keeps on ticking.  And getting things done.” (4)  A few years later in 2000 Willard was still ranked an impressive #3 on the list,  (5) trailing Sen. Domenici and Sherman McCorkle.

From the New Mexico Business Journal:

“I sincerely believe in giving back to the community.  There is no greater satisfaction.” – Willard

Willard’s civic involvement was aimed at keeping the status quo in New Mexico that he benefited from.  Out of these goals was also committed to the military economy of the state.  In 1999 Willard was Chairman of the Kirtland Partnership Committee, a group which included 60 board members made up of prominent business and civic leaders, that worked to keep Kirtland from being closed down from budget cuts and base closures.  (6)

One of his most important appointments was to the Board of Regents of UNM.  Before this he served on the UNM Hospital Board and the board of UNM Anderson School of Management.  In 1995 Gov. Gary Johnson appointed Willard to the UNM Regents to replace Sid Hecker who retired mid-term.  He quickly rose to become president of that board that he served on for the next eight years.

I have written extensively on the Board of Regents at UNM.  I said previously:

“So who gets appointed to the board of Regents?  The appointments are made by the Governor, and based on patronage.  The appointees, no matter if the governor is Republican or Democrat, have been, with few exceptions, business owners, stock holders, lawyers, executives, millionaire heirs, and representatives of government labs.  Most of the time they are selected from the governor’s campaign contributors or others who are well connected politically.”

Like an ambassadorship, the regents are appointed as political payoffs.  Willard is typical of this.  In 1995 he gave $500 to Johnson’s campaign.  After Johnson was reelected in 1998, Willard was again appointed to the Board.  That year also Willard himself contributed a total of $6075.00 to Johnson’s campaign. But that was not all. Norwest Bank and its PAC contributed a total of $6,250.00 to the governor’s campaign.  Willard also contributed soft money of $600.00 to the Republican Campaign Committee of New Mexico around this time. I’m not saying there is a direct connection but it sure didn’t hurt.

While he served at UNM, there was much public attention from students and others in the Albuquerque community about the influence of bankers and banking interests and other business and corporate interests at UNM.  The university itself invested money in several regional banks that top regents and administrators had ties to.  Peck, who I discussed before, was serving on the board of Boatmans Bankshares. Other regents who came from banking backgrounds included Laree Perez and Penny Rembe, both of whom were once connected to UNMFC with Willard, and for Rembe herself was also serving with Willard on the Norwest Board.    Barbara Brazil was a public relations manager from Intel.  I have discussed before on the corporate aspects of the university, and this is just one of them.  So it should be no surprise that capitalist ideology infiltrates the university.  Willard was the public face of it in this time period.

Willard presided over many increases in tuition at the university.  He did not begin it to be clear.  By 1998 tuition rose 390 percent since 1977, far higher than inflation.(8)  Also, Norwest Bank that he ran was a major source of private student loans, which would seem to be a conflict of interest.  When asked about the affect of rising education costs for students, Willard dismissed concerns about these increases, as he once replied that one can make it up by working part time for McDonalds.  For all his talk of civic duty these increases served to inconvenience many students, some of whom had to quit or restructure their higher education due to the added costs.  This would seem to burden the community he claimed to care about.

Yet this was just part of a continuing trend of what has been called neoliberalism.  More cuts from the state, slashing basic services, and giving market forces more leeway in everyday life.  More privatization.  For education, especially higher education, it involved more cuts from the state, a general rise in tuition fees, and more privatization.  UNM was being affected by this trend also.  In 1992 private donations were at $14.72 million for the university.  In 2001 they were at $35.29 million.  I have talked about this trend before in relation to UNM (  While on the Board of Regents, Willard gave much money to Zimmerman Library.  Described as one of his pet projects, the Zimmerman research library on campus rose in ranking to No. 47 in 1997. (7) For these contributions the Willard Reading Room at the library was named after him.  This follows with his business philosophy of private contributions to things such as education.  But as I mentioned before, these private donations come with more strings attached.

