The Aggie Traveling Hat

Benjamin Davenport poses in front of Hadley Hall in February 2019 with the Aggie Traveling Hat. It was the first time since the hat was purchased that it had returned to campus.

It doesn’t have legs, but it’s visited 42 countries. It can’t talk, but it’s united 150 Aggies and counting. It, you ask, is the Aggie Traveling Hat.

This rugged, crimson-faded, NMSU hat isn’t human, but thanks to Benjamin Davenport ’01, it has come to life as an adventurous, Aggie personification over the last 18 years. Davenport, who works on government projects around the world, leads a group of NMSU engineering alumni who also work internationally on state or defense affairs for the military or government. Linked by the Aggie Traveling Hat, this group is building an NMSU global footprint.

It all started in 2001. Davenport purchased the hat inside the former campus bookstore inside Corbett Center, and he packed it when he moved to the Marshall Islands outside of Hawaii for his new career. 

“A group of us Aggies were in the same area, and we were out on the water near a small island,” Davenport says. “We just got the idea. We placed the hat on the edge of the boat we were on and snapped a photo, and from there, it took off.”

Since that day, the Aggie Traveling Hat has experienced the Japan World Series, rode an elephant in Thailand and visited the Outback in Australia – to name just a few notable adventures.

While the Aggie Traveling Hat has done quite a bit in 18 years, one adventure it has not – and will never – go on is traveling through the mail. The hat is always physically handed from one person to the next.  

“It unites people. Sometimes it’s through scheduled gatherings, but oftentimes, through random, chance meetings,” Davenport says.

Of course, with that many hands, the hat’s bound to get into trouble. Twice, Davenport remembers almost losing the hat – once in 2008 when someone’s luggage got lost, and again in Guam when it fell off a sailboat during a storm. 

“We had to ask the captain to turn around to get it, and by the time we did that, the hat was water-logged and sinking. A buddy of mine dove in after it and came up with it on his head,” Davenport says. 

Despite close calls, Davenport says the hat never feels like a chore but more like a hobby that keeps him from getting homesick for New Mexico.

“It’s brought together many different people from many different backgrounds and situations, but we all share the same story – we’re New Mexico State grads,” he says. “The hat is our token to stay connected and lets us celebrate our culture and heritage no matter where we are.”

If you’d like to connect with fellow Aggies through the Aggie Traveling Hat, email Davenport at benjamindavenport@alumni.nmsu.edu.

Angel Mendez

The Marshall Islands

Yokohama, Japan

Thailand