History and Traditions of NMSU

Tradition is everywhere at New Mexico State University. As NMSU celebrates 130 years, it is the perfect time to remember the rich history of this University we all take so much pride in. Thousands of NMSU students walk to class each day. Few probably stop to think about the thousands of students who came before them, and also walked along those same paths. A lot has happened since New Mexico State University’s founding 130 years ago this September. Then, the U.S. president was Grover Cleveland. Two World Wars, the Great Depression, and the rise of technology that put man on the moon and cell phones in every pocket had not yet taken place.

It is impossible to include every significant event and important person who had a hand in shaping the university since 1888. Instead, this timeline is meant to highlight where the university has been and show how it continues to grow, from a tiny college to a premier university focused on teaching, research and outreach.

Sept. 17, 1888 – Las Cruces College opens for its first school year

Hiram Hadley

Hiram Hadley, a veteran educator from Indiana, had lived in several eastern states earlier in his life, but decided to move to New Mexico to be closer to his son, Walter. Hadley soon found himself working with several community leaders, including John R. McFie, William L. Rynerson, George R. Bowman, Samuel Steel, Numa Reymond, Albert J. Fountain and Sarah Casad, to improve the meager educational facilities available at the time in Las Cruces. In 1888, Las Cruces College was founded, with Hadley serving as both president and a teacher. Classes were held in an old adobe building in downtown Las Cruces. Hadley maintained the title of president when the Rodey Act of 1889 established an agricultural college in Southern New Mexico and Las Cruces College became known as New Mexico Agricultural College. Hadley would serve as president until 1894 and would later return to serve as a professor and regent at the college.

1889 – Foundation for the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences established

It’s easy to see that NMSU has always held agricultural education at its foundation. Even the university’s early names – New Mexico Agricultural College and New Mexico College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts – suggest the importance of agricultural education to the state of New Mexico. The early curriculum of the college included courses in chemistry, meteorology, botany and human physiology. Even art classes were included that required students to practice freehand drawing in an effort to “train their powers of observation.” As the state’s land-grant institution, the university’s mission includes providing education, research and Extension services to the people of New Mexico. The college’s first dean of agriculture was Luther Foster in 1907. President Hiram Hadley served as the first director of the Agricultural Experiment Station in 1889. Abraham C. Cooley was the first to head the Cooperative Extension Service in 1914. Today, the college has eight academic departments and offers 22 bachelor’s degree programs, nine master’s programs and three doctoral programs.

1889 – Early courses pave the way for College of Engineering

Though a formal School of Engineering was not established until 1914, courses in engineering had been taught at the New Mexico College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts since its inception. The college’s first mechanical engineering student graduated in 1896. Once established, the School of Engineering had civil, mechanical, electrical and irrigation engineering departments. Chemical engineering was added to the offerings in 1922. Arthur F. Barnes was the first dean of the school, serving from 1914-1920. In 1960, New Mexico College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts changed its name to New Mexico State University and the School of Engineering became the College of Engineering. Today, it has six departments, offers nine degree programs and has robust outreach initiatives.

Feb. 28, 1889 – The New Mexico Territorial Legislature passes the Rodey Act establishing an agricultural college in Las Cruces

The 1889 Rodey Act, HB 186 – Section 2. “There is also hereby created and established an institution of learning, to be known as the Agricultural College and Agricultural Station of New Mexico. Said institution is hereby located at or near the town of Las Cruces in the County of Doña Ana, upon a tract of land of not less than one hundred (100) acres, contiguous to the main Las Cruces irrigating ditch, south of said town and now owned by Jacob Schaublin.”

