History of the Room and Ceremony
In 2006, as an initiative of Elevating Leadership Development, El Pomar established the Milton E. Proby Cultural Heritage Room at Penrose House. Named for the beloved Rev. Dr. Milton E. Proby, the room is dedicated to preserving and documenting the contributions of African American/Black, Asian Pacific Islander, Hispanic/Latino and Native American individuals from Southern Colorado. Each year a member of one of these communities is inducted into the Milton E. Proby group of honorees and is celebrated at an annual Induction Ceremony, which honors the legacy left behind by these individuals who embodied the ideals of civic involvement and leadership.
The Milton E. Proby Cultural Heritage Room is one of Penrose House Conference Center’s meeting spaces.
2023 Milton E. Proby Inductee - Ray Aguilera
The 2023 induction ceremony honored and memorialized the contributions of a member from the Hispanic/Latino community in Pueblo – Ray Aguilera, also known as “Mayor of Bessemer.” Watch the video to learn more about the impact Mr. Aguilera had on youth education and success.
2024 Milton E. Proby Nominations are Open
The deadline for nominations for the 2024 Native American Milton E. Proby Inductee is February 28, 2024. Nominations for all candidates are accepted on an ongoing basis.
About Rev. Dr. Milton E. Proby
Rev. Dr. Milton E. Proby (1929-2005) was one of the first civil rights leaders to have profound influence in the campaign for equality in southern Colorado. Reverend Dr. Proby dedicated his life to uplifting racial relations and serving the needs of the poor in Colorado Springs. As senior pastor of St. John’s Baptist Church from 1958 until his death in May 2005, Rev. Dr. Proby was a powerful and positive influence in southern Colorado. Inspired by the words of his friend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Rev. Dr. Proby worked diligently to bring the dream, “that we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood,” to reality.
- During his 47 years in Colorado Springs, Rev. Dr. Proby actively championed the cause of all people facing issues of inequality and injustice in southern Colorado. As special adviser to three Colorado governors and a founding member of both Colorado’s Civil Rights Commission and the Colorado Springs Human Relations Commission, Rev. Dr. Proby dedicated his life to uplifting racial relations.
- His dedication to justice extended to issues of hunger and poverty as well as culture and race. In 1988, Rev. Dr. Proby founded the St John’s Food Bank, which continues to feed thousands of people throughout the city. Before becoming the voice of the civil rights in Colorado Springs, he served six years in the United States Army, and acted as a civilian liaison to commanding generals at Fort Carson, the Air Force Academy, and Peterson Air Force Base.
- In recognition of his commitment and St. John’s service to Colorado Springs, Rev. Dr. Proby received numerous awards and public recognitions from civic and governmental organizations. In 2003, he was named a “Living Legend” by the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and named one of the “Most Influential People” in Colorado by The Gazette. In 2004, Colorado College presented him with the Community Diversity Award, and the El Paso County Bar Association granted him special recognition. Rev. Dr. Milton E. Proby was honored nationally when the United States Government flew the flag over the Capitol in honor of his contributions to creating an equal society.
Meet the Inductees
Ray Aguilera (1942-2021) dedicated himself to the Pueblo community by committing to change through youth education, civic engagement, and community stewardship. Mr. Aguilera was born to Mexican immigrants, Rose and Pete Aguilera, who instilled in him a great sense of pride for his culture and heritage.
As Founder and President of Pueblo Hispanic Education Foundation (PHEF) from 1988 to 1999, Mr. Aguilera helped provide over 1,000 students with scholarships, organized financial aid workshops, and established a pre-collegiate program. He encouraged higher graduation standards to prepare students for college and set expectations of Hispanic students to obtain a college degree.
Ray Aguilera’s many awards include: 1988 Latino Chamber of Commerce Member of the Year, 1994 Greater Pueblo Chamber of Commerce Citizen of the Year and 2007 Pueblo Latino Chamber of Commerce Lifetime Achievement Award.
Mr. Aguilera was appointed to the Caring for Colorado Board by Governor Bill Owens, to the Education Commission of the States, and elected to Pueblo City Council for multiple terms. Ray Aguilera was recognized nationally for his dedication and continuous support of the Pueblo Community, through the 2007 United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Advocate of the Year and 2019 NAACP Pueblo Community Empowerment Award. He was known as “Mayor of Bessemer” and due to his profound impact, Governor Jared Polis proclaimed May 18, 2021 as Ray Aguilera Day.
