You’ve got a friend in me

NMSU sees growth in support from passionate community members

By Angel Mendez

The motivations behind giving to NMSU vary widely based on the person and their beliefs in the university. Proud alumni give to keep their alma mater thriving. Corporations and foundations give to grow the future workforce. Current students give to meet the needs of fellow classmates. 

But, what motivates those people who never had a class on campus and will never walk across the graduation stage as an Aggie? They’re called friends, and out of hundreds who help shape NMSU every day, meet three whose impact has created legacies at the university.

Frances Williams

Although a native of Brooklyn, New York, Frances Williams has called Las Cruces home since 1952. Her career in government led her to White Sands Missile Range where she, then, served as one of few women in a male-dominated industry. Years of proving herself earned her one of the highest-ranking administrative positions for women at that time – the director of Equal Employment Opportunity – where she developed the range’s first affirmative action plan for women that became a model for other federal agencies.

Williams admits she has led a life of “trouble-making” to make change around her, marching to support equal rights in New Mexico and receiving dental treatment from an African American dentist despite almost being arrested. As a passionate advocate of women’s rights and civil rights, Williams believes more must be done, and she wants to help by empowering NMSU students.

Since #GivingTuesday 2017, Williams has created five endowed scholarships for NMSU students, the majority of which show preference to female students and incentivize their educational pursuits in the fields of STEM, technical trades and history.

“My mother, an immigrant from Warsaw, Poland, always told me that education is important – it’s second to God,” Williams says. “Without it, you’re not going anywhere, and that’s why I wanted to support these students.”

Retired Col. Harry Hellmuth

While serving in the U.S. Army for 22 years, retired Col. Harry Hellmuth led many critical assignments. He worked as a commander of an 800-man field artillery battalion and headed a defense nuclear agency’s inspection team, which ensured the safety, reliability and security of the U.S. nuclear weapons inventory worldwide.

After retiring as colonel in 1976, Hellmuth had several businesses, including property management, realty and stained glass. Eventually, he moved to Las Cruces where he taught at Las Cruces High School before he began his career at NMSU, supervising the student teaching program at NMSU and planning for the future of NMSU’s ROTC program. After budget cuts slashed critical funding for the program, Hellmuth started making a series of gifts through his charitable IRA rollover to fund the Hellmuth Military Science and Aerospace Studies Endowment. This fund annually awards scholarship support to one or more cadets who are part of the Army or Air Force ROTC programs. 

Soon after fully funding the endowment, Hellmuth passed away in 2018 but his impact lived on. As an 1888 Society member, Hellmuth left 100 percent of his estate – equal to a half million dollars – to continue funding the endowment long into the future.

Marion Lawrence

After retiring to Las Cruces, Marion Lawrence and her husband, Bobby Lee, made the community their home. Known as the “southwest wine guy,” Bobby Lee led a long career dedicated to educating the world about wine and food through festivals, blogs, magazines and more. In 2010, on the way home from a culinary event in Las Vegas, Nevada, Bobby Lee died in a car accident.

Soon after, Marion acted to preserve his memory and impact. With a $250,000 gift, she helped establish the Bobby Lee Lawrence Academy of Wine at NMSU’s School of Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Management. This new space expanded the number of classes for students and the educational outreach opportunities for the community.

Yet, her giving to NMSU is not done. She currently serves on the HRTM Advisory Board and is a member of the 1888 Society where her estate will one day provide additional funding to support KRWG and an endowed fund and professorship for HRTM.

“Bobby Lee was a passionate man. Two of his favorite passions were wine and food and teaching,” Marion says. “There was an opportunity to create a legacy for him that would carry on the things he really loved and to have people know him. My goal is to give the students every advantage when they go out into the world, so that they have the knowledge to make a wonderful impression on employers and be successful in their field.”

Frances Williams (top right) started five endowed scholarships during the last two years at NMSU’s #GivingTuesday, one of which supports library student-employees who also major in history or study in NMSU’s Creative Media Institute.

Retired Col. Harry Hellmuth (top right) started a scholarship for the the Army or Air Force ROTC cadets at NMSU. After he passed away in 2018, he left 100 percent of his estate – equal to a half million dollars – to continue funding the endowment long into the future.

After her husband passed away, Marion Lawrence (top right) helped create the Bobby Lee Lawrence Academy of Wine in the School of Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Management. This new space expanded the number of classes for students and the educational outreach for the community.