Around Aggieland

A helping hand: New scholarship helps NMSU Carlsbad students bridge an educational gap

Anewly endowed scholarship will help non-traditional students at New Mexico State University Carlsbad attain their academic goals.

Bill and Jo-Ann Vandergriff established the VIP Self Storage Endowed Scholarship at NMSU Carlsbad for residents of Eddy County.

The VIP Self Storage Endowed Scholarship at NMSU Carlsbad was set up by Bill and Jo-Ann Vandergriff with an initial gift of $26,250. The

scholarship will be matched by a generous donor fund at the NMSU Foundation with an additional $25,000.

“We believe everyone should follow a dream and develop a skill such that they can be self-sufficient,” say the Vandergriffs. “An endowed scholarship is one way to achieve that goal in perpetuity. An endowed scholarship for students seeking technical skills, including nursing, will help ensure a steady supply of well-trained individuals who are much needed currently and in the near future.”

“The generosity of Bill and Jo-Ann Vandergriff will provide a great opportunity for NMSU Carlsbad to provide financial assistance to students with a gap in their educational sequence between high school and college,” says John Gratton, president of NMSU Carlsbad. “NMSU Carlsbad has embarked on a series of initiatives to assist our non-traditional students and these scholarships will be a key part of our strategies. NMSU Carlsbad is extremely grateful for this gift and for the benefits that will be provided for four non-traditional students, and we cannot thank Bill and Jo-Ann Vandergriff enough for their generosity and support of NMSU Carlsbad.”

The gift will be invested and the income will enable at least four scholarships to be awarded annually in perpetuity. Awards will be made to full-time students at NMSU Carlsbad who are residents of Eddy County and have a minimum grade-point average of 2.9 at the Carlsbad campus. Preference will be given to students who did not immediately enter college after high school, and so are not eligible for the New Mexico Lottery Scholarship.

The VIP Self Storage Endowed Scholarship at NMSU Carlsbad will fund at least four scholarships annually, with at least one award going to a nursing student.

At least one scholarship will be awarded to a student studying nursing and at least one other scholarship will go to a student in the Manufacturing Sector Development Program, whether vocational, degree or certificate program.  

The first recipients of the scholarship are Veronica Salazar, associate in business office technology; Dorina Gomez, associate in general studies; Joshua DeLosSantos, associate in science; and Joel Carlton, associate in industrial maintenance. 

Darrell J. Pehr 

Posted by webcomm_admin in Fall 2017

Librarian, phys ed instructor leaves a legacy to benefit NMSU students

Mary Helen Lomax, a beloved physical education instructor at New Mexico A&M, now New Mexico State University, made a lasting contribution to the university that will benefit NMSU students for years to come.

When she passed away in 2016, Lomax left behind a substantial gift to NMSU that will be used to fund scholarship endowments and provide matching funds to help drive giving. She also bequeathed her collection of Native American artifacts to the university. 

Lomax was born in Big Spring, Texas, on May 2, 1928. In 1949, she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree and a Bachelor of Science degree from Texas Woman’s University in Denton, and later obtained a master’s degree in physical education from the same university. 

She embarked on a 19-year teaching career that started at a private girl’s school in El Paso. After earning her master’s degree, she taught physical education at New Mexico A&M, San Angelo State University and junior high schools in Albuquerque and Odessa, Texas. 

While at New Mexico A&M, Lomax, who was nicknamed “Teach” by her students, served as a faculty sponsor of the Rodeo Club and the Four Square Club and adviser to the women’s intramural club. 

Lomax then discovered library science while attending Northern Arizona University one summer, and later transferred to the University of Oklahoma, where she earned a master’s degree in library science in 1969. She then became a reference librarian at Sul Ross State University, a position she held for 22 years until she retired in 1991. Lomax lived in Alpine, Texas, until her death. 

Donations in memory of Lomax may be made to the New Mexico State University Foundation. 

Adriana M. Chávez 

Mary Helen Lomax, pictured with Vaughn Corley (left) and C. S. Moll, were physical education instructors in the early 1950s. She also was an adviser to the women’s intramural club and faculty sponsor of the Rodeo Club and the Four Square Club.

After her death in 2016, Mary Helen Lomax left a gift to NMSU to fund scholarships, but she also gave her collection of Native American arti-facts to the university. Some of the artifacts are on display in the NMSU American Indian Center.

