Aggie Pride

Higher education a tradition for northeastern New Mexico ranching family

Higher education and ranching go hand-in-hand for the Davis family, who own a 130,000-acre ranch in Colfax County near Cimarron, New Mexico.

“Les felt you had to have an education if you were going to amount to anything,” says Linda Davis ’99 of her late husband. “All six of our children went to college, the boys to New Mexico State and the girls to Sul Ross and the University of New Mexico.”

Linda Davis, matriarch of the CS Cattle Company ranch, recalls her life in ranching.

Attending college was expected of the Davis siblings; their family has a long tradition of higher education beginning with their great-grandparents. Davis’ sons, Warren ’77, Randy ’80, Kirk ’81 and Bruce ’82, who graduated from what was then called the College of Agriculture and Home Economics.

The Davis brothers combine their agricultural degrees in animal science, agronomy, ag mechanics and ag economics to manage the CS Cattle Company, which was founded in 1873 by their father’s grandfather, Frank Springer, a territorial lawyer. Since 2016, the CS Cattle Company has hosted the New Mexico Youth Ranch Management Camp. The program is conducted by NMSU’s College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences Cooperative Extension Service.

The ranch operation is a family affair, with sisters Julia Davis Stafford sharing her natural resource and water law knowledge from her UNM law degree, and Kim Barmann contributing her knowledge of regenerating the soil, as well as veterinary assistant skills from her days at Sul Ross State University in Texas.

“Being able to work with my brothers and sisters is tremendous,” Randy says. “It takes everybody to keep the ranch going, to make it successful.”

The Aggie tradition continued as four grandchildren attended NMSU. Randy’s sons, Ryan Davis ’05 and Christiaan Davis ’10, and Barmann’s daughter, Leslie Blakney ’10 are graduates.

The Davis family has supported NMSU through the decades with contributions to numerous colleges, programs and scholarships. These include creating a fund to assist with alumni outreach in northeast New Mexico. This fund was established in memory of Les Davis’ commitment to northern New Mexico. They also have established memorial endowed scholarships in honor of Linda’s family. Their commitment to support students and university programs is a true testament to their love for NMSU.

Jane Moorman

Linda and Les Davis’ family owns and runs the CS Cattle Company ranch near Cimarron, New Mexico. All six of their children attended college, and the four boys graduated from NMSU. The family photo includes Randy Davis (standing from left), Bruce Davis, Ryan Davis, Christiaan Davis, Linda M. Davis, Les Davis, Warren Davis, Walt Davis, Kirk Davis, Kimberly Barmann, Sara Davis (seated from left), Trina Davis, Ben Davis, Kelly Barmann, Mary Davis and Leslie Barmann.

Linda Mitchell Davis and Alvy Ray Smith were recipients of honorary doctorates at NMSU’s December 1999 Commencement ceremony.

Posted by grel in Fall 2020

Longtime staff member cultivated family ties to NMSU

For more than 20 years, Doris “Ra Ra” Simpson was a fixture on the NMSU campus. She worked as an administrative assistant for various departments including ag, chemical engineering, social work, anthropology and technological innovations from the late 1960s until her retirement in 1990. Simpson was known for looking out for students, and she even played matchmaker.

Mark Mexal ’75 met Simpson in 1972 when he was a work-study student in chemical engineering. Two years later she introduced him to her daughter Sandra ’77. Her daughter Laurie later met electrical engineering student Kevin Tittle ’79. Both couples would marry.

Originally from Philadelphia, Simpson and her husband Frank Brown Simpson moved to New Mexico in 1946 and lived in Hatch and Rincon until they moved to Las Cruces in 1957. The couple had four children.

“Although life wasn’t always easy, she raised four great kids and loved New Mexico and New Mexico State University,” Mexal says.

Simpson died in fall 2006 following a seven-year battle with cancer.

“After Frank Sr. passed away in 1973, times were tough, but Doris always found a way to make ends meet and help others through hard work and dedication. It is in that spirit that the Doris ‘Ra Ra’ Simpson Memorial Endowed Scholarship was funded in 2007 by family and friends,” Mexal says.   