April 13, 1889 – Initial campus land acquired from Jacob Schaublin

Sept. 1889 – First Board of Regents appointed by New Mexico Territorial Gov. L. Bradford Prince, including John R. McFie, William L. Rynerson, Robert Black, Jayno A. Whitmore and Numa Reymond

Nov. 13, 1889 – First meeting of the Board of Regents

1890 – Fabian Garcia

Fabian Garcia

Born in Chihuahua, Mexico, Fabian Garcia became a U.S. citizen in 1889 and enrolled at New Mexico Agricultural College in 1890. He was the college’s first Hispanic graduate and part of the college’s first graduating class in 1894. He received a master’s degree from the college in 1906 and became director of the college’s Agricultural Experiment Station in 1913 – the first Hispanic in the nation to lead such a post. Garcia devoted his life to horticultural science with pioneering work in chile, onions and pecans – laying the groundwork for commercial production of these staples of New Mexico agriculture. In the early 1900s, he planted some of the first pecan trees in the Mesilla Valley. Today, New Mexico has more than 30,000 acres of pecans. One of his greatest achievements was the development of the “New Mexican” chile pod, including New Mexico 9, the first New Mexican variety with a dependable pod size and heat level. This pepper opened commercial markets for New Mexico chile and established the state’s chile pepper industry.

Sept. 9, 1890 – Cornerstone laid for McFie Hall

McFie Hall

McFie Hall was the first building constructed on the newly created New Mexico Agricultural College campus. Better known as “Old Main,” the building was named for John R. McFie, a judge, prominent Las Crucen and early supporter of the college. The building housed administrative and faculty offices as well as classrooms, the library and a reading room. Around 3,000 people – more than then entire population of Las Cruces at the time – attended the cornerstone laying ceremony for McFie Hall in September 1890. Before the construction of “Old Main,” classes were taught in an old abode building in downtown Las Cruces. The building was completed just a few months later when faculty and students began using the building Feb. 9, 1891.

1890 – New Mexico Agricultural College becomes known as New Mexico College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts

Feb. 9, 1891 – The first library opened at New Mexico College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts in McFie Hall

The college’s first library was inside of McFie Hall. The previous year, the Board of Regents passed a motion instructing President Hiram Hadley to buy Johnston’s Encyclopedia and Webster’s Dictionary for the library. The college’s first trained librarian was Charlotte A. Baker. Today, the NMSU Library’s collection numbers about 1.8 million volumes.

Feb. 15, 1893 – The New Mexico Collegian, the college’s first paper begins publication. The paper was replaced by the Round-Up in 1907

March 1893 – Samuel Steel

Samuel Steel

Samuel Steel was one of the first to enroll at the college. In March 1893, he was the only member of the senior class and was set to become the first graduate of the New Mexico College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts. At the time, Las Cruces was still a part of the Wild West, and just months before commencement, Steel was shot during a “hold-up killing” by an “intoxicated cowboy.” A column in the school newspaper read: “We can only trust that the human fiend who committed the crime, and who is now secure in jail, will meet, by the process of law, the fate he so richly deserves.” Today, the NMSU College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences publishes a regular alumni newsletter named for Steel. Sam Steel Way is also the name of a busy street along the southeast corner of the university.

1893 – Aggie football team established

First Aggie football team

The college’s first football team was formed during the 1893-1894 school year. The team included a number of the college’s first graduates, including famed agriculturalist Fabian Garcia.

Jan. 1, 1894 – UNM rivalry begins

The University of New Mexico is a natural rival for NMSU. They are the state’s two largest universities, as measured by enrollment, and reside in the state’s two largest cities. Geographically, the NMSU and UNM campuses are just three hours apart along Interstate 25. The state of New Mexico even formalized the establishment of NMSU and UNM with the same piece of legislation – the Rodey Act of 1889. The first football game between the two schools took place on New Year’s Day in 1894, an 18-6 loss for the Aggies, who didn’t even have a coach at the time. NMSU would go on to win the next two meetings in football and expand the rivalry to include other sports during the next century.

June 1, 1894 – New Mexico College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts holds its first commencement ceremony

There were five graduates in the class of 1894, including Ralph R. Larkin, Oscar C. Snow, Fabian Garcia, Kate Agnes Williams and valedictorian Lemuel C. McGrath. It was the first college graduation ceremony in New Mexico history.

1894 – Crimson chosen as the school color

1897 – Alfred Moss Holt, the college’s first graduate student, completes his master’s degree

May 24, 1898 – NMSU Alumni Association founded

The NMSU Alumni Association is one of the oldest organizations on campus. In May 1898, a meeting of all graduates of the New Mexico College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts was held for the purpose of “forming the alumni into a permanent organization.” The newly formed group would provide a means of continuing communication between graduates of the institution and the formulation of social events. The goal of the Alumni Association Office is to bind alumni, students and friends to the university for the betterment of all.

