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Employee Council presents "A" Mountain Award to Chile Pepper Institute employee

The New Mexico State University Employee Council presented the "A" Mountain Staff Award to Danise Coon, senior research specialist and Chile Pepper Institute program coordinator, during the annual Employee Appreciation Picnic today.


Danise Coon, center, is joined by Paul Bosland, left, and Fred Lillibridge shortly after Coon was officially presented with an A Mountain Staff Award for outsta
Danise Coon, center, is joined by Paul Bosland, left, and Fred Lillibridge shortly after Coon was officially presented with an A Mountain Staff Award for outstanding achievement in her field. Coon works at the Chile Pepper Institute at New Mexico State University. (NMSU photo by Darren Phillips)

The NMSU Employee Council invites nominations of exemplary full-time, regular NMSU staff employees who represent the qualities of integrity, dedication, skill, endurance, resilience, determination and passion in performance of their duties to be considered for the "A" Mountain Staff Award twice each year. Candidates are evaluated by their innovation, responsiveness, service, spirit and teamwork.

Paul Bosland, Chile Pepper Institute director and distinguished professor of plant and environmental sciences, nominated Coon for the award.

"For more than 15 years, Danise Coon has managed the daily responsibilities of the Chile Pepper Institute and recently also became the senior research specialist for the chile pepper breeding and genetics program," Bosland said. "Each program takes a different set of job skills, but she transitions between both seamlessly, excelling in both arenas."

Coon began working for Bosland as a greenhouse aide while she was an undergraduate and about a year later, he moved her into the institute as an administrative aide. As the institute evolved, so did Coon's career. In 2000, her title changed to program coordinator and Bosland hired her in a professional capacity.

"I think that my most favorite part of working at NMSU and in the Chile Pepper Institute is the education aspect - the fact that we help so many people on a daily basis - whether it's asking a simple gardening question, or helping them figure out how to stop the burn," Coon said.

And, for those of you wondering what remedy the Chile Pepper Institute recommends to relieve the capsaicin-induced burning sensation in your mouth following a hotter-than-expected chile experience, milk, or better yet, ice cream, will do the trick.

Part of Coon's work involves representing NMSU at various conferences and events.

"Just recently, I went to Spain for EUCARPIA, more for the NMSU breeding program," she said. "I have dual jobs - I'm not only the program coordinator for the institute, I'm also the senior research specialist in the chile breeding program."

EUCARPIA is the European Association for Capsicum and Eggplant Research and Coon was able to represent NMSU at the EUCARPIA conference in 2010, where she was able to learn about chile pepper research from around the world.

Coon also represents NMSU at the Fiery Foods Show in Albuquerque each year.

"It's extremely exciting and absolutely awesome that what I do on a daily basis inspired other people to say 'wow, that's cool.' And, if I can be an inspiration to other people, it just shows what hard work and perseverance can do for you."

Joining her at the ceremony were Paul Bosland, her supervisor and mentor; her husband, Chris Coon; and Chile Pepper Institute student assistant Autumn Martinez.

"Every day is a learning process," she said. "Every day revolves around education and helping people, and for me, that's the absolute best part of this job."