Contact: Wendel Sloan at 505.562.2253
Reporter: Marc Shoder
PORTALES—When Eastern New Mexico University's John Prater, outreach specialist for Disability Services and Testing, first came to the High Plains, it was the first of three tours as an Air Force maintainer on the F-111D fighter/bomber at Cannon Air Force Base. Later, he moved into the field of training. In 1992, when he retired as a Senior Master Sergeant (E8), he made the decision to work in education.
"Long before I left the Air Force, I knew I wanted to continue to work in education," said the Clovis resident, who was a 26-year veteran.
While in the Air Force, one of three fields Prater worked in was educational training programs for maintenance personal at some of the bases he was stationed at. His 26 years took him to Hickam AFB, Hawaii, Kelly AFB, Sanatoin, two tours in Vietnam, Loring AFB in Maine, Shaw AFB in South Carolina and 13 years at Cannon.
The 63-year-old's last assignment was at Cannon in Clovis. Upon retirement, Prater and his wife of 38 years, Karen, decided to call the High Plains home. As a result, Prater returned to school at Clovis Community College to get an associate degree in universal studies.
While at CCC, he met his current boss, Bernita Davis. "I met Bernita while she was working in the same Disabilities Program at CCC that she is now director of here at ENMU."
After graduating from CCC, he came to Eastern to pursue a degree in psychology - and looked Davis up.
"I was a client with the state's Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) at the time and DVR temporarily funded a position for me in the department as I continued my education at Eastern," said Prater. "I soon realized this was what I want to do for the remainder of my working life."
The military veteran said that his job is to help maintain a leveled playing field for students with disabilities. He manages the Testing Program for the department, as well as provides one-on-one specialized tutoring and support for students served by the Disability Services Office.
Prater, who is serving as president of Eastern's Professional Senate, said that one of the reasons he came to Eastern was because of its size. "There is a lot to be said for small universities," said Prater. "You know when you come to Eastern, you're not known by a number, you're known by your name."
He added that one of the University's strong points is the faculty. "We seek professors who we think fit the kind of education that we provide here," Prater said. "There is a lot of hard work that goes into building an institution like this."
Prater said that one of these days he might consider retirement - "just not now. I enjoy working, and look forward to it every day."
He said that one of the biggest perks of his job is working with students. "I love to see the light come on and a student's mind open up to learning," said Prater.