The scholarship is awarded to a full-time engineering student who is a New Mexico high school graduate with at least a 2.5 cumulative GPA as a sophomore, junior or senior.

“She left such an impact on all of her family members that it just felt right to keep her memory alive,” says granddaughter Stephanie Simpson ’02.

Twelve of Simpson’s immediate family members have graduated from NMSU including son Frank Simpson ’71 and his wife Kay
Simpson ’88 along with grandchildren Christopher Long ’94, ’96 and his wife Linda Long ’96; Shane Long ’96; Molly Huey ’98 and her husband Heath Huey ’95. Even more extended family members have earned their diplomas and the next generation – Doris Simpson’s great-grandchildren – are currently on campus pursuing degrees.

“My grandmother had her quirks but she was such a loving and generous person that everyone she knew just loved her to pieces. We are still a very close extended family and we have her to thank for that,” says granddaughter Wendy Simpson ’96, ’99, ’07.

Tiffany Acosta

Doris “Ra Ra” Simpson worked at NMSU for more than two decades. “Ra Ra,” a derivation of Grandma, was coined by her first grandchild Christopher Long, one of 12 alumni in her immediate family.

Doris Simpson

Posted by grel in Spring 2020

Vega honors father with scholarship for engineering students

Since joining Dow Chemical in 1998, Louis Vega ’91 has carried the Olympic torch at the Sochi, PyeongChang and Rio Olympics, and held executive positions across the globe in Switzerland, the United Arab Emirates and Australia. 

Vega studied government and economics at NMSU before moving to Washington, D.C., to work for the late New Mexico U.S. Sen. Pete Domenici. After 12 years in the political arena, he joined the team at Dow. Over his 20-year career, he has helped advance the company through leadership roles including vice president of Dow Olympic & Sports Solutions, and president and managing director of Dow Australia and New Zealand. 

Now president of Dow North America and vice president of Government Affairs and Advocacy, Vega wants to share his success with others, including students at his alma mater. In fact, his generosity towards NMSU is changing students’ lives today through two endowed scholarships. 

“The success I’ve been able to achieve professionally is beyond anything I could have dreamt of when I was growing up in Socorro or while I was at NMSU, and I don’t want to wait to give back,” says Vega. “These endowed scholarships will last and grow as long as the university does. They can be a tool to drive education and a life that is rewarding and exciting for students.”

On #GivingTuesday 2018, Vega established the most recent endowment, the Vega Family Endowed Scholarship, to benefit students in the College of Engineering. The scholarship honors his father, Guadalupe Vega ’75, who graduated with an engineering degree. 

For Vega, education has always been a family affair, and his earliest memories of NMSU are clambering around campus at age four while his dad attended classes. Vega witnessed the crucial role of support in educational ventures early on, receiving the same backing when it was his turn to take on the role of an Aggie undergrad. Providing current students with this sense of support is Vega’s main motivation for giving back through academic scholarships.

“It takes support to reach success, and these scholarships are part of showing students they are not alone, especially if they are the first in their family to go to college” he says. 

In fall 2019, the first Vega Family Endowed Scholarship was awarded to Alberto Barajas, a first-generation college student and aerospace engineering major. In addition to taking a heavy load of engineering classes, he minors in music and plays in the Pride Band and Jazz Ensemble. 

Vega’s generosity is not only helping Barajas pursue his education, it is also creating an opportunity for relationships and experiences that make Aggie grads like Vega consider NMSU their home, even long after they’ve graduated. 

Megan Hansen ’06 ’09

Louis Vega (right) established the Vega Family Endowed Scholarship during #GivingTuesday 2018 to honor his father, Guadalupe Vega.

The Vega Family Endowed Scholarship benefits College of Engineering students, and Alberto Barajas is the scholarship’s first recipient.

