Businessman and New Mexico State University alumnus Richard Leza has been named the third inductee in the NMSU Entrepreneur Hall of Fame by NMSU’s Arrowhead Center and the Office of the Vice President for Research and Graduate Studies.
A virtual reception will take place from 6 to 8 p.m. Dec. 16 to recognize Leza.
“Being recognized for my entrepreneurial accomplishments is my ultimate reward,” Leza said.
Born in Laredo, Texas, his family moved to Placitas, a colonia of Hatch, where he spent his childhood as the fourth of 10 children to a single mother. He worked in the fields picking crops and was the only member of his family to finish college.
Leza believes in encouraging young minorities to reach for higher education, especially if they have a business idea they believe can work. Leza was a co-founder, president and chairman of Hispanic-Net, a nonprofit organization dedicated to creating a network of successful Hispanics that would improve and enhance entrepreneurial opportunities for Hispanics in high-tech.
“Be determined and believe in yourself – it may take many years, but it’s sweet when you are holding a winner,” he said.
Winners are what Leza created during his time in the Silicon Valley in California. He was the founder, chairperson and chief executive officer of RMC Group, Inc., and AI Research Corporation. RMC was a management consulting firm. AI Research Corporation was an active venture capital firm that specialized in business-to-business software, information technology and medical analytical software applications. The firm had specialized in early-stage investments with a market focus approach for creating long-term commercial products.
Through his more than 40 years of experience in finance, manufacturing, engineering, medical devices and application software, Leza provided initial seed and first-round capital, hands-on guidance to management teams, and strategic assistance to his portfolio companies. He was an entrepreneur and investor in many technology startups, including Flex Star Corp., the first automatic testing equipment corporation for hard drives; Optimal Learning Corp., the first interactive educational software company; EndoTherapeutics Corp., the first disposable surgical trocars for minimally invasive surgery; and CastaLink, Inc., an initial provider of real-time web-based supply chain collaboration solutions for mid-size companies.
He retired from Exar Corporation after serving 10 years as chairperson and three times as interim CEO. Exar designed, developed and marketed high-performance, analog mixed-signal integrated circuits and advanced sub-system solutions for many industrial markets. The company was sold to MaxLiner in May 2017.
Leza is proud of his educational background, including attending East Los Angeles College and earning a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from NMSU, a master’s degree in business administration from the Stanford Graduate School of Business, and an honorary doctorate from NMSU.
“Richard was one of my students in the early 1970s, and I followed his career over the years and maintained fairly close contact. He has supported the department and college greatly over the last 20 years,” said retired NMSU faculty Kenneth R. White, who joined with NMSU Civil Engineering Department Head David Jauregui to nominate Leza to the hall of fame.
“He has a proven record of accomplishments in successful startup ventures, developing winning strategies, transforming ailing businesses into profitable enterprises, building world-class teams and developing revolutionary products,” White said. “In addition, through the formation of industry differentiated products and strategies, he has created outstanding shareholder value. Leza has also given entrepreneurial lectures for the department and college and has been the Distinguished Alumni for the College of Engineering. He received the 2021 James F. Cole Award for Service to the university, and has served on department and college advisory boards.”
Kathryn Hansen, director and CEO of Arrowhead Center, said Leza was selected out of a pool of outstanding nominees by the Arrowhead Innovation Network Advisory Council.
“He is an exemplary mentor for students who aspire to an entrepreneurial journey,” Hansen said.
Leza’s advice to other budding entrepreneurs? “Business doors don’t open easily,” he said. “You got to push them open.”
The community is invited to celebrate Leza and his accomplishments at the reception by registering at https://2021_nmsu_entrepreneur_hall_of_fame.eventbrite.com.