Farewell to a true New Mexican and a true scholar

Obituary: Dr. Lorenzo Gonzales of the Laboratory’s Math and Science Academy

September 20, 2023

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Lorenzo Gonzales (standing) at an MSA teacher professional development event in 2017.

Dr. Lorenzo Gonzales of the Laboratory’s Math and Science Academy passed away on July 30, 2023. If you ever had the chance to meet Lorenzo,  (or “Gonzo” if you had the honor of being in Cuba at the time he was teaching high school science classes there) you knew what was important to him: family and learning. He was a true New Mexican, and a true scholar. 

Lorenzo grew up in Vaughn, New Mexico and studied at Eastern New Mexico University where he found his calling in teaching, dedicating over 50 years of his life to education.

In 1973, Lorenzo moved to Cuba with the intention of staying for two years, but there he met and married his wife Evangeline. Together they remained in Cuba to raise their family while Lorenzo served as a high school science teacher for 22 years. He was the 1997 recipient of the Milken Educators Awards (often called the “Oscars of teaching,”) and was recognized locally and nationally as a technology innovator in an impoverished community, using computers to help level the playing field for his students. 

Lorenzo continued to impact the lives of students and teachers in Northern New Mexico, spending 20 years with the Los Alamos National Laboratory’s Math and Science Academy (MSA). He joined the Laboratory team to improve the learning experiences of teachers and students in math education and spent most of his LANL career guiding teachers to understand their own learning so that they could better help their students. 

His dedication influenced the lives of so many teachers, administrators, and students. In MSA alone, he worked with over 1,000 teachers and principals in the communities of Northern New Mexico, including Cuba, Española, Chama, Mora, Taos, Pojoaque, Zia Pueblo, and Jemez Pueblo. 

He also served as an adjunct professor at Santa Fe Community College and Northern New Mexico College, and taught courses at New Mexico State University and the University of New Mexico. He was part of the innovative MSA team that established the courses for the newly-established Northern New Mexico College School of Education. With his connections at the institutions of higher education, he headed the push to help teachers obtain masters degrees and carved a path for teachers to pursue their doctoral degrees, once again leveling the playing field. 

Lorenzo's rich experiences as a child, teen, young adult in college, and finally in his career gave him the best stories (which he was known to repeat, but no-one minded, or at least no one said anything!). He found friends in everyone he met and his name was known far and wide. Even on work travel in Florida he was able to find a Little Anita’s New Mexican restaurant.

Lorenzo stressed many times that we teach not what to think but how to think. He also coined the unofficial motto of the MSA program from a “dicho” that came from his father: “el trabajo te dice que hacer” – “the work tells you what to do.”

He will be greatly missed, but the work he was so committed to will continue through his legacy. 

– Dr. Gonzales’ colleagues at the Laboratory’s Math and Science Academy, and Community Partnerships Office