1903 – Women’s basketball team

First Women’s basketball team photo

The college had a women’s basketball team in 1903. Unfortunately, most of their games were relatively low scoring because of the black dresses and bows the team wore as part of their uniforms.

February 1906 – The Old Seed House

Photo of The Old Seed House

The Old Seed House is the oldest building on campus and actually predates the university itself. Throughout the early part of the 1900s it was a popular gathering place for many student events, including the Carnival Ball in February 1906. It’s unknown when the building was constructed, but it was already in existence on the original land deeded to the university. The Old Seed House still stands on the east end of College Avenue and is the only building from the 1800s that remains at NMSU.

1906 – First agricultural science center established

The Rodey Act of 1889 designated the university’s agricultural research entity, the Agricultural Experiment Station. AES work largely took place in campus buildings and fields, but gradually expanded to a set of agricultural science centers. The first of those, established in 1906, is still used today, bearing the name of its legendary founder, Fabian Garcia. NMSU now has a dozen science centers, including three in the Las Cruces area and others as far away as Farmington, Clayton and Artesia. The largest is the Chihuahuan Desert Rangeland Research Center, formerly known as the College Ranch. Others are located in Alcalde, Clovis, Corona, Los Lunas, Mora and Tucumcari. 


Sept. 12, 1910 – Fire destroys Old Main

On the evening of Sept. 12, 1910, a fire broke out in the basement of McFie Hall. Students discovered the fire while walking across campus to a meeting. They were able to save a few typewriters and some other pieces of equipment, but were unable to extinguish the flames. Less than three hours later, the fire had destroyed the structure and all of its remaining contents. More than a century later, McFie Hall’s cornerstone still stands on the NMSU Horseshoe, next to the flagpole.

Jan. 6, 1912 – New Mexico granted statehood, becomes 47th state in the U.S.

1914 – The Smith-Lever Act officially establishes the Cooperative Extension Service

The mission of the Extension Service was spelled out by federal law in the Smith-Lever Act of 1914 to take education from the land-grant universities to rural communities, increasing agricultural production and improving the quality of life. The college had already begun Extension activities years earlier, with the Extension Demonstration Train, which made 71 stops around New Mexico in 1912.

Oct. 31, 1914 – UTEP rivalry starts

The University of Texas at El Paso is NMSU’s closest university neighbor. A 45-minute drive on Interstate 10 is all that’s needed to travel between the schools. The sports rivalry between the two dates back to a football game played on Halloween 1914, a game the Aggies won by a score of 19-0. Since 1955, the winner of the football game between NMSU and UTEP has received the Silver Spade, a replica prospector’s shovel. A second traveling trophy, the Brass Spittoon, came into existence in 1982.

1917 – The College of Arts and Sciences founded

The College of Arts and Sciences began in 1917, originally as the School of General Science, one of three schools at the New Mexico College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts. John H. Vaughn was the first dean. As the school expanded throughout the 1920s, adding additional departments and courses, it eventually became the School of Arts and Sciences. When the New Mexico College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts became New Mexico State University, the School of Arts and Sciences became the College of Arts and Sciences. Today, the college is the largest at NMSU, featuring departments in fine arts, humanities, science and social sciences.

1917 – Ralph W. Goddard

Ralph W. Goddard

Ralph W. Goddard came to the New Mexico College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts as a professor in 1917. During his time at the college, Goddard frequently toured the state, lecturing on electricity. In 1921 he helped construct a 140-foot tower atop the engineering building for a radio station, eventually designated as KOB. On Dec. 31, 1929, Goddard was electrocuted as he prepared the station for an evening broadcast. Goddard had lectured on the dangers of electricity just the day before. Soon after, the station moved to Albuquerque, where it still operates today as KKOB. While his tower no longer exists, the engineering building where it stood is now named Goddard Hall and two of the university’s broadcasting stations, KRWG-FM and KRWG-TV, bear Goddard’s initials.

