The term, “Renaissance man” was coined to describe someone with broad intellectual interests who is accomplished in areas of both the arts and the sciences. At its Oct. 19 meeting, the Navajo County Community College District Governing presented its Outstanding Alumnus Award to someone who easily fits that description.
Dustin P. Benavides, right, of Whiteriver, (shown with his mother Marilyn Salter) an enrolled member of the White Mountain Apache Tribe, began taking both mathematics and English classes at NPC in 2000 while still a student at Alchesay High School. Following graduation from Alchesay, Dustin headed to the University of Arizona, intent on studying bioinformatics, the application of information technology and computer science to the field of molecular biology.
Health issues forced Dustin to return home, but while regaining his health he began taking courses at NPC. “It was right there; I could walk [to the Whiteriver center] from my house.” Eventually his range expanded. He began taking every class that interested him, whether at Silver Creek campus in Snowflake, White Mountain in Show Low or the center in Springerville/Eagar.
These classes ranged from the computer courses being taught by friend and teacher, Jeannie McCabe, to higher mathematics under the instruction of Barry Graham and vocal music classes of the direction of professor Julie Anna Holtan. In 2005, he was inducted into the International Community College Honor Society, Phi Theta Kappa (PTK).
He acted in NPC theatre productions (three plays to date), sang with the Northland Master Chorale and was also involved in the Student Government Association. Starting out as the representative from the Whiteriver Center, he became vice-president and, eventually, SGA president. Dustin says of those times, “I enjoyed SGA immensely, and felt especially good about my part in helping initiate the SGA talent show.”
Dustin currently works at the NPC Whiteriver Center, where he is practically a one-man band. He is the center’s only tutor, covering all subjects. (He says, “I’ve been at NPC long enough, and taken so many classes I can just about tutor anything!”) He is also a “registration assistant,” front office clerk and library staff member. To top things off, he has his “fun job,” lab aide in the business classroom where he helps up to 40 students with their business/computer studies.
Dustin received his nomination as an outstanding alumnus from three different folks: music professor, Julie Anna Holtan (at right, who presented the award); center adviser/library technician, A.J. Taylor; and Whiteriver interim center manager, Rhoda Ashley. Their letter of nomination reads, in part, “Dustin is always a joy who is very creative and extremely encouraging and helpful to his peers and co-workers, as well as community members.”
Beyond the workplace, Dustin enjoys reading, writing unusual prose pieces and is “big into music.” He continues to perform with the NPC Master Chorale and, as a self-described mathematics and computer nerd, confesses to “an unholy obsession with prime numbers!”
His goals for the future involve pursuing bachelor and master degrees in a mathematics field in order to become a diabetes researcher.
As an outstanding alumni Dustin receives a plaque, three-credit-hour tuition gift certificate, NPC merchandise and a pass to NPC Performing Arts events.