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The impact of generosity

NMSU Giving Tuesday marks five years of changing lives

To understand the power of Giving Tuesday and its impact on NMSU students over the past five years, you need only spend a few moments with Vanisha Sam ’19.

A first-generation college student who grew up in northwestern New Mexico on the Navajo Nation, Sam came to NMSU in 2015 to pursue a degree in animal science. Four years later, she graduated with honors, becoming the first person in her family to earn a college degree. She’s now working on a second bachelor’s degree in nursing.

As she balances a busy school life with an internship caring for sheep on campus, Sam has less to worry about when it comes to funding her education. That’s because in 2019, she received the Joel L. Granger Endowed Scholarship, which supports students serving as presidents of student-led organizations. It’s one of nearly 250 life-changing scholarships created since the NMSU Foundation initiated NMSU Giving Tuesday in 2015.

“It helps me to have access to the various resources that will help me grow as a person,” Sam says. “My family supports me as much as they can, so it helps them not worry about how they could help me pay for school. I can focus on how I can be a better leader and how I can make a bigger impact on tribal communities.”

It’s students like Sam who have inspired more than 8,700 donors to support NMSU Giving Tuesday since its inception, creating a total of 243 scholarships for students across the NMSU system through contributions and matching funds totaling more than $16.7 million.

NMSU Giving Tuesday donations reached an all-time high in 2019 when more than 1,200 donors contributed gifts over a single day that exceeded $3.6 million with matching funds. That year’s event was doubly successful for the NMSU Foundation, which met and surpassed its $125 million Ignite Aggie Discovery campaign, thanks to the Giving Tuesday contributions.

NMSU Giving Tuesday owes much of its success to the generosity of individuals and businesses that come together each year in a collaborative effort to help the university further its mission.

“Our Aggie family is awesome. I am humbled by the number of alumni, friends, faculty, staff, students and corporations that have come together over the last five years to make such an amazing impact for our students and our university,” says Leslie Cervantes ’86, associate vice president of alumni and donor relations for University Advancement. “The generosity of these individuals and groups is inspirational and really demonstrates the strong commitment to NMSU that we all share.”

New Mexico Gas Company, one of the top NMSU Giving Tuesday donors, has contributed $500,000 to the university since 2016, supporting programs in NMSU’s Arrowhead Center and other areas that help promote statewide economic development.

“NMGC and our parent company, Emera, recognized the key role that NMSU’s Arrowhead Center plays in educating and supporting New Mexico’s students, and its innovative methods of equipping and mentoring aspiring entrepreneurs with the skills they’ll need to succeed,” says Mary Homan, economic development and community affairs manager for NMGC. “By investing in NMSU and its students, we are investing in the future of New Mexico, a strong economy and its people.”

NMSU undergraduate Emily Liano, who is studying kinesiology and participates in the NMSU Student Foundation, was a first-time giver in 2019. Her motivation to make a Giving Tuesday donation, she says, centered on her desire to help the College of Education’s Department of Kinesiology and Dance bolster its research efforts.

“For me, it made me feel really good, and it made me very proud of being an Aggie and wanting to help out as much as I can,” she says. “We students rely a lot on scholarships and donations, and Giving Tuesday is a great way for us to see that we can do our part, too.”

Scholarships established through NMSU Giving Tuesday benefit students across all majors and programs throughout New Mexico. But one created under tragic circumstances in 2018 will help support students with close ties to law enforcement.

The J.R. Stewart Endowed Scholarship honors the life of retired Las Cruces police officer J.R. Stewart, who died in November 2017. Created by the J.R. Stewart 141 Foundation, the scholarship will benefit NMSU students with parents or grandparents who are active-duty or retired law enforcement officers or who are fallen officers.

“J.R. loved kids and cops, and through the 141 Foundation, we take care of kids and cops,” says Shelton Dodson ’94, whose friendship with Stewart spanned 25 years.

Dodson says creating a scholarship was a natural fit to memorialize Stewart. After months of fundraising,
Dodson, the 141 Foundation and many of Stewart’s family members and friends, presented a check during the 2018 NMSU Giving Tuesday event, formalizing the scholarship one year after Stewart’s death.

Dodson believes the scholarship will keep Stewart’s memory alive. “These students who are going to get it are going to learn about J.R.,” he says, “and they are going to continue his giving, loving ways for generations.”

For detailed information about scholarship opportunities, visit To learn more about NMSU Giving Tuesday, visit


Staff from the NMSU Foundation celebrate after learning they surpassed the $125 million Ignite Aggie Discovery campaign during the 2019 NMSU Giving Tuesday event.


Pistol Pete, John Roberts, prepared his online donation during NMSU Giving Tuesday 2016 at Corbett Center’s Aggie Lounge.


J.R. Stewart talks with a boy while on his patrol motorcycle. Stewart was a patrol officer with the Las Cruces Police Department for 35 years.