Pete Domenici was born in Albuquerque in 1932. He was raised in an Italian-American home. As a young man, he worked at his father’s grocery store, Montezuma Grocery Store Co. In 1950, he graduated from St. Mary’s High School. Before his days at the University of New Mexico, he pitched baseball at St. Joseph’s College. After a brief period of time, he transferred to UNM, where he earned All-Skyline Conference honors. It was during this time where he met his sweetheart, Nancy Burk. He later graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Education. After graduation, he pitched one season for the Albuquerque Dukes and worked as a math teacher at Garfield Junior High School. During this time, he switched to law school, and in 1958, he received his degree from the University of Denver and married Nancy. In 1966, he was elected to the Albuquerque City Commission and a year later, he was chosen to be the chairman. He was elected in 1972 to represent the citizens of New Mexico as a United States Senator. It wasn’t until 1981, when he was chosen to be chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, when he became nationally recognized. As Senator, he managed to extract federal funds to aide acequia repairs in the Española Valley, health facilities throughout the state, and Kirtland Air Force Base. The New York Times deemed him as “…one of the Senate’s hardest-working, most intelligent and most intense members.” He continued to be successful in the political arena, ranging from serving as the chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy to member of Indian Affairs. Senator Domenici pushed for granting mental health parity in health insurance coverage, resolving settlement issues of Indian water and claims. In honor of his dedication to the health of his city and State, the University of New Mexico named one of their buildings the Domenici Center for Health Sciences Education. A major component of healthcare the Senator focused on was equal insurance coverage for the mentally ill. Due to his leadership on this issue, President George Bush visited the University of New Mexico in 2002, to commend him for his outstanding work and to announce the ‘President’s New Freedom Commission on Mental Health.’
In 2007, Senator Domenici declared that he would not be seeking a re-election due to his diagnosis of an incurable brain disorder. He was the longest serving Senator in New Mexico history. Even after retirement, he continued to stay involved in politics, serving as a senior fellow at the Bipartisan Policy Center. He tackled reducing the national debt and deficit. In every moment, Pete Domenici looked for ways to improve the lives of New Mexicans and overall, all Americans. His life started at the University of New Mexico and ended there in 2017, at the UNM Hospital. The University of New Mexico community will always remember the Senator’s contributions and sacrifices to UNM, Albuquerque, and New Mexico.
Jordan Melendez, History, 2021
Photo, U.S. President George W. Bush visits the University of New Mexico to speak with Senator Domenici and announce his creation of the ‘President’s New Freedom Commission on Mental Health.’
DeHerrera, Bobbie. “U.S. President George W. Bush Speaks.” Getty Images, 29 Apr. 2002, www.gettyimages.com/detail/news-photo/president-george-w-bush-speaks-with-senator-pete- domenici-news-photo/1537203#president-george-w-bush-speaks-with-senator-pete-domenici-at-the-of-picture-id1537203.