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A Family Legacy Comes Full Circle

Stefanie Givens
Jerome Relayson and Dawn Ayarbe Image

Dawn Ayarbe and Jerome Relayson

In fall 2017, Dawn Ayarbe was taking a walk when she fell and heard a "pop."

"I didn’t know what it was, so I just walked home," she explained.

Later that evening, she found herself in the emergency room ready for some X-rays. The technician walked into the room, and after a few moments said, "Ayarbe?"

What happened next Dawn stated could only be described as meant to be.

The radiologic technician in the room that evening, Jerome Relayson, was not only a graduate of TMCC's Radiologic Technology Program, but also the first-ever recipient of the Joseph P. Ayarbe Memorial Scholarship in nursing and radiologic technology at TMCC.

For Dawn, the legacy of her husband had come full circle.

Following Joe’s passing in 2013, Dawn created an endowed scholarship as a result of the many generous donations made to TMCC in Joe’s honor. This scholarship has carried on his legacy. Joe’s connection to Truckee Meadows Community College was forged in 1969, when he left his teaching/counseling position at Wooster High School to work for the Nevada System of Higher Education (NSHE) as a counselor, administrator and coach.

During his tenure with NSHE, Joe was a driving force behind establishment of Western Nevada Community College (WNCC) in 1971. WNCC was split into two colleges in 1979, which created TMCC, where Joe remained until his retirement in 1984. Building on his earlier coaching experiences, Joe built WNCC’s athletic program during the early 1970s. He became head coach of the then WNCC Wildcat basketball and golf programs, and served as director of athletics and student activities for the entire WNCC athletics program. He also worked tirelessly to establish and obtain funding for TMCC's Maxine S. Jacobs Nursing Program.

Longtime friend of the family, Pat Slavin, remembered him stating, "If you want something done, you just do it." This attitude carried him well through his professional and retirement years.

When Joe passed away in 2013, his services were attended by community members, friends, and perhaps, most importantly, dozens of students from as far back as his first teaching and coaching days in Carlin, Nevada in the mid-1950s. Dawn described Joe as a "do-er," and someone who had a “wonderful ability to connect with all people at all levels. He was a mentor to his students and an ambassador for Truckee Meadows Community College.”

Joe was not alone in his passion for education. Dawn was his kindred spirit who was right there by his side throughout his career and in his later years as an illness forced countless trips to the hospital. In 2013, to honor "our Joe," Dawn created the Joseph P. Ayarbe Memorial Scholarship for students in the TMCC Nursing and Radiology Programs. This endowed scholarship not only honors Joe’s commitment to education, but also underscores Joe’s vision, work and dedication to establishing TMCC's Nursing Program and, ultimately, the Radiologic Technology Program, for the benefit of the College and the community.

As Joe said to Pat Slavin just prior to his passing, "You know what? I would do it all again."

It is that zest for life that Dawn hopes will translate to today’s students seeking their own futures at TMCC. And while she is thrilled to support all of the Joseph P. Ayarbe Memorial Scholarship recipients, the one that stands out to Dawn will always be Jerome—the first recipient, and the one to bring the legacy of her husband full circle.

Since its inception seven TMCC nursing and radiology students have benefitted from Dawn’s generosity, and is one of almost 200 privately funded annual and endowed scholarships established with the TMCC Foundation to benefit students in all stages of their academic careers. In the 2016-2017 academic year alone, more than $636,000 in scholarships was awarded to nearly 500 students.

To learn more about the impact of scholarships on TMCC students, or for more information about establishing a scholarship, please contact Stefanie Givens, Development Officer at 775-673-8262 or Becky Josten, Scholarship Manager, at 775-674-7648.