George Ortiz, known by many as the “Great White Eagle,” toiled diligently for the Trinidad School District No. 1 for 47 years (1951 to 1998). During that near half century, he dedicated himself to the benefit of an endless array of students, demonstrating an inexhaustible commitment to his students as a Spanish teacher, and a football, wrestling, golf, and tennis mentor.
In 1965, Ortiz earned his master’s degree in counseling from Adams State College. In his new role as counselor at Trinidad High School, he guided an endless number of students through their personal and emotional travails, but one of his most notable endeavors in that office was his procurement of scholarships for hundreds of graduating seniors. As a solicitor of scholarships, he was not only a Miner, but a virtual pit-bull, perpetually pestering college admission-scholarship officers throughout the state until he received what he wanted for his kids.
I was one of those individuals whom he contacted numerous times for scholarships during my tenure as the head of the psychology department at Trinidad State Jr. College. He, more often than not, would call me two or three times a day, pestering ad infinitum for many years. I, too, relented and sent him several scholarships a year to get him off my back.
Former school superintendent, Vic Becco, was quite aware of what George was able to achieve as a student activist for the school district, particularly as a scholarship hunter. “George got more scholarships than anybody I’ve ever known in my 38 years in education,” said Becco. “He was persistent.”
The Trinidad Miner Memorabilia Hall dedication was held in the Trinidad Middle School atrium on Wednesday, May 1, with a full house in attendance. Many friends, family, colleagues, and former students were there. “He was the finest counselor I’ve ever known,” noted John Reno, a former teacher-principal at THS, who worked with George for years. “He was a fine man, a great husband, and a creature of habit. He would watch his soap operas every day during his lunch break, no matter what. He will be remembered by us for a long time.”
School board president, Paul Montera, spoke of his thanks to George for all he accomplished for the Trinidad school community, and also spoke for the need to improve the school campus to create a better, safer environment for the students of Trinidad School District No. 1.
“I always thanked George for all his dedication for all those years,” said Montera. “And on behalf of the TSD1 Board of Education, we thank Jack (Vallejos) and his family for over four years of dedication to the George S. Ortiz Trinidad Memorabilia Hall. Our students deserve a first class state-of-the-art, secure learning environment with the latest technology, and the BEST grant will provide just that. We will know on the 17th of this month if TSD1 has been awarded this grant.
The entire project will cost over $15.5 million and our share will only be 29 percent, or just over $4.5 million. What a great deal. How many of us would like to pay less than 30 percent of the entire cost to remodel our property. We are working to achieve that goal, and we also expect our great grandchildren to be on the Trinidad Miner Campus 100 years from now enjoying the rich Miner history preserved in this memorabilia hall dedicated to Mr. Ortiz in appreciation of his service to the students of TSD1.”
Son-in-law, Jack Vallejos, was there with wife, Georgann (daughter) and Janine (daughter) and her husband, Dave Esquibel, for the ceremonies that were held on Wednesday, May 1 in the Trinidad Middle School atrium. They, too, were pleased with the well-deserved remembrance of George.
“We are gathering memorabilia items to have a display of memories of the Trinidad Miner’s activities and successes over the many years of educating students in Trinidad,” explained Vallejos. “This all started when reviewing the collections that Mr. Ortiz had been gathering for many years. We found year books that are over 100 years old, photographs, and sports mementos that are one of a kind.”
“The hall will house these objects and will be available for the public and for current and former students to enjoy some of our history as Trinidad Miners.”
And, indeed, it was a well-deserved remembrance in George’s house. He was my dedicated friend, and the friend of countless others.
Mr. George Ortiz was one of a kind, and indeed, he will be remembered by many for many years to come.