Posted by webcomm_admin in Fall 2017

Million-dollar gift supports Arrowhead Center’s regional growth in economic development

As part of the Ignite Aggie Discovery fundraising campaign, the New Mexico State University Foundation received a gift of $1 million from Paul and Alejandra de la Vega Foster to support Arrowhead Center, the university’s regional entrepreneurship and innovation hub.

Arrowhead Center Director Kathryn Hansen says the transformative gift from the Fosters will be used to drive collaboration between Arrowhead and its many partners in the Borderplex region. 

“This funding will allow us to continue to build and strengthen our framework for economic development in the region,” Hansen says. “Our goal is to create an environment where those connections can spark greater innovation. This gift really emphasizes how important it is that we work together to build the critical elements of abundant capital, collaboration with industry, student entrepreneurship, risk-taking culture, government support and community involvement.” 

“We are pleased to support initiatives that build and promote our Borderplex region,” Paul Foster says. “Alejandra and I believe the work that Arrowhead Center is doing is tremendous, and we are glad to see the development of regional partnerships, especially in Mexico. Those relationships are critically important to the future of this region.” 

Paul Foster is the president of Franklin Mountain Management, LLC. He is the founder and former executive chairman of Western Refining, Inc., and currently is a director of Andeavor, a U.S. refining, marketing and logistics company. Foster is chairman of the University of Texas System Board of Regents and serves on numerous boards, including the El Paso Branch of the Dallas Federal Reserve and the Borderplex Regional Economic Alliance. He is also a founding member of MountainStar Sports Group, owners of the El Paso Chihuahuas and the Ciudad Juarez Bravos. 

Alejandra de la Vega Foster is the Secretary of Innovation and Economic Development for the state of Chihuahua, Mexico, and co-owner of MountainStar Sports Group. She is former president of the FC Juárez soccer team and CEO of Almacenes Distribudores de la Frontera. She also serves on several boards and commissions in Texas, El Paso, Juárez and Chihuahua. In 2016, she was appointed to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s Commission for Women as the vice-chair. 

Amanda Bradford ’03 

Carlos Murguia, a graduate assistant who has participated in several Arrowhead Center programs with his company, KoolArmor, promotes Arrowhead Center’s trademarked Activando Emprendedores entre-preneurship training program at Semana Nacional del Emprendedor, Mexico’s national entrepreneurship week. A gift announced in September from Paul and Alejandra de la Vega Foster will help support Arrow-head Center’s work building partnerships with universities, municipalities and organizations in Mexico and throughout the Borderplex region.

Posted by webcomm_admin in Fall 2017

Aggie Milestones


NMSU’s College of Arts and Sciences began in 1917. Originally named the School of General Sciences, it was led by Dean John H. Vaughn. Today, the college is the largest in terms of the number of students at NMSU and includes departments in fine arts, humanities, science and social science.

Ralph W. Goddard first came to NMSU as a professor in 1917. Four years later, he helped construct a 140-foot tower atop the engineering building for a radio station, eventually designated as KOB. In 1929, Goddard died after being electrocuted as he prepared the station for an evening broadcast. Two of the university’s broadcast stations, KRWG-FM and KRWG-TV bear Goddard’s initials.

NMSU first utilized a “computerized” class registration process in 1967. Campus computer center facilities were used to tabulate student requests for classes. Once all requests were tabulated, the students were then matched with the classes available.


NMSU’s Business Complex was dedicated during a public ceremony in 1987. The building, which now houses the College of Business, was designed to reflect the older campus buildings it faced, including Guthrie Hall and Kent Hall.


NMSU named its first Regents Professors in 2002. Six senior faculty members were selected in recognition of their outstanding contributions to the university’s mission. The original Regents Professors included linguist and author Ricardo Aguilar-Melantzon, futurist Lowell B. Catlett, novelist and creative writing teacher Kevin C. McIlvoy, economist James T. Peach, anthropologist Wenda R. Trevathan and chemist Joseph Wang.

Each Regents Professor receives a chair that symbolizes their contributions to NMSU.

Posted by webcomm_admin in Fall 2017

Faculty honors, Presidential Medallion presented at fall convocation

Eleven faculty members were recognized for their excellence in teaching and research and their service to the university during the 2017 fall convocation ceremony.

Kenny Stevens, Department of Engineering Technology and Surveying Engineering, received the Westhafer Award for Excellence in Teaching. 

