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UNM Honors Frontier Founders, Philanthropists Dorothy and Larry Rainosek

By Hilary Mayall Jetty

Posted October 23, 2014

The University of New Mexico has granted honorary degrees since 1924, to scholars and scientists, civic leaders, artists, architects and authors—all recipients representing a spectrum of noteworthy achievements.

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Dorothy and Larry Rainosek

Albuquerque entrepreneurs and philanthropists Dorothy and Larry Rainosek will be honored as Doctors of Humane Letters at this year’s UNM commencement, joining this illustrious group. Nomination letters laud their passionate involvement with the University and the city over several decades.

“The awarding of this degree is the University’s highest honor, recognizing extraordinary contributions and accomplishments,” declared President Robert G. Frank. “This reflects the high regard in which the Rainoseks are held by UNM.”

Leaving families and familiar Texas surroundings in 1971 with two young children and a dream, the Rainoseks opened a small restaurant at Central Ave. and Cornell Dr. In those days Central Avenue wasn’t lined with student-friendly establishments, but the Frontier gave everyone on the UNM campus a menu full of reasons to cross the street.

Welcoming an ever-changing array of customers into their Frontier and Golden Pride restaurants, their fortunes and family grew alongside the University. Their children, Dr. Mark Rainosek and Shannon Rainosek- Hurley, were Presidential Scholars, eventually earning professional degrees from the School of Medicine and the School of Law, respectively.

“When Mark started college, I said you don’t need the scholarship, we can afford to send you,” noted Dorothy. “Then he said, ‘If you donate a scholarship, you can support someone else’s education, and two of us will go.’ I attribute a lot of our gift giving to that realization.”

A strong Catholic faith also drives their commitments. “Sharing is what religion teaches,” noted Larry, “and you want to help people. Good will is our best advertising.”

Across UNM’s main and north campuses, they’ve responded to requests for support. Natural ambassadors, they extol the virtues and potential of the University, encouraging philanthropy among friends and business associates. As major donors of personal and corporate gifts throughout the community, they are living examples of the meaning of “giving back.”

Dorothy’s service on the UNM Foundation Board spans 16 years, and the couple has met nine UNM presidents. Their names appear on an endowed Presidential Scholarship, in a gallery at the School of Architecture + Planning, and at The Pit. Yet they never expect accolades.

When an envelope arrived from President Frank announcing their honorary degrees, these down to earth, hard working, hands-on business owners were astonished. “I started reading his letter and got teary-eyed,” Dorothy explained, “I had no idea why or how we were chosen.”

“Being given an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters is an honor they have earned in an unconventional sense. That’s kind of how they’ve gotten through their lives,” said Mark. “My parents have worked very hard and made many sacrifices for us. They didn’t have the opportunities we had. Fostering education is very important to them.”

“They are genuine people,” stated Shannon. “They go by their inner guidance and do what they think is right. UNM has been important for our family, our business and the community—and there are few Lobo fans louder than my mother! My parents have always emphasized the importance of supporting education and giving back to the community. They have set the bar high for the rest of us.”

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