Posted by grel in Fall 2019

Related by (Aggie) blood

There’s a never a dull or lonely moment for Jaymison Miller who is one of 12 kids in his family. Jaymison, who graduated from NMSU in 2013 with two bachelor’s degrees in counseling and community psychology and Spanish, is one of eight siblings proud to be an Aggie.

NMSU is a second home for the Miller family, which has eight of 12 siblings currently in the NMSU system along with two graduates. Staying in Las Cruces and attending NMSU has allowed the family members, from top left: Braydon, Clayton, Jaymison, Christian, Colton, Leanora, Aben, Natasha, Sasha, Addison, Jason, Randi, Lana and Pauline Miller, to stay close.

Five of his siblings, Christian, Clayton, Aben, Addison and Leanora, are all currently attending NMSU with their majors varying from business to communications. Another sister, Lana, is studying at Doña Ana Community College to pursue a criminal justice degree. Jaymison also has two more younger sisters, Natasha and Sasha, who are taking dual-credit classes at DACC while still in high school.

Yet, Jaymison isn’t the only one graduated. Braydon, his older brother, earned his degree from NMSU in 2012 in information and communication technologies. 

Jaymison picked NMSU because of the affordability and the chance to stay close to his family in Las Cruces, and although he is graduated, Jaymison’s not done yet. He has applied for the social work program and hopes to start earning his master’s degree in fall 2019. 

He said the reason he wanted to pursue social work had everything to do with his family. Out of his 12 siblings, Jaymison’s parents adopted five of them. 

“My family had a lot to do with my decision in what I wanted to do for my master’s degree,” Jaymison says. “Being involved in my family has given me opportunities to work with a lot of people and help a lot of people in need. It’s something I’m really passionate about.”

While they might not all share the same genes, this family now shares an equally strong bond – Aggie pride.

“Having a lot of siblings at NMSU made NMSU feel even more like family,” Jaymison says. 

Melissa Rutter ’17

Posted by grel in Spring 2019

Hightower family finds a home at NMSU

When it came time for Albuquerque native Rylie Hightower to decide where to go to college, she knew one thing was for certain: “I didn’t want to be a Lobo.”

She decided that she wanted to attend a college in New Mexico that was far enough away from home to feel independent but still within driving distance to family. 

After weighing her options, she opted to follow in the footsteps of many family members, taking a path that led to New Mexico State University, where she became a proud Aggie. 

Rylie excelled as a nursing student and track and field student-athlete at NMSU. She participated in student leadership programs, volunteered in programs designed to help others and earned accolades as a research scholar. By the time she earned her bachelor’s degree in nursing in 2015, she was the 12th member of the Hightower family to have graduated from NMSU since 1970, a tradition that has endured for more than 40 years. 

“Being an Aggie was probably the best thing that has ever happened to me,” said Rylie, now a licensed registered nurse in Alabama who is working on a doctorate in biomedical neuroscience at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. “I found a family away from family. I found a home away from home at NMSU, and I think that is what led me to be successful.”

The family’s ties to NMSU started when Rylie’s uncle, Michael Hightower, became the first member of the family to attend the university in 1970. He studied civil engineering and went on to earn a bachelor’s and master’s degree. In 1977, Rylie’s father, Tim Hightower, also started studying civil engineering at NMSU and later earned a bachelor’s degree in 1982. Their brother, Steve Hightower, was the second member of the family to graduate from NMSU, earning a bachelor’s degree in biology and psychology in 1976.

And, if all goes as planned, the family will celebrate its 13th NMSU graduation at the end of the fall 2018 semester, when one of Rylie’s younger sisters, Hailey Hightower, will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education.

Carlos Andres López ’10

In December 2017, (from left) Kaycee Hightower, Rylie Hightower and Hailey Hightower were among the 20 family members to celebrate the Aggie football victory at the NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl in Tucson, Arizona.

Since the 1970s, the Hightower family has had 12 family members graduate from NMSU with the 13th expected in December 2018. In 2003, Shaun Hightower (middle) celebrated his graduation at Aggie Memorial Stadium with Scott Hightower (left) and Julie Hightower (right).

