The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

By Jamie Cushman
Staff writer 

City's first female lawyer to be honored

Clovis Schools Hall of Honor Banquet scheduled Saturday.


Last updated 5/10/2018 at 9:46pm

Courtesy photo

Clovis High School Class of 1949 graduate Esther Smith Van Soelen is one of six honorees to be recognized at Saturday's Purple Pride Hall of Honor Banquet.

CLOVIS - The Clovis Municipal Schools Education Foundation and Alumni Committee will recognize high-achieving Clovis High School graduates for the ninth time at the annual Purple Pride Hall of Honor Banquet scheduled for Saturday.

"It's always really a fun evening," CMS Education Foundation Executive Director Jan Cox said. "We get to honor people who went to Clovis High School and the really neat thing about it is every person that we've honored over the last nine years have been so honored to be recognized by Clovis High School."

Esther Smith Van Soelen, Clovis' first female lawyer, is among the six honorees and the only person to be recognized posthumously this year.

Smith Van Soelen, who passed away in 2014, was involved with many aspects of the community through her work with the Clovis First United Methodist Church, the Girl Scouts and other organizations, but she was always the most passionate about education, according to her son District Judge Fred Van Soelen.

"She thought that education was the most important thing that someone could do for themselves or you could do for someone else as far as helping someone be independent, helping someone stand on their own two feet," Van Soelen said. "She really thought more than anything else you can do for someone is help them get an education to improve their lives."

Perhaps the most obvious example of this occurred in the early 1990s when Smith Van Soelen sponsored two teenagers from Bosnia to come to the United States in order to pursue their education at Clovis Community College, where she also taught for many years, and later at the University of New Mexico.

"Her theory was yeah, you're not going to solve all the world's problems but you can solve what you can, what you have in front of you," Van Soelen said. "Another thing she used to say was that to see the need is to hear the call, so if you saw a problem and it's something you can solve, it was your responsibility to try to solve it."

Cox called Smith Van Soelen a pioneer as a lawyer at a time when few women entered the profession. Van Soelen said his mother was just the 16th licensed female attorney in the state of New Mexico and was the first female editor of the Oklahoma Law Review when she attended the University of Oklahoma College of Law.

"One of my favorite pictures - it's the Law Review editors and it's a group of probably 40 or 50 men and one woman, and that's my mom," Van Soelen said.

Other honorees at Saturday's banquet include former state senators Walter Bradley and Patrick Lyons, literary agent and editor Joseph Durepos, the district's first female school board member Donna Quinn and Armando Jauregui, who led the research team that set in motion a known "cure" for Hepatitis C.

Cox said her favorite aspect of the event is the intermingling of the alumni and current CHS students who will be in attendance to perform the national anthem, Clovis fight song and flag presentation.

"To me that's what makes it really special is that the kids that are going to school now can see what graduates of Clovis High School have done and the great things that they've done and be inspired by that," Cox said.

The banquet begins at 6 p.m. on Saturday at the Clovis Civic Center. Cox said people can probably still purchase tickets today by visiting the instruction department at the Clovis Schools Administration Office, but tickets will not be sold at the door on Saturday.

Individual tickets are $40, table of eight are $295 and tables of 10 are $350.


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