Pete’s Corner

Aggies step up to help care for others during pandemic

As the COVID-19 pandemic gripped the world in 2020 shutting down cities and disrupting countless lives, health care workers sprang into action – including two Aggies.

Emily Wang, Aggie women’s tennis head coach and a certified nursing assistant, helped cared for elderly residents at a congregate living facility in Las Cruces for patients with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, following the cancellation of spring 2020 sports.

Meanwhile, Tiffany Autry ’10, ’13, ’18, a former Aggie softball player and nurse practitioner specializing in family medicine and dermatology in Las Cruces, El Paso and Alamogordo, signed up for a voluntary deployment that took her to the frontlines of the COVID-19 fight in Chicago.

During her nearly eight-week deployment, Autry witnessed the devastating toll of COVID-19 in a city that was once a hotspot for the disease and faced a shortage of health care workers.

“I worked with FEMA, alongside the National Guard, primarily as a nurse practitioner diagnosing, managing and treating COVID-19 patients,” says Autry, who has four NMSU degrees, including a doctorate of nursing practice. “I also worked as a registered nurse as needed on dedicated COVID-19 units. I wanted to be helpful in any way I could, so whatever role was needed at the time is what I took on for the shift.”

Although Wang did not work with individuals diagnosed with COVID-19, she provided daily care for a population of people who were at high risk for the disease, and she also served as her patients’ only form of contact during the restrictions on visitors to such facilities.

“It’s been a difficult time for everyone,” says Wang, who worked in an emergency room in Illinois for three years before becoming a collegiate tennis coach, “but it’s been a very difficult time for elderly people because they are such high risk for COVID-19.”

During the spring and summer, Wang also worked as a caregiver who assisted patients in their home, helping them with a multitude of tasks such as cooking, cleaning, showering and taking medications. She enjoyed this experience so much that she decided to continue working as a caregiver throughout the fall.

“I’ve taken away their stories and their life experiences, and I learned a lot from them,” she says of her patients.

Autry says her experience in Chicago, although difficult, was life-changing.

“If we have the courage to face fear in times of uncertainty, we can each do our part to make our mark,” she says. “We are all dealing with different aspects of COVID-19, as well as collateral damage caused by it. Courageous people carry on in the face of fear. Some people need a little extra help to carry on. If you have the opportunity to be that help for someone, be it.”

Carlos Andres López ’10

When she couldn’t be on the court with her team in spring 2020, Aggie women’s tennis head coach Emily Wang helped care for elderly patients in Las Cruces.

Tiffany Autry spent nearly eight weeks in Chicago, where she worked with FEMA and the National Guard as a nurse practitioner diagnosing, managing and treating COVID-19 patients.

Posted by grel in Fall 2020

Working for ‘a hot dog and a coke,’

Major League Baseball umpires started career paths as kids

With two decades of experience as a Major League Baseball umpire, Doug Eddings achieved his dream of officiating a World Series in fall 2019.

“I still pinch myself saying, ‘Wow, I did the World Series.’ It was an incredible World Series. Every game I had 12 to 14 family and friends in the stands with me. It was great. It was worth the wait for 21 years to have my first World Series,” he says.


Eddings, a Las Cruces native and Mayfield High School graduate, tried out for the Aggie baseball team before going to umpire school in 1989.

“Growing up as a kid I loved the game of baseball and played it,” Eddings says.

“I umpired my first game when I was 12 years old for a hot dog and a coke,” Mike Everitt says. “I really enjoyed officiating. I did basketball, baseball and even when I went to New Mexico State, I worked at the intramural department and officiated sports.”

Eddings and Everitt attended NMSU in the 1980s. An Aztec, New Mexico, native, Everitt received a music scholarship to NMSU. He went to umpire school in 1987.

They both made their major league debuts in 1999. Everitt, who umpired three World Series – in 2007, 2009 and 2015 – became a crew chief in 2017. He accepted a new role as an umpire supervisor in February 2020 and retired from on-field umpiring.


Looking back on his 33-year on-field career, Everitt says the highlight occurred in the regular season on June 20, 1996. It was his first MLB game, Toronto at Oakland, which Everitt had to call behind the plate.

“I’ll never forget it,” Everitt says. “I had to do some extreme breathing exercises to relax. The grass was meticulous and the lights made it seem like a day game.”

Tiffany Acosta

Posted by grel in Spring 2020

New scholarship helps Aggies in financial need

With advanced degrees in chemistry, more than a dozen patents and a successful company he built from the ground up, Carroll “Benny” Dickens ’86 still believes the obstacles he conquered at NMSU were among the toughest. 

