Purpose Prize nomination letter; some formatting removed in transfer:

Note from the Board

Lou Ellen was nominated for the Purpose Prize, for people over 60 who are combining their passion and experience for social good.  While she didn’t get the award among 800 nominees, we’d like to share her story.

Mission Statement

I have been either a student or a faculty member at the college level for most of my life.  Over this time, I and many of my colleagues have become more and more appalled by the inadequate preparation of most of the students.  This has become a greater concern to me as I have become aware of the increasingly serious environmental and political problems facing us, both locally and globally.  In my role as a mother I have also become conscious of the almost impossible task of the public schools, namely to educate ill-prepared and uninterested students as well as the children who have already mastered the skills needed by their classmates.  In this situation, gifted and advanced students are often neglected and/or bored. I started Las Cruces Academy, a private school, because I believe that the education of these gifted and advanced students is crucial to a successful future.  If these very bright and/or motivated students can receive a rigorous world-class education and become leaders in their communities, it is more likely that we as a society will make better choices.  I don’t think a uniformly high quality education can be delivered in the public schools because of the numerous societal problems and external constraints, such as No Child Left Behind, which hinder that system.


Ph.D., City University of New York, NY (Biology) M.A., H. H. Lehman College, CUNY, Bronx, NY (Biology) B.S., Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO (Botany) Scientific research experience and publications Six publications, in such periodicals as the Journal of Experimental Botany and Plant Physiology, and the Encyclopedia of Plant and Crop Science College Assistant Professor, New Mexico State University, N.M. Visiting scientist, CSIRO, Division of Plant Industry, Canberra, ACT, Australia Consultant at Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. Post-doctoral Fellow, Plant Genetic Engineering Laboratory, NMSU, N.M. Research Collaborator, Los Alamos National Laboratory, N.M. Herbarium Fellow at the New York Botanical Garden, N.Y. Herbarium Assistant, Colorado State University, CO

Teaching Experience

Nineteen years experience teaching college biology classes Letter of Recognition for Teaching Excellence from President of NMSU, 1990. Five years experience teaching as a parent/assistant in elementary school classrooms: two Las Cruces schools as well as schools in Canbera, ACT, Australia; Palo Alto, CA; & Arlington, VA.

Selected comments by university students

“Dr. Kay is a superior teacher!  Bright, responsive, well-prepared, knowledgeable, fun.”  Biol 101, Spring 2003, Comment by student in anonymous evaluation of introductory biology class “I can tell you love to teach & you are very devoted & smart.” Student, T. Lopez in OEHO 153,human anatomy & physiology class, Spring 2005 “…I like the way you make us learn and remember, not just memorize.” Student, B. Hicks in OEHO 153,human anatomy & physiology class, Spring 2004 “…I learned more in your class than in any other class in my five years of college…” Comment from letter by student, T. Sanchez, in class, Biol 313, Spring 2007,  Structure & Function of Plants

Other Experience

Owner for 10 years of Flora & Fauna Furniture, producing animal-shaped sculptural studio furniture Work shown locally in six Las Cruces venues, including: Adobe Patio Gallery, Stele Gallery, and White Raven Studio & Art Gallery Work exhibited for five years in Shidoni Gallery, Santa Fe, NM Work exhibited for two years in La Mesa de Santa Fe, Canyon Rd., Santa Fe, NM Work exhibited for two years in Desert Moon Furniture, Sedona, AZ 1st Place Artist, Renaissance Craftfaire, 1997, Las Cruces, NM Work featured in: Las Cruces Sun News, 25 October 1997 & 20 November 2003 New Mexico Magazine, September 1999


Faculty Advisor to student group, AWARE (Association for Air, Water, and Resource Education). This group was the official sponsor for Earth Day 1990 & 1991 at NMSU. Coordinator of Las Cruces Earth Day 1990 Citizens Group. Coordinator of Las Cruces Earth Day 1991. Founding Member of the Board of Directors, Southwest Environmental Center, Las Cruces. Member, Las Cruces Environmental Task Force.  This group was responsible for starting the city recycling program of Las Cruces in 1990. Member, NMSU Recycling Committee.  This group was responsible for starting the recycling program at NMSU in 1990. Member of the organizational committee for Music & Micros, a fund raiser for the educational activities of Planned Parenthood, 1999 – 2002. Member of residential covenants control committee, Las Alturas Plat #1, 1999 – present.