Often people look back throughout their lives and remember those critical moments and people that helped change their worldview and shaped who they became. For some it’s the first time they look through a telescope at a new world, performing on the stage for the first time, or a semester spent studying overseas and learning a new culture,

For Brian Colón, former UNM Alumni Association President, Albuquerque nonprofit leader, and attorney at the Robles, Rael, and Anaya law office in Albuquerque, one of those moments happened in a meeting with UNM School of Law Emeritus Professor, Fred Hart, during a stress-filled semester that left Colón wondering if he could succeed in law school.

Originally Colón had intended to leave law school after this meeting, but Professor Hart encouraged him to not give up. He believed Colón had what it would take to be a future leader in the legal profession.

“I remember when I walked into Fred Hart’s office, and said ‘I’m not cut out for this. I can’t do this.’ And he told me I was wrong. He explained that I was exactly the kind of person who needed to get through UNM School of Law. Professor Hart believed I had the capacity to do it and I just needed to refocus, get out there and get the job done. Thanks to Fred Hart, other professors and my classmates, I had a new-found belief in myself and I got the job done.

“Professor Hart, like so many UNM faculty & staff, had two options when I walked into his office. He could encourage me and empower me to get out there and get the job done, or he could have said, ‘you know, Brian, why don’t you take a seat because you might be right. Maybe this isn’t for you.’

“But somehow Professor Hart saw something in me and believed. He had the heart, compassion and capacity to allow himself to see me as someone bigger and better than I was able to see in myself. In many ways, I owe my career to that moment in time, and I won’t forget it. UNM, its faculty, staff and administration played a critical role in my life and play a critical role in the future success of our Land of Enchantment.”

Colón has tried to carry on Hart’s mentoring example throughout much of his post-collegiate career. From his leadership of the UNM Alumni Association and a number of other nonprofit organizations like the Albuquerque Community Foundation and the Spanish Colonial Arts Society, Colón has searched for opportunities to provide that same encouragement to his fellow graduates, current UNM students, and others throughout New Mexico. He lets them know in no uncertain terms that they can achieve more than they believe possible and that if their goals aren’t a little scary—they need to reset their goals. Finally, he is quick to say “I’m in your corner” and charges them with improving not only their own lives, but the lives of many others as well.

“I’m really fortunate. I’m the first in my family to break the cycle of poverty. My son will never know the plethora of government programs that supported me when I was a child. He’s not going to ever know any of those programs because we’ve broken the cycle of poverty with the support of our community.

“But what I’ve tried to do is help make sure that he understands where he came from and that he takes nothing for granted. He must realize that not only do I have a debt I owe society because society helped me to not fall through the cracks, but he too has an obligation to build a legacy of service and giving back so that others can follow in our footsteps.

“These days I take every opportunity to speak to young people and tell them that they are born to be incredible leaders in our community. It is my hope that at some level they are inspired to embrace what the community told me when I was young – we can all do and be more than those who preceded us because our past doesn’t dictate our future it merely provides perspective.”