1919 – Era Rentfrow

Era Rentfrow

Era Rentfrow graduated from the New Mexico College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts in 1919 and began working on staff, eventually becoming the college registrar. While in school, she was engaged to fellow student Joe Quesenberry, the first Aggie to be killed in combat in World War I. Her duties included sending out publicity to prospective students, issuing student activity cards, supervising ticket sales and keeping an official list of members of the alumni association. Rentfrow developed a special bond with the students, frequently using her own personal funds to make loans to them to cover tuition, board or books. Perhaps motivated by the loss of her fiancé, she tracked and chronicled the Aggies that served during World War II. Recognizing the need to secure their place in history, she gathered their photographs and biographical information from families and loved ones. The photos are displayed today in Aggie Memorial Tower.

March 31, 1920 – “A” Mountain

PHoto of “A” Mountain

More than just a letter, the “A” atop “A” Mountain represents a tradition of Aggie pride. In 1920, students stood on the tower of Goddard Hall to survey and layout the letter “A” on Tortugas Mountain. The “A” was originally painted on April 1 of each year by students who formed a bucket brigade to carry whitewash up the mountain. The “A” is three miles east of campus, stands 300 feet tall by 80 feet wide, and forms a perfect east-west line with the International Mall, the NMSU Horseshoe and College Avenue.

1921 – The college fire department founded

Oct. 4, 1921 – The Aggie Fight Song

The Aggie Fight Song Scroll

The Aggie Fight Song first appeared in its present-day form in the Round-Up in October of 1921. Interestingly, one of the song’s most colorful lines about buying “a keg of booze” was actually illegal at the time because of Prohibition and the 18th Amendment. Throughout the 1930s and early 1940s, variations to the fight song and its lyrics were introduced, but none seemed to stick. Today, Aggie fans use the same words that were printed more than 90 years ago.

March 1924 – Miller Field gates built

Miller Field

NMSU had organized sporting events, including football and other field sports, dating back to the 1890s. Those events were held on what was simply called the Athletic Field through 1908. That year, the field, which actually comprised football, baseball, tennis and other venues, officially became Miller Field. The site was named for the university registrar and volunteer football coach John Oliver Miller, who coached numerous successful football teams between 1901 and 1908. The Miller Field gates were built in 1924 and though the fields are gone, the gates still stand today between Skeen Hall and Espina Street.

1926 – Paul W. Klipsch graduates from the New Mexico College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts

Paul W. Klipsch had always been fascinated by the world of electronics and sound. He actually built his own radio receiver a year before the first public radio broadcast. As a student at the New Mexico College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts he studied electrical engineering, graduating in 1926. Throughout the 1930s and 1940s, he continued his research into audio frequency, efficiency and speakers. He eventually obtained numerous audio speaker-related patents, including three in ballistics, eight in geophysics and 12 in acoustics. His Heritage Line of speakers are still known worldwide for their quality and accuracy and have set the standard in the industry for more than 60 years. Klipsch received an honorary doctorate from NMSU in 1981. The Paul W. Klipsch Lecture Hall, the Paul W. Klipsch Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and the Klipsch School of Electrical Engineering are all named in his honor.

1933 – Quesenberry field opens

Quesenberry field

Capt. Joseph Quesenberry played football for the Aggies and was the first Aggie to be killed in action during war. He died April 29, 1918, fighting on the Western Front in World War I. In 1933, the newly constructed Aggie football field was named in honor of Quesenberry. On Sept. 16, 1950, Quesenberry field officially became known as Aggie Memorial, in honor of other Aggie veterans who had served in war, while the playing surface continued to be called Quesenberry Field. The only remnant of the original stadium that remains today is Memorial Tower, which was used as a press box for media on game days. The tower is now part of the College of Health and Social Services building and still holds photos and tributes to Aggies who have given their lives to serving the country.

1937 – Clara Belle Williams becomes the college’s first African-American graduate

Photo of Clara Belle Williams

Clara Belle Drisdale was born in Plum, Texas, in 1885. She graduated as valedictorian in 1908 from Prairie View Normal and Independent College. She later married Jasper Williams and enrolled at the New Mexico College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts in the fall of 1928. She took summer courses at the college while working as a teacher at Booker T. Washington School in Las Cruces. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in English in 1937, at the age of 51. In 1961, NMSU named Williams Street on campus in her honor. She received an honorary doctorate degree from NMSU in 1980. Williams died in 1994 at the age of 108. In 2005, the university renamed the English Building as Clara Belle Williams Hall.

