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First Native American regent honored at reception


December 12, 2008

LuAnn Leonard, the newest member of the Arizona Board of Regents, and its first Native American member, said that she could not turn down the appointment when Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano called her.

"I knew that if I didn't try going forward with the nomination, it was an opportunity we might miss as Native Americans," said Leonard at a reception hosted in her honor by the American Indian programs at Arizona State University.

Leonard, who is Hopi, pointed out that in nearly 150 years of the Board's history, no Native American has ever been appointed.

"I consider it a real honor," she said.

The reception, held Dec. 3, was hosted by the Indian Legal Program at the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law, the American Indian Policy Institute and American Indian Studies.

Students, faculty and staff gathered in the College of Law's Armstrong Hall, dedicated in 1968, a fact noted by Dr. Peterson Zah, ASU's Special Advisor to the President on American Indian Affairs.

"I came here when this building was dedicated," said Zah, who has served as both chairman and president of the Navajo Nation.  I never thought that someday I'd be standing here acknowledging the appointment of a Native American on the Board of Regents. It never occurred to me that it could happen in my lifetime.

"This is really history in the making."

Zah praised Leonard's work on the Hopi Educational Endowment Program and said that, with the endowment's help, many Hopi children are studying at colleges and universities.

Alan Artibise, executive dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, said ASU is a leading institution in Indian education, with a large number of Indian faculty and students, a strong American Indian Studies program and the American Indian Policy Institute, which works in partnership with tribes in the region.

Linda Lederman, dean of social sciences in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, praised Leonard's accomplishments, service and dedication.

Rebecca Tsosie, executive director of the College of Law's Indian Legal Program, welcomed Leonard, and said she wanted to cry when Leonard was appointed.

"It's a dream to have someone like you to represent all our people, our students," Tsosie said.

Tsosie noted that the economic downturn is a cause for concern for the university and the Indian programs.

"We're in a time of transition, but I know that with your leadership we're going to be OK," Tsosie said.

Paul Schiff Berman, dean of the College of Law, said he welcomed the opportunity to work with Leonard on the best way to steer law students and to build educational opportunities for Indian students.

Berman said an examination of the list of graduates of the Indian Legal Program shows they are leaders across the state and the country, and have an ever-growing impact.

"This is a testament to what we are all engaged in, to the fundamental values of a public institution," Berman said. "The commitment to Indian affairs, policy, law, economic development, are all at the core of what a public institution needs to be."

Berman said he hopes to expand the Indian Legal Program even in this time of retrenchment.

Leonard described herself as a city girl, and said she had returned to the reservation to help care for her grandmother.

"I see so many ways to serve and help there," she said. "I want to help encourage students to return to the reservation."

She also issued an open invitation to anyone wanting to visit the reservation, and said she plans to take ASU President Michael Crow there this summer.

Leonard said she is already immersed in numerous issues facing the regents, and asked students, faculty and staff to contact her with any of their concerns.

"I can't do it alone," she said. "I need all of you."

Judy Nichols, Judith.Nichols@asu.edu
(480) 727-7895
Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law