Dr. Kenneth Stephen Burnley (1942-2011) was driven in his philosophy of education by his passion for teaching, learning, and what he called his never-ending journey to impart and receive knowledge. He diligently and faithfully served as Superintendent of Colorado Springs School District 11 from 1987 to 2000
Burnley’s energy was legendary. He corrected a $12 million dollar budget imbalance; he created The Foundation for District 11; he developed and implemented the Post-Secondary Option program with Pikes Peak Community College enabling high school students to earn college credits; he opened the first International Baccalaureate program in the Pikes Peak region at Palmer High School; and he led the pass of the Public School Finance Act of 1994, enabling fairer funding of Colorado’s schools.
Dr. Burnley reached national acclaim as the recipient of the 1993 Colorado and National Superintendent of the Year Awards from the American Association of School Administrators (AASA). Dr. Burnley served on the Diversity Committee at the University of Michigan School of Education, the steering committee for the National Research Initiative for School Reform and Beyond, the Board of Directors at Colorado Technical College, as the Chair of the Education Committee for the United States Olympic Committee, and many other distinguished boards. Dr. Burnley was recognized for his excellence in education as a Member of the American Delegation of Superintendents to Tel Aviv, China, and Taiwan
Dennis Barcial Apuan was a Filipino-American community leader and lifelong advocate for civil rights, equality and peace.
Mr. Apuan was born in Manila, Philippines before moving to the United States in 1984 and to Colorado Springs in 1997. Throughout his time in the Pikes Peak Region, Mr. Apuan was a tireless civic leader and represented a diverse constituency in southeast Colorado Springs’ 17th District during his tenure at the state house from 2009-2011. Outside of public office, Mr. Apuan served with the Pikes Peak Justice and Peace Commission, El Paso County Democratic Party, Colorado Unity, the UCCS Diversity Strategic Planning Committee and the National Federation of Filipino Americans Association.
In 2010, Mr. Apuan founded the Endowment for the Asian Pacific American Collection at the Pikes Peak Library District dedicated to building a substantial collection of books, DVDs and CDs that speak to the Asian American experience. He was awarded later that year with the Organization for Chinese Americans’ Asian American Hero of Colorado award.
Over the course of his life, Mr. Apuan founded multiple other civic ventures and organizations, including the Philippine-American Chamber of Commerce of Colorado, KCMU 93.9 Colorado Springs Community Radio/Colorado Media Justice Foundation, Colorado Springs Council for Justice and Colorado Springs Says Welcome.
Laura Mae (Coyhis) Hom (1949-2011), the embodiment of a Woman Warrior and Servant Leader, was protective of family, community and culture and stood firm for principles and honor. She served on the Board of Denver Indian Health and Family Services, volunteered at the Denver Indian Center, and served as the first female President of the Stockbridge-Munsee Tribal Council in Wisconsin, addressing community development and environmental issues. Laura also coordinated the distribution of care baskets for men and women in Colorado prisons, served as a healthy role model for children whose parents were incarcerated, provided healthcare resources for the elderly, and worked to address stereotyping of Native Americans in educational materials.
In Colorado Springs, she served as Executive Director of White Bison until 2001, supervising staff and training programs as well as coordinating nationwide Wellbriety Journeys of the Sacred Hoop to initiate community healing. Laura also supervised White Bison’s Combined Federal Campaign fundraising events in southern Colorado, providing inmates in Colorado prisons with Wellbriety resources. She organized Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) National Recovery Month community events throughout Colorado to celebrate Native Americans in recovery. After 2001 and until her passing, she distributed Wellbriety Training curriculum throughout the U.S. and Canada as director for Coyhis Publishing.
Petra Antonia Gonzalez de McCulley (1936-2013) devoted herself to improving the lives of others. Her desire to help immigrants achieve citizenship, her compassion for those less fortunate, and her belief in the value of education are everlasting.
Along with her husband Charles, they established Angelus Chapel Mortuaries in Pueblo and Colorado Springs. In operation more than 50 years later, they were awarded Small Business of the Year from both Latino (2008) and Pueblo (2013) Chambers of Commerce. Her empathy for the poor is evident through service with Posada and the annual Homeless Memorial Picnic and Take Care Fair, held in her honor. She was the catalyst for the McCulley Family college scholarship, awarded annually at Pueblo Central High School.