The Westhafer is presented in memory of Robert L. Westhafer, professor in the Department of Mathematics from 1946 to 1957. It is given in alternating years for excellence in teaching and for excellence in research and creative activity. 

Andreas Gross, Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, and Zachary Toups, Department of Computer Science, received the Patricia Christmore Faculty Teaching Award. 

Named for Patricia Christmore, former accounting department head, this annual award recognizes and rewards superb junior tenure-track faculty members for excellence in teaching. 

The University Research Council presents its Award for Excellence to faculty and staff in recognition of exceptional research and/or other creative scholarly efforts at NMSU. 

The recipients are Salim Bawazir, Nirmala Khandan and Pei Xu of the National Science Foundation Engineering Research Center; Catherine E. Brewer, Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering; Kenneth C. Carroll, Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences; and Tim Wright, Department of Biology. 

Emma Orta, College of Health and Social Services, and Esther Steiner, College of Arts and Sciences, received the Excellence in Academic Advising Award. 

This award recognizes faculty and professional academic advisers for their outstanding achievements and service to NMSU students. The candidates are nominated by students. 

In addition, Chancellor Garrey Carruthers presented the Presidential Medallion to Don Kidd, Western Community Bank chairman and chief executive officer, and his wife, Sarrah, in recognition of their generosity.

Jane Moorman

New Mexico State University Chancellor Garrey Carruthers, fifth from right, Provost Dan Howard, second from left, Presidential Medallion recipient Don Kidd and his wife, Sarrah, both at center, join faculty members for a group photo following the 2017 Fall Convocation ceremony at the Atkinson Recital Hall. Awardees include, left to right, Ken-neth Carroll, Catherine Brewer, Zachary Toups, Tim Wright, Andreas Gross, Esther Steiner, Salim Bawazir, Emma Orta and Pei Xu.

Posted by webcomm_admin in Fall 2017

Pontelli named College of Arts and Sciences dean

Enrico Pontelli, a New Mexico State University Regents Professor with nearly two decades of service to the university, was named dean of the College of Arts and Sciences in May. 

Pontelli was an interim associate dean in the college for two years prior to being named interim dean in 2016. He served as head of the Department of Computer Science for five years and is also an alumnus, earning his Ph.D. in computer science from NMSU in 1997. 

“I am a proud Aggie,” Pontelli says. “This institution has given a lot to me, and the reason I want to do this is to give back to NMSU. The college is strong and has incredible faculty and staff. I have started a number of initiatives that I want to continue.” 

Community outreach is important to Pontelli. He is the founder of the university’s Young Women in Computing program, which has reached more than 14,000 students and raised the visibility of NMSU in the computer science education community. 

Pontelli’s research interests are in the general area of artificial intelligence, high performance computing, assistive technologies and bioinformatics. He has published more than 250 peer-reviewed papers in international venues and secured more than $14 million in funding for his research. 

Minerva Baumann ’13 


Posted by webcomm_admin in Fall 2017

Laree Estes Perez awarded honorary doctorate

Former NMSU regent Laree Estes Perez returned to campus in May to receive an honorary doctoral degree at commencement. “I want to express my gratitude and appreciation for the honor,” Perez says. “It’s certainly the greatest honor that I’ve ever received.”

Beginning in 1991, Perez served on the NMSU Board of Regents for six years and was board president from 1994 to 1996. 

Perez received a Bachelor of Business Administration in finance and economics from Baylor University. She also served on the Baylor University Board of Regents for nine years. 

In 1996, Perez sold her Medallion Investment Management Company to Loomis, Sayles & Company, one of the largest companies in the country. She joined the investment advisory company DeRoy and Devereaux, where she’s been vice president since 2002 and has helped that business grow to over $1.1 billion in assets. 

Coming from a ranching family, and with a heart for New Mexico agriculture, Perez named the NMSU College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences – including the School of Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Management – in her estate for the purpose of establishing scholarships. 

Kristie Garcia ’07 


Posted by webcomm_admin in Fall 2017

Starbucks CEO shares lessons with students,

When Kevin Johnson ’81 arrived at NMSU in May to receive an honorary doctorate at commencement, he had a much different perspective than when he walked onto campus for the first time as a freshman in 1978.

The chief executive officer of Starbucks, Johnson has been on quite the journey since graduating from NMSU with his Bachelor of Arts degree in business administration with a major in business systems. 