Dickens was the first in his family to go to college in the early 1980s and the first from his small hometown in rural Arizona to attend the university on a football scholarship. His senior year, Dickens was a four-year starter and captain of the NMSU football team as well as District 8 Academic All-American. His experiences at NMSU left an impression on him that remains today.

“It wasn’t easy. It’s the most challenging thing I’ve done in my life and what I’m most proud of, and I have more than a dozen patents and built my own company,” Dickens says. “None of that was as hard as the physical and mental challenges I faced at NMSU.”

While Dickens credits his time as a student-athlete with building his character, he saw other student-athletes struggle in the face of financial hardship. Seeing a way to make a difference, earlier in 2019 he worked with the NMSU Foundation to fund the Benny Dickens Endowed Scholarship in the College of Arts and Sciences. The award seeks to lighten the burden for NMSU’s non-scholarship student-athletes.

“A commitment to a team is like having a job: academic career, practices and away games. Being a student-athlete requires 100 percent of your attention plus you carry the same academic load that any other student does,” Dickens says. “If you can do that, there’s nothing you can’t do.”

The 55-year-old entrepreneur also teaches a class encouraging students to decide what they want to do and go for it. He has a positive approach to facing challenges. 

“Any time you have the pleasure of adversity in life and come out the other side, it’s a serious self-esteem booster.”

Dickens is married to Valerie, his wife of 27 years. They have two children, Gabe and Alex, who were both student-athletes in college. 

Minerva Baumann ’13

Carroll “Benny” Dickens ’86, a chemistry major who was captain of the NMSU football team during his senior year, overcame several challenges that led him to start a successful company and earn more than a dozen patents. Earlier in 2019, Dickens worked with the NMSU Foundation to establish the Benny Dickens Endowed Scholarship in the College of Arts and Sciences. The scholarship helps non-scholarship student-athletes at NMSU.

Posted by grel in Fall 2019

Aggie women benefit from new support

As an Aggie women’s basketball fan, Smoky Torgerson ’68 enjoys the adrenaline rush from watching the team earn come-from-behind victories. NMSU recorded its fourth Western Athletic Conference Tournament Championship in the last five years in similar fashion with a double overtime win over UT Rio Grande Valley in March 2019.  

Torgerson and her husband, Alan, became involved with the women’s team through her sister, Linda Schroeder. In that time, the couple, who reside in Albuquerque, has gotten to know head coach Brooke Atkinson and the team and wanted to help fund the team’s lounge renovation after seeing the facility. 

During the 2018-2019 season, the lounge was upgraded with new flooring, new lighting, new furniture, including a desk area, a refrigerator, painting and graphics. 

“Because they have a smaller audience, they have a smaller budget, so they have to really watch every penny they spend,” Torgerson says. “Anytime an alum can help somebody out in an area they aren’t going to have the funds to cover, I think it’s important for them to step up. When they succeed at New Mexico State University, they are going to go out and succeed beyond New Mexico State University and then come back and give back to New Mexico State University themselves. It’s a nice cycle to begin and nurture.”

In 2016, the Torgersons and Schroeder made a gift to the Aggie swimming and diving team for the Wanda Glass Family Swimming and Diving Locker Room, which was named after Torgerson and Schroeder’s mother and included a lounge and coaching staff offices at the NMSU Aquatic Center.

The newest athletic team on campus, the NMSU women’s soccer team, also has benefited from philanthropy to improve its facilities. 

After spending many afternoons watching their daughter, Micaela, play for the Crimson and White, Anton ’82 and Jayne Milavec wanted to help the team, and in 2017, they provided the funds for a new sound system at the soccer complex. 

“We need good facilities to have them feel like they are competing against other schools at an equal level,” Anton says. 

A year later, the Las Cruces couple donated funds for a new shade structure that provides a permanent home for the game-day operations staff at the soccer complex. 

Through generous donations from many NMSU alumni and friends, the Aggie women’s facilities are transforming and helping the programs reach new heights.

Tiffany Acosta

After seeing the NMSU women’s basketball team lounge, Smoky and Alan Torgerson wanted to help fund a renovation. During the 2018-2019 season, upgrades such as new flooring, furniture and lighting enhanced the space.

Sisters Smoky Torgerson, left, and Linda Schroeder unveiled the sign for a new swimming and diving team facility named after their mother, Wanda Glass, in 2016.

Anton, left, and Jayne Milavec were honored at a NMSU women’s soccer game in 2018. The couple has helped to improve the NMSU soccer facilities with a pair of gifts for a new sound system and a new shade structure for the soccer complex.