Petra showed her love for people and Pueblo through her involvement with organizations such as Pueblo YWCA, La Familia Fuerte, Colorado State Fair Fiesta Committee, Pueblo Girls Club, and numerous other organizations. Petra was also a strong advocate for human rights, co-founding the Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday Commission and as a lifetime member of NAACP. Petra loved her community and proudly called Bessemer and Minnequa Heights neighborhoods her home. Faith, family, education, community and helping others remained priorities throughout her lifetime.
Reverend James H. McMearn (1940-2016) was a beloved faith, community, and civil rights leader. Born and raised in Crockett, Texas, Rev. McMearn enlisted in the Air Force shortly after graduating high school and served for five years until his honorable discharge. Making his way to Colorado, he enrolled at the University of Southern Colorado, and in 1969 he served as the Director of Minority and Alcohol Services for the El Paso County Health Department.
Rev. McMearn, divinely inspired, organized a prayer band and bible study group which eventually evolved into New Jerusalem Missionary Baptist Church in Fountain, Colorado, where he served as Senior Pastor for 40 years. Rev. McMearn’s guidance fostered the development of many faith leaders, garnering him the title “The Pastors’ Pastor.”
A man driven by his community, Rev. McMearn was also President of the Southern Colorado Ministerial Union, board member of the Rocky Mountain Community Land Trust, member of various El Pomar Foundation committees, and the creator, coordinator and organizer of the Milton E. Proby Action Committee, which partnered with the City of Colorado Springs in the naming effort of the Milton E. Proby Parkway, and was pivotal in establishing the Milton E. Proby Cultural Heritage Room.
George Nakayama (1921-1990) was a second generation Japanese American, an athlete and coach, business man, lifelong educator, and community leader in Colorado Springs and Fountain Valley. Born in Rocky Ford, Colorado to a farming family, he graduated from Rocky Ford High School and was the first Japanese American on the wrestling team at University of Denver. He earned a teaching degree from Colorado State College, later teaching and coaching in Trinidad. The owner of two grocery stores in Colorado Springs, including Six Point Market, George and his family specialized in providing authentic Japanese food and personal, caring service to community members including Rev. Milton E. Proby.
George was dedicated to his community, serving as a PTO President, board member of Pikes Peak Board of Cooperative Services, elder and deacon at First Christian Church, and as a lifetime member of the Security Lions Club. An avid sports fan and supporter of local schools, George was twice elected to the Widefield School District 3 Board of Education and was a member of the Colorado Springs Quarterback Club. Over the years, George and his family hosted various military families and international visitors.
Ernest House Sr. (1945- 2011) served 31 years for the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe as both Chairman and Councilman, and was one of the longest serving elected Tribal officials. A member of the Weeminuche Band and grandson of Chief Jack House, the Tribe’s last hereditary Chief, House Sr. was well known for his deep knowledge of Ute history.
Born and raised in Mancos Canyon on the Ute Mountain Ute reservation in southwestern Colorado, former Chairman House was a veteran of the Colorado Army National Guard, Special Forces Airborne Group.
House’s leadership was defined by collaboration and communication with tribal, local, state, and federal officials. Throughout his tenure he advocated for tribal enterprise and helped develop tribal health facilities and initiatives in Colorado, Utah, and New Mexico. Under his leadership, the Dolores Water Project (1987) and Animas La Plata Water Project (2009) were completed, guaranteeing water to the Ute Mountain Ute and Southern Ute Indian tribes.
House worked for the Bureau of Indian Affairs and National Park Service under the U.S. Department of the Interior and was instrumental in the implementation of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act in Colorado, ensuring Native American remains and funerary objects are cared for and returned to Tribes.
Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) Thomas H. Martinez (1914-1985) served his country, state and community for 52 years; in the military, as a government civilian employee, and in many civic organizations.
Born in Sopris, Colorado, LTC Martinez graduated from Huerfano County High School in 1933 and was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1942. From Private to Lieutenant Colonel over a 20 year career, including service in WWII and Korea, he retired in 1962.
Once he retired, LTC Martinez became passionate about education equality, especially for Hispanic youth. Education-the birthright of every American became his rallying cry.
He helped establish the Latin American Educational Foundation (LAEF) and a scholarship fund awarding $100,000 in scholarships per year. He inspired and enabled many underprivileged youth to continue their education. LTC Martinez served as chair of La Raza Unity Council, president of St. Vincent De Paul Society, and president of the Colorado Springs Chapter of the American G I Forum. In 1978, he was the recipient of the “Hispanic Employment Program” from the U.S. Civil Service Commission. In 1988, a District 11 elementary school was named in his honor, LTC Thomas H. Martinez Elementary. He lived a life of tireless service exemplified by a favorite quote, “I’d rather wear out than rust out.”