“It was at NMSU where I discovered a passion for technology and business, which became my career,” Johnson says. 

His passion for software led him into a career that included IBM, Microsoft and serving as chief executive office of Juniper Networks. Johnson served on the National Security Telecommunication Advisory Committee under presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. 

After a successful career in technology, Johnson joined Starbucks in 2009 as a member of its board of directors. In March 2015, he became president and chief operating officer and assumed the role of CEO in April of this year. 

Through the years, Johnson and his wife, June – also an NMSU graduate – have generously supported NMSU’s Arrowhead Center and the College of Business. 

“My experience at NMSU taught me the importance of helping others, which June and I have carried forward throughout our lives,” Johnson says. 

He visited NMSU’s Arrowhead Center in May, where he spoke to students and faculty about the importance of leadership, human connection, storytelling and life-long learning. 

Kristie Garcia ’07 

LEFT: Starbucks CEO and New Mexico State University alumnus Kevin Johnson returned to NMSU to receive an honorary doctoral degree and visited with students, faculty and staff of Arrowhead Center and the NMSU College of Business in May. RIGHT: Johnson greets NMSU alumna and Starbucks store manager Jessica Lyn Robles during his visit to Arrowhead Center, NMSU’s entrepreneurship and innovation hub.

Posted by webcomm_admin in Fall 2017

Aggie bragging rights

National top tier university ranking

New Mexico State University has been recognized as a top tier university for the past five years according to the U.S. News & World Report Best Colleges for 2018 National Universities rankings. 

NMSU improved more than 20 spots and is tied for 198. The U.S. News & World Report Best Colleges rankings are based on seven factors: assessment of excellence, graduation and retention rates, faculty resources, student selectivity, financial resources, graduation rate performance and alumni giving.

A national leader in equal access to higher education

In a report from the Brookings Institution, NMSU was listed as a leader in equal access to higher education. The report gave NMSU the second-highest score in the nation as a public university that provides opportunities for social mobility to students and produces valuable research. 

In the Brookings report, “Ladders, labs, or laggards? Which public universities contribute most,” by Dimitrios Halikias and Richard V. Reeves, the pair evaluated 342 of the nation’s selective public four-year universities “using newly-available tax data from the Equality of Opportunity Project at Stanford to gauge mobility and an independent ranking from the Carnegie Foundation to assess research activity – to determine which universities are ladders or labs, and which universities are laggards less deserving of public funding.” Private universities, historically black colleges and universities, public liberal arts colleges and military-oriented institutions were not considered. 

NMSU ranks second as a leader for acting as both a ladder for social mobility and laboratory for research. Of the universities considered, NMSU, as a leader, is among only 20 percent of the universities accomplished in both categories. 

NMSU is considered a ladder for promoting social mobility by helping low-income students achieve higher levels on the income ladder following graduation. Nearly 18 percent of NMSU students come from the bottom 20 percent income bracket.

Ranked No. 1 in nation in science, engineering funding for minority-serving institutions

NMSU ranks first in the country for federal obligations for science and engineering activities for minority-serving institutions, according to a report from the National Science Foundation’s National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics. 

A high-Hispanic enrollment institution, NMSU led the nation in receiving $48.8 million in federal science and engineering obligations during the 2015 fiscal year. The majority of the funds, 84 percent, were in the research and development category, and 62 percent of the science and engineering total came from the Department of Defense ($11.6 million), NSF ($9.6 million) and NASA ($9 million).

Posted by webcomm_admin in Fall 2017

FYRE: First-Year Residential Experience aims to help students succeed

The First-Year Residential Experience (FYRE) is a new program at New Mexico State University designed to help students achieve success at the very beginning of their academic journey.

The program is aligned with a new requirement for first-year students to live on campus. Research shows that students who live on campus in their first year are better connected to a university community, more likely to attend class and more likely to graduate. The FYRE program aims to encourage self-discovery and a thirst for learning.

The program will expand the number of Living Learning Communities in the residence halls, place a greater emphasis on outreach to students, and expose students to more leadership development activities in the form of residence governance opportunities. 

A key objective of the FYRE program is improving students’ connections with faculty. To that end, the program will host social activities and events that bring students together with faculty members known as FYREstarters, who will be affiliated with their residential unit.

For more information about the FYRE program, including exemptions to the first-year residency requirement, visit

Posted by webcomm_admin in Spring 2017