Posted by grel in Spring 2019
Preserving Aggie History

Preserving Aggie History

With a storied history that includes feats, such as an NCAA Final Four appearance and an undefeated football season led by eventual NFL players, a new collaboration between the New Mexico State University Athletics Department and NMSU Library is preserving that history. NMSU alumni, former coaches and Aggie fans will have access to an abundance of materials soon. 

NMSU Athletics Director Mario Moccia and NMSU Library Dean Elizabeth Titus spearheaded the effort to create the Aggie Sports Archives.

“The Aggie Sports Archives are a remarkably comprehensive collection of records documenting the history of athletics and student-athletes here at New Mexico State University,” says Dennis Daily, associate professor and University Library, Archives and Special Collections department head. “We’re happy to have teamed up with the Athletics Department in order to preserve the memory and proud legacy of student-athletes at NMSU.”

While the NMSU Library has collected materials from the Athletics Department for several decades, in early 2017, the University Archives staff began to assess a large collection of records from Athletics Department storage and transfer the appropriate records to the University Archives to ensure their long-term preservation, Daily says. 

About 250 linear feet worth of materials including important historical information, such as former players, coaches and staff files along with game statistics, programs, media guides, press releases, news clippings and tens of thousands of photographs, were collected from storage. 

“Since that time, we have been organizing the files, re-housing them into archival containers and creating comprehensive inventories,” Daily says. “We have made substantial progress on the collection.” 

The goal is to complete the preservation processing during the fall semester and to begin digitizing the collection later this academic year for public access.

“The most challenging aspect is definitely the size of the collection—collecting, arranging, describing, preserving and digitizing materials are all very time and labor intensive,” says Kim Gianfrancesco, digital projects librarian. “I know that alumni have a lot of interest in our collections, and it’s very rewarding to be able to share these materials with them.”

Tiffany Acosta

While supplies last, the 2019 NMSU Library calendar is available. The calendar illustrates the traditions of NMSU athletics with photos of the past and present. To order a calendar, email or call 575-646-1508.

Posted by grel in Fall 2018

Top surgeon’s experience at NMSU shapes her teaching and mentorship now

If you asked pediatric surgeon Rebeccah Brown at age 6 what she wanted to be when she grew up, she’d say “a doctor.” She could have said “a professional basketball player” or “a saxophonist in a jazz band.” After all, basketball is her first love, and she attended New Mexico State University on a music scholarship.

But growing up in her New Mexico home, Brown ’86 helped her mother care for elderly family members.

“My mom wanted to be a doctor, and she passed that desire on to me,” Brown says.

When she began applying for college, her family had limited resources. She and her mother searched for whatever scholarships and grants they could find. She received academic scholarships, grants and a music scholarship to NMSU, where she studied biology and chemistry.

Encouraged by her teacher in a basketball class her junior year, Brown tried out for the women’s basketball team. She made the team as a walk-on under head coach Patrick Knapp.

“Rebeccah gave her heart and soul to the team, and she was a phenomenal walk-on,” Knapp says. “She was an outstanding teammate, and everyone loved her.”

Brown says she developed a new respect for the student-athlete.

“I was taking about 18 hours of pre-med classes, and I was struggling to do that,” says Brown, a 1984 High Country Athletic Conference All-Academic Team Member. “Physically exhausted, you still have to come home and study every night.”

But Brown knew she was going to be a doctor and not a professional basketball player.

She didn’t play basketball her senior year and focused on academics instead. She graduated with honors from NMSU with bachelor’s degrees in both biology and chemistry and was selected as the College of Arts and Sciences Outstanding Senior. She received her doctor of medicine from the University of New Mexico School of Medicine and is now a professor of pediatric surgery at Children’s Hospital Medical Center in Cincinnati, Ohio.

The desire to give back and provide others the opportunities she was afforded led her and her husband Dan O. Jones – also a New Mexico native – to establish an endowment in the NMSU Department of Chemistry. “

Had I not had scholarships and grants, I would not have been able to accomplish all that I have,” she says. “I’m very grateful.”

Scholarships weren’t the only key to her success. Brown credits mentorship for her acceptance into medical school.

“Being the first in my family to go to college, I had no idea how to get into medical school,” she says. “One of my professors took me under his wing and guided me through the steps I needed to take. I followed his advice, nailed the interviews and was accepted into medical school.

“I now teach residents and fellows, and I mentor students who want to be doctors or surgeons,” she continues. “As I do so, I always reflect back to my own mentor at NMSU and aspire to be just like him.”

Kristie Garcia ’07

Dr. Rebeccah Brown is a professor of pediatric surgery at Children’s Hospital Medical Center in Cincinnati, Ohio. The Aggie alumna was also a walk-on player for the women’s basketball team during her time at NMSU.

Posted by webcomm_admin in Spring 2017