While head of the Regents, Willard brought no particular knowledge of higher education to its governance but his own business style to the university.  Fellow regent Mel Eaves said of Willard that he “was able to bring that business sense here and apply it to the university.”(9)

Back in 1998 Willard resided over a presidential search to replace outgoing President Peck.  It resulted in the selection of Louis Caldera.  I have also written extensively on this particular search, presidential searches in general, and the tenure of Louis Caldera.  Willard was the president of the search committee this year.  He made his views on democratic participation known when, during during the beginning of the  presidential search, when others commented on the lack of community members on the search committee, Larry Willard stated, “We (Regents) are the community – the business community.” (10).  I have also written about that presidential search too (  Willard ended up canceling that search when too much scrutiny came on it due to the excessive secrecy.

Willard’s tenure as Regents matched his style as a CEO of a bank, running things his own way.   Bob Johnson of the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government called Willard “a very smart man, an autocratic man,” who ran the regents “with an iron hand, on his own terms.” (11)

His philanthropy and community service served his business interests.  Through his public service positions he helped spread neoliberal doctrine through those institutions as it began transforming the public sector.  Willard was the ultimate representation of the ideology of money driving every area of society.

His other community work involved planning economic development for the state of New Mexico, aiming toward the interests of his fellow business elites.  I will examine that part of his life next time.

(end of part 2) (go to part 3==>)


1.  Ward, opcit. ;ACF Board of Trustees.  Albuquerque Community Foundation website.  (Accessed September 3, 2000). ; “Two $100,000 Gifts Received by United Way.”  United Way of Central New Mexico website.  February 26,  2001.  (Accessed July 22, 2001).

2.  Sais, Melissa.  “Executive Portrait: Larry Willard.”  New Mexico Business.

3.  “Albuquerque Report – Most Influential People.  Influence-and who has it.”  New Mexico Business Journal.  Volume 21, Number 11.  November 1997.  (Accessed May 11, 2000).  They answer the question: “Larry Willard does, in spades.  His peers see him as Albuquerque’s most influential person.”

4.  Murphy, Rebecca.  “Albuquerque Report – Most Influential People: The Influential Larry Willard.”  New Mexico Business Journal.  Volume 21, Number 11.  November 1997.…overs/97_nov_ar_influential_lwillard.htm (Accessed May 11, 2000).

5.  “The Heaviest Hitters.”  New Mexico Business Journal.  Volume  24, Issue 4.  May 2000. (Accessed May 11, 2000).

6.  Odenwald, Ralph.  “$4 Billion Baby.”  New Mexico Business Journal.  December 1999. 20december/1299krtlnd.htm  (Accessed April 15, 2002).

7.  Murphy, op. cit.

8. White. Geoffry.  Campus Inc: Corporate Power in the Ivory Tower.  (p. 158).  Prometheus Books, New York.  2000.

9.  Procter, Jeff.  Willard Resigns as Regents’ President.”  Daily Lobo (UNM).  July 3-9, 2003. pg. 1.

10.  Daily Lobo, November 7, 1998

11.  Uyttebrouck, Olivier.  “Regent Quits for State Job.  Albuquerque Journal.  July 2, 2003.  Pg. B1.


About elloborojo

Okay, as the subtitle states, this is a notebook from what I call a New Mexico diaspora (look up diaspora if you are asking). I was a former resident of New Mexico, now living elsewhere, but New Mexico is still my homeland. To get more in touch with your homeland one must be away from it. This is my attempt to understand it. I was a former anti-militarism activist in the Albuquerque area. Still believe that United Snakes militarism is the greatest threat to the world, as do the majority of the worlds population. Uncovered much information about the ties in New Mexico, but never processed it all. This blog is an attempt to do that. Also hope it may come of use to others with similar interests.
This entry was posted in Albuquerque, Larry Willard, Richard Peck, Sherman McCorkle, Universities, University of New Mexico. Bookmark the permalink.

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