James Ford Poole (1936-2008) was an admired leader in business,politics and community service at the local, state and national level.
Born in Laurens, South Carolina, Mr. Poole received a B.A. in Mathematics from Benedict College. A gifted singer, he joined the NORAD Aradcom Choral Group upon enlisting in the Army, and was a featured soloist on an album the group recorded at Carnegie Hall. Other notable performances included the Diana Shore and Arthur Godfrey shows, and Colorado Governor Roy Romer’s inauguration.
Upon moving to Pueblo in 1962, Mr. Poole became a math and civics teacher at Central High School, shaping the young minds of many future leaders. His entrepreneurial spirit led him to establish James F. Poole Associates becoming the first African-American Certified Financial Planner in Pueblo. During his 40 years as a respected investment advisor he held positions with many organizations including, Treasurer, Pueblo African American Concern Organization, Board of Trustees for Benedict College and Pueblo Community Health Foundation, and was one of five member appointments to the Colorado State Insurance Board by Governor Lamm.
Mr. Poole also served as the Treasurer for the Colorado Democratic Party and as a Board Member of the Colorado State Centennial/Bicentennial Commission. He was a lifetime member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.
Duane Mitsuo Takaki (1947 - 2011) made a difference in southern Colorado, one smile at a time. A dentist by trade, he brought quality oral care to Pueblo's poor and underserved by providing his services at very low or no cost. Through El Centro de los Pobres, Takaki offered free dental care and supplies that improved the quality of life for a generation of migrant workers and their children.
Born in Pueblo he graduated from Central High School and was an Eagle Scout. He went on to attend Northwestern University, from which he received both a bachelor's degree (1969) and a doctorate of dental science (1973).
Takaki returned to his hometown, joined the dental practice established by his father Harry in 1936, and made a mark on the community through service, outreach and education. He taught dental hygiene classes at Pueblo Community College, was president of the Southeastern Colorado Dental Society and was appointed to the Dental Board of Examiners for the state of Colorado in 2004. An active volunteer dedicated to community service, he served on the boards of the Pueblo Community College Foundation, the Boys and Girls Club, and the St. Mary-Corwin Foundation.
As a loving husband and father to wife Jeannie and daughters Karis and Stacy, Duane Takaki's devotion to community started at home and extended to include all those he made feel like a part of his family. He left a legacy of compassion and service.
Katharine Joyce Carpenter (1921-1994) was a lifelong advocate and promoter of the poor and disenfranchised, not only in Colorado but across the nation. She lobbied the Colorado Springs City Council, promoting decisions supportive of minorities, the elderly and the poor. In 1976, she was elected to the office of Committeewoman of the Democratic Party for Precinct 58, El Paso County, and worked to expand voter participation.
Born in Pueblo, Katharine Carpenter later moved to Colorado Springs, where she married and lived until her death in 1994. Throughout her life she worked for and with those who were in need of an advocate.
Locally, she led the effort to create the Hillside Neighborhood Center, where she helped connect people to safety-net programs and services. At the state level, she founded the Colorado Prison Reform Centers. Nationally, she helped influence legislation, including the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act of 1996. She also marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. for civil rights in Washington, D.C. One of her most enduring contributions was her stand to help keep the Garden of the Gods as sacred ground. She wanted the landmark to remain a place where people could reflect on its history, enjoy nature's beauty, and find the kind of inspiration that drove her to effect change
Eva Raigoza Baca (1929-2007) believed in the potential of every child to succeed, and sought to share her love of learning everywhere she went. Baca’s example motivated Eastwood Heights, a neighborhood on the east side of Pueblo, to improve itself through books, education, and a thirst for knowledge. The child of two Mexican immigrants, Baca began her studies later than many other students. Widowed at 32, she turned to education to secure a brighter future for herself and her two young children. Baca’s tireless efforts earned her not only a college degree from Southern Colorado State, but also a master’s from Adams State College and a principal’s certification from the University of Wyoming.
She was appointed principal of Eastwood Elementary School in 1972. After being named principal, Baca did not waste any time making a name for herself in the community. She not only began improvements within her school but was influential in improving the overall quality of life in the Eastwood Heights neighborhood. Literacy was her primary vehicle for change, but close behind was her invaluable mentorship to students, parents, new teachers, and community members. Baca’s involvement in countless philanthropic efforts earned her recognition from the U.S. Department of Education, and a Latino Lifetime Achievement Award. But perhaps most significantly, Baca’s beloved Eastwood Elementary was renamed Eva R. Baca Elementary School, in honor of the woman whose legacy continues to live on in the people she inspired.