May 15, 1946 – The Physical Science Laboratory founded

The college’s Physical Science Laboratory, a research and development organization better known on campus as PSL, was founded in 1946. Its first contract was with the Army Ballistics Research Laboratory to provide faculty and students who could support research into V2 rocket technology, which had been captured during WWII and was being tested at White Sands Proving Ground. PSL would go on to expand its work with other defense and aerospace contracts. Today PSL describes itself as a leader in sub-orbital platforms, specialized intelligence community support, NASA scientific exploration and experimentation, homeland security technologies, and weapons and countermeasures development and testing.

1946 – Robert Westhafer begins career at the New Mexico College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts

Robert L. Westhafer was a professor in the college’s Department of Mathematics from 1946 to 1957. Today, the Westhafer Award is presented in his honor to faculty members for excellence in teaching, research and creative activity.

1947 – Ralph B. Crouch, former Mathematical Sciences head and associate dean of the Graduate School, begins his career at the college

Today, the Crouch Award honors a current or living former employee of NMSU for outstanding contributions to the life of the university community.

Oct. 2, 1950 – The Carlsbad Instructional Center is created by an agreement between the college and the Carlsbad Board of Education

1952 – Branson Library opens

Branson Library is NMSU’s oldest library still in use today. It was constructed in 1951 and opened in 1952. It was named for John William Branson, NMSU president from 1949-1955. Branson Library has expanded numerous times, with additions built in 1966, 1974 and 1981. The building also underwent a renovation from 1993-1994.

1954 – Barbara Hubbard

Photo of Barbara Hubbard

In 1954, with $25 dollars in her pocket, Barbara Hubbard made a pit stop in Las Cruces on her way to Raton, N.M., for a job interview. She never made it. After a few years as a high school biology teacher, basketball couch Lou Henson asked Hubbard to be the first woman business manager for the Pan American Center, which was set for completion in 1968. Hubbard went on to have a 30-year career, managing the first concerts held in Milton Hall, the then-student union building. She has brought in headliners from Paul McCartney and Bruce Springsteen to Bob Hope and Brooks and Dunn. Including Broadway shows and artists such as Van Halen, BB King and Journey, Hubbard estimates the Pan Am hosts 40 events a year. Hubbard currently serves as executive director of ACTS, a nonprofit organization she founded in 1978. It hosted the forerunner to the modern day Star Search/American Idol-type contest for on-stage and behind-the-scenes talent with Bob Hope. Today, the organization raises scholarships for students across the country seeking careers in the performing arts.

1955 – Roger B. Corbett becomes president

Photo of Roger B. Corbett

During Roger Corbett’s tenure as president from 1955 to 1970, New Mexico College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts formally became known as New Mexico State University. Corbett brought an attitude of big business to the position and growth of the university accelerated, both physically and academically. The graduate school became organized and the first doctoral programs were initiated. The physical appearance of the campus also changed during Corbett’s term when 87 buildings were constructed, including the Alumni Avenue dormitory complex, Corbett Center, Pan American Center, Gerald Thomas Hall, Jett Hall, the Astronomy Building, Hershel Zohn Theatre, Jacobs Hall, the Physical Science Laboratory and most of the current College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences farm buildings. During Corbett’s era, fall semester student enrollment nearly quadrupled, increasing from 2,084 to 8,115, which included 1,000 graduate students. The first doctoral degree was granted to Allan B. Gray in January 1960.

1955 – Clyde Tombaugh

Photo of Clyde Tombaugh

Clyde Tombaugh came to the New Mexico College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts as a faculty member in 1955. Tombaugh built his first telescope in 1926. Dissatisfied with the result, he determined to master optics, and built two more telescopes in the next two years, grinding his own lenses and mirrors and further honing his skills. Using these homemade telescopes, he made drawings of the planets Mars and Jupiter and sent them to the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Ariz. The astronomers at Lowell were so impressed with the young amateur’s powers of observation they invited him to work at the observatory. Tombaugh stayed at the Lowell Observatory for the next 14 years, discovering Pluto on Feb. 18, 1930. While at NMSU, he was instrumental in designing and obtaining funding for the university’s Tortugas Mountain Observatory. He also was largely responsible for making the astronomy program a separate department at NMSU.

