Sandia LabNews

Reconnecting with his roots, Sandia VP Frank Figuero a heads up Hispanic Culture Foundation

Fund-raising arm of National Hispanic Cultural Center of New Mexico aims for $20-$30 million

Frank Figueroa, Sandia Chief Financial Officer and VP of Business Management Div. 10000, grew up in modest circumstances in Del Rio and San Angelo, Texas, the son of hard-working parents — his father was a naturalized citizen from Mexico, his mother a Del Rio native whose own parents were naturalized citizens from Mexico. All the Figueroa brothers — Frank’s dad and uncles — ran “mom-and-pop” grocery stores in West Texas,serving a largely Spanish-speaking clientele. Frank grew up helping out at his folk’s store, speaking Spanish and English interchangeably.

When Frank left high school, he also left behind the predominantly Hispanic culture that had defined his child-hood environment. He excelled in college, earning advanced degrees in astronautics and systems management, even picking up a CPA along the way. He pursued a military and corporate career that would find him in increasingly responsible management roles in one of the world’s great corporations, Lockheed Martin.

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SANDIA CFO Frank Figueroa, has been named president of the Hispanic Culture Foundation, the fund-raising arm of the National Hispanic Cultural Center of New Mexico. Here, Frank pauses for a moment during a visit to the His-panic Cultural Center’s expansive gallery, where he viewed the La Luz exhibit. La Luz: Contemporary Latino Art in the United States is on display at the Center through May 27. Also on display through May 27 is Nuevo Mexico Profundo; Rituals of an Indo-Hispanic Homeland, a photo exhibit featuring the work of well-known New Mexico photographe rMiguel Gandert. (Photo by Randy Montoya)

Along the way, the cultural touchstones of his youth receded into memory. It’s not that Frank repudiated his roots; not at all. Rather, the demands and geography of his career led him down a different path. Frank went years without speaking very much Spanish,the comfortable second language of his boyhood. The poet T.S. Eliot once wrote that “. . . the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”

“. . . and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”

Well, something very much like that happened to Frank. A synergy between corporate needs and personal qualifications led to his assignment to Sandia as Chief Financial Officer. As a result, he found himself — if not exactly “home,” then in an environment that at the very least had many of the cultural elements that had been part of the ter is, after all, a national resource, which means fundraising will be a national or even international effort.

And that, he says, opens lots of options.“Given the growing Hispanic population in the US, and the growing economic power of His-panics, the time is right and ripe for this to hap-home of his youth: a strong and proud Hispanic community, a large Spanish-speaking population,a multi-ethnic, multicultural community. And it was here, in New Mexico, that Frank began reconnecting with his roots.

“Given the growing Hispanic population in the US, and the growing economic power of Hispanics, the time is right and ripe for this [fundraising]to happen. But that doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy.”

As part of that reconnection, Frank got involved in the Hispanic Culture Foundation,the nonprofit group that raises funds for the National Hispanic Cultural Center of New Mexico. After two years as treasurer, Frank this year became the organization’s president. In that role,he’s taken on a tremendous challenge: to help the Foundation raise $20-$30 million. That’s a lot of money, he concedes, but says “it’ll allow us to complete construction [of the Center, located at 1701 4th St. S.W. in Albuquerque] and create an endowment for our programs.”Other fund-raisers in New Mexico have dis-covered that it is a state without deep pockets:few corporate headquarters, darn few dot-com billionaires to make those big, sweet million-dollar grants. That daunts Frank, but not too much.

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A WEST TEXAS BOYHOOD, where he spoke Spanish and English with equal facility while helping his folks at their“mom and pop” grocery store, made a deep impression on Frank Figueroa, seen here at about age 8.(Photo courtesy of Frank Figueroa)

For one thing, the Foundation offers local folks a chance to help fund their Center through such tried-and-true techniques as “buying” personalized bricks used in the expansive plaza at the front of the Center. And then, he notes, the Cenpen. But that doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy.”Frank says he’s excited by the Center’s aim to celebrate, preserve, and educate about all aspects of Hispanic culture, its past, present, and future. Such resources as a massive genealogical database,historical documents, an exhibit hall, restaurant,theater, and ballroom offer abundant opportunities for people to learn more about their heritage and to formulate hopes about their future. Frank says he sees a lot of familiar faces from work at Cultural Center activities.

“We’re very fortunate,” he says, “to have a great number of Sandians who are volunteering to help the Cultural Center, including Cesar Lombana [Manager of MDE Program and Regional Manufacturing Strategies Dept. 14011] on our Board of Directors.” As for Frank, he notes that since his move to New Mexico — just up the Rio Grande from his birth-town of Del Rio, he has established a“deeper, richer connection” with his own roots.

He notes that for years, when he talked to his mother on the phone it was mostly in English.Now, he says, “our conversations are entirely in Spanish. It’s not something we planned. We just sort of fell into it. It just seemed natural. ” Like his involvement in the Foundation. It just seems like the natural thing to do