Sidney Gutierrez, former NASA astronaut, retired U.S. Air Force colonel and a director at Sandia National Laboratories in New Mexico, has been named the 2010 Notable New Mexican by the Albuquerque Museum Foundation. He will be honored June 2 at the 10th annual award ceremony, where award-winning santero artist Arthur López will unveil a bulto depicting Gutierrez and the story of his life.
“We are so pleased to present this award to such an inspirational figure in the community,” said Debra Romero, executive director of the Albuquerque Museum Foundation. “Sid’s life mirrors the history of Albuquerque, from having roots in agriculture to being a central part of the nation’s high-tech industry. We see the opportunity to celebrate Sid as an opportunity to celebrate Albuquerque.”
“My family and I are very excited about the art and this award,” said Gutierrez. “I look at this as what it means to my family and my friends. I look back at my ancestors, and my grandfathers in particular, and what they did to get me to where I am today. I look at my teachers who helped me out. I look at my family and friends who supported me, and I have been so fortunate in that regard. This is a great honor, and I am pleased to share it with those who have supported me over the years.”
The Gutierrez family heritage can be traced back through 300 years of Duke City history, but the family originally descended from people living in the area more than 30,000 years ago. Gutierrez grew up in the North Valley, where his great-grandfather farmed and raised sheep and cattle. He attended Los Ranchos Elementary School, where, as a fifth-grader during the height of the U.S.-Soviet space race, Gutierrez made the decision to become an astronaut.
Gutierrez graduated at the top of his class from the U.S. Air Force Academy and became a test pilot before being selected by NASA for astronaut training. On his first trip to space in 1991, he served as the pilot for the space shuttle Columbia, and in 1994 was the commander of the space shuttle Endeavor.
Later that year, Gutierrez and his family returned to Albuquerque, where he started work at Sandia National Laboratories. He is currently the director of Environment, Safety and Health and Emergency Management at Sandia.
“Sid is a great New Mexican and a great patriot,” said Al Romig, executive vice president of Sandia National Laboratories. “I can think of few others who have done as much in their lifetimes to make this country great. Sid is surely deserving of this award.”
Every year for the past 10 years, the Albuquerque Museum Foundation has presented the Notable New Mexican award to celebrate the accomplishments of an extraordinary New Mexican with strong ties to the state and exemplary service to the public good.
All past award recipients have been presented with a portrait, which is permanently displayed at the Albuquerque Museum. This year, Gutierrez will be depicted in a bulto, a traditional three-dimensional wooden carving. Traditionally, such carvings depicted Catholic saints "santos" such as St. James, the Virgin Mary, and others. The artists who carved them are called "santeros" and have long been given special status by the Catholic community in the southwest United States. The santero artist, Arthur López, is a native of Santa Fe, and has received numerous awards for his work and exhibits his art at shows throughout the Southwest.