Posted by grel in Fall 2018

An Aggie home

Three generations of the DeMund family are pursuing degrees at NMSU

Across-country road trip to California in 2002 started the DeMund family’s journey to New Mexico State University.

When the family was looking to relocate from the United States Virgin Islands and continue their academic studies, the DeMunds remembered travelling through Las Cruces. Norma DeMund, her son, Sulieman, her daughter, Ilé, and Ilé’s son, Alchesay, visited NMSU’s campus in 2010.

Three years later, Norma, her husband, Harold, Ilé and Alchesay moved to Las Cruces, and Sulieman, an U.S. Navy and Air Force veteran, followed in 2014.

Since arriving at NMSU, Norma has completed the course work for her Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction.

“Being in the College of Education, it feels like home,” says Norma, who dreams of starting a school. “They make you feel very, very comfortable.”

Ilé is working on her master’s degree in curriculum and instruction, and Sulieman is pursuing his government and international relations master’s degree. 

Sulieman says he hopes to recruit more family and friends to NMSU. 

“When you are in this school, this school takes care of you,” he says. “I can’t ask for a better university. I brag to everybody about this gem.” 

Alchesay, who graduated from Las Cruces High School in 2017, is a freshman and Harold, a retiree who will be 75 in October, audits courses. The pair is taking a government course together. 

“I’m taking courses I never would have taken when I was in school,” Harold says. “I’ll probably go to school until they throw the dirt on top of me. My mother says continue to learn something new every day – keep your brains in gear. She’s 98 years old.” 

Tiffany Acosta 

Three generations of the DeMund family moved to Las Cruces to continue their academic careers. From left to right: Alchesay DeMund, freshman, Ilé DeMund, graduate student, Harold DeMund, audits courses, Norma DeMund, doctoral student, and Sulieman DeMund, gradute student, found the right fit at New Mexico State University.

Posted by webcomm_admin in Fall 2017


The Floyd-Rogers family has eight generations of Aggies between them

The blood in the Floyd-Rogers family definitely runs Aggie crimson. On the Floyd side, five generations have attended or are attending New Mexico State University, while the

Rogers side claims three generations of Aggies. The connective tissue between both families is Siiri Rogers, who graduated from NMSU in 1987 and works at the university as director of Student Information Management. Of Rogers’ four daughters, two – Mary and Michelle – are recent graduates, and her other two – Melissa and Megan – are currently attending NMSU.

It all started with Rogers’ great-grandmother, Isabella McClernon, who studied general science at NMSU in 1923. Four years later, Rogers’ grandmother, Mary Edith Floyd, received a B.S. in science, while her grandfather, Richard Floyd, received his B.S. in agriculture in 1931.

Rogers’ father, two uncles and one aunt all graduated from NMSU between 1952 and 1956.

“Both of my husband’s parents graduated from NMSU, and he attended for a while, too,” Rogers says. “His mom belonged to Zeta Tau Alpha, the same sorority as my girls, so that was kind of a neat connection.”

The Floyd side of the family also made a major contribution to Aggie pride, according to Rogers’ father, Dick Floyd.

“My uncle was an engineering student and he was part of the crew of engineers that went to the top of Goddard Hall and they straightened the A on A Mountain,” Floyd says. “Every time I look at ‘A’ Mountain, I think of my Uncle Kenneth.”

-Janet Perez


Top: Several generations of the Floyd-Rogers family gathered for a photo recently at Dove Hall on the Las Cruces campus. They are Dick Floyd and Siri Rogers, seated, and Megan Rogers, Mary Rogers Holcomb, Michelle Rogers and Melissa Rogers, standing from left to right.
Bottom right: A historic photo of the Floyd family includes Siiri Rogers’ grandparents, Richard Thomas and Mary Edith Floyd, center, along with her father, Dick Floyd, at right, and his siblings, Charles and Stewart Floyd, at left, and Gretchen Floyd, seated beside him. 

Posted by webcomm_admin in Spring 2017