It is with heavy hearts that we mention that class of 1972 graduate and 2014 Cougar Hall of Fame inductee Celia Sarabia Hightower passed on last week after a courageous battle with pancreatic cancer. Her professional and personal accomplishments are widespread. In today’s Arizona Daily Star:
In the 29 years Hightower spent overseeing finances at El Rio, which has a history of caring for disenfranchised populations, the nonprofit never lost money.
That was no small feat considering El Rio was coming out of a bankruptcy, comprised one location and had a budget of less than $2 million when Hightower joined the organization in 1987. In those early years, Hightower also acted as chief operating officer. Her passion for El Rio’s work fueled the energy she put into balancing its books […] When she retired Sept. 30, the budget was $135 million and the organization was up to 14 campuses.
“We have never lost money any year on her watch,” said Nancy Johnson, who is the CEO of El Rio. “Many of the employees here she hired 17 or 20 years ago, and there have been wonderful, heartfelt messages about how she believed in them and supported them in their education.”
Our thoughts are with Celia’s family, including Cougar Foundation Board Member Penn Hightower, who continues to inspire with his dedication to his family and community. A service is scheduled for 3 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 11 at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, followed by a celebration of life in the parish hall.