Fannie Mae Duncan (1918-2005) was a philanthropist, community activist and entrepreneur who helped integrate Colorado Springs peacefully through her visionary approach to business. She established the Cotton Club, a downtown nightclub, as a destination for African-Americans to enjoy firsthand the greatest black entertainers of the 1950’s and 1960’s. The Cotton Club evolved into a symbol of hope. At a time when most businesses were segregated, Fannie Mae hired waitresses of all ethnicities and received guests of all colors. She eventually earned widespread support for her philosophy of inclusion from unlikely sources, including the local police chief.
A sign in the Club’s window summed up Duncan’s philosophy: “EverybodyWelcome.” Fannie Mae responded with typical flair when the Cotton Club’s famous black performers were barred from the city’s fine hotels. She purchased a historic Victorian mansion as her personal residence and opened it to icons like Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington and Count Basie. Duncan’s home became a showplace for the entire community. Fannie Mae Duncan was born in Luther, Oklahoma and moved to Colorado Springs with her family in 1933. In recognition of her many accomplishments, she was inducted into the Colorado Springs High School Hall of Fame and received the Pikes Peak Blues Community Lifetime Achievement Award and the Black Womanhood Award.
Andy Chun Song (1948-2007) was a community leader who demonstrated with his words and actions how ethnic minorities could have a profound impact on the Pikes Peak area through broad-based civic engagement. A native of South Korea, Song graduated from Yonsei University and was a four-year Veteran of the South Korean Air Force. He immigrated to the United States in 1976 and settled first in Baltimore before moving to Colorado Springs in 1985. A successful businessman who excelled in the real estate arena, Song helped ensure that small business owners with diverse ethnic backgrounds were able to compete on a level playing field in Colorado Springs. Song held numerous leadership positions in both the Colorado Springs and Korean communities.
He was the President of the Korean Catholic Church Parish Council for more than 20 years and twice served as President of the Korean Chamber of Commerce. Song was also director of the Korean Language School. He volunteered as an interpreter for the Colorado Springs Police Department and was a member of the police chief’s Community Leaders Advisory Board and the Chancellor’s Minority Advisory Committee at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. Song's varied community contributions are connected by a single theme. He made a difference as an advocate for equality through his dedication to the values of honesty, integrity and hard work.
Lucian Amos "Sac" Jamison (1920-1999) displayed an unwavering commitment to his country, his heritage, and his community. He was an athlete, serviceman and, above all, a role model for people of all ethnicities. Jamison was born a full blooded Seneca-Cayuga of the Iroquois Nation in Grove, Oklahoma in 1920. At the age of 16 he qualified for the United States Olympic boxing team and competed in the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin, Germany. In 1941 Jamison joined the United States Army and fought in the South Pacific during World War II as a member of the renowned Alamo Scouts.
Jamison received numerous awards for his military service, including two Silver Stars, the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart. Following his military career, Jamison settled in Manitou Springs where he served his community by educating and inspiring young people. More than 400 youngsters knew Jamison as a dedicated Boy Scouts leader and he helped many of them obtain the rank of Eagle Scout. Mr. Jamison received several awards recognizing his service to the scouting movement, including the Scouter’s Key, Silver Beaver Award, and the Order of the Arrow. To honor his heritage and pay tribute to his devotion, a camp site at Camp Alexander in Lake George, CO is named for Jamison. He left a lasting legacy as a strong advocate for Native American youth in the Pikes Peak region, by establishing several organizations to advance Native Americans through education, scholarships, and the understanding and perpetuation of Native American culture.
Barela was born in Embudo, New Mexico and, at the age of 20, moved to Trinidad, Colorado where he began his political career in 1869 as justice of the peace. Throughout his life, he held many city, county and state offices, including county assessor, county sheriff, and Denver counsel for the Republics of Mexico and Costa Rica. A strong advocate for Colorado’s statehood, he worked to ensure that the state’s constitution was written not only in English but also in Spanish and German at the constitutional convention of 1875. During his many terms in the state senate, he supported voting rights for women, the establishment of Columbus Day as a holiday in 1907 and New Mexico’s request for statehood. He is one of only 16 people honored in the Rotunda of the State Capital building, where a stained glass portrait of him is displayed.