1956 – NMSU’s College of Education founded

The NMSU College of Education was founded in 1956, with William B. O’Donnell serving as its first dean. In 1968, the college moved into its current home in O’Donnell Hall. Preparing teachers has been a part of NMSU’s history since the 1800s, with education programming occupying different homes through the years. It was previously housed in the School of General Science and the School of Agriculture. In 2008, the college celebrated a major renovation of O’Donnell Hall, which modernized the building and created additional room for students and faculty.

1958 – NMSU at Alamogordo begins operation, with its first classes held at Alamogordo High School

Dec. 17, 1958 – New Mexico College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts becomes known as New Mexico State University of Agriculture, Engineering and Science

The Board of Regents officially changed the name of the institution to New Mexico State University of Agriculture, Engineering and Science in December 1958. The re-naming necessitated a further re-organization of the university’s hierarchy. The schools, with the exception of the graduate school, were upgraded to colleges, including the College of Agriculture and Home Economics, the College of Arts and Sciences, the College of Engineering and the College of Teacher Education.

1959 – Donald C. Roush joins the faculty of NMSU

Donald Roush came to NMSU in 1959, originally serving as dean of the College of Education and later became the university’s academic vice president. Today, the annual Roush awards, presented to faculty members, are named in recognition of his 35 years of teaching improvement in New Mexico.

1959 – The NMSU Foundation was established to secure, manage and invest private gifts for the benefit of NMSU’s teaching, research, Extension education and public service programs

Dec. 31, 1959 – Aggie football team defeats North Texas 28-8 in Sun Bowl

1960 – The campus police department hires its first officer

November 1960 – New Mexico State University of Agriculture, Engineering and Science shortens its name, officially becoming New Mexico State University

Dec. 31, 1960 – Aggie football team defeats Utah State 20-13 in Sun Bowl

1964 – NMSU College of Business begins operation

NMSU began teaching business courses in 1893, a major departure from other land-grant universities at the time. The Department of Business Administration and Economics formed as part of the School of Arts and Sciences in 1924. The NMSU College of Business was founded and began enrolling students in fall 1964. The college’s first dean was G.L. Guthrie, who had been part of the NMSU faculty since 1925. Today, the college has five academic departments and offers a wide variety of business-related undergraduate and graduate degrees.

Dec. 1, 1966 – Lou Henson

Photo of Henson

Lou Henson started coaching basketball at Las Cruces High School where he won multiple state championships. He later became the NMSU men’s basketball head coach in 1966, coaching his first game for the Aggies that December. He led the team into the NCAA Tournament in six of his first nine seasons, including a Final Four appearance in 1970. Henson left NMSU in 1975 to coach the University of Illinois before returning to coach the Aggies once again in 1997. He retired from basketball in 2005 having led the Aggies for 17 total years. He is NMSU’s all-time winningest coach with 289 wins and has 779 total Division I wins. The Pan American Center’s parquet floor is named “Lou Henson Court” in honor of the coaching legend. In 2008, Henson was one of the inaugural inductees in the NMSU men’s basketball Ring of Honor. The National Basketball Coaches Association also honored Henson with the Hillyard Golden Anniversary Award at the 2008 NCAA Final Four in San Antonio, Texas. Henson along with his wife, Mary, demonstrated their commitment to academics and competitive excellence at NMSU in February 2002 when the Henson family contributed $100,000 to establish the Lou and Mary Henson Endowment Scholarship Fund, in memory of their late son, Lou Jr. The fund was designed to support deserving student-athletes at NMSU for their academic and athletic achievements.

1968 – Grants Branch Community College was created through the joint efforts of NMSU, Grants Municipal Schools and local citizens

1968 – Corbett Center opens

Corbett Center opens

When Corbett Center Student Union first opened in fall of 1968, it was the social center of the NMSU campus. At 109,000 square feet and a construction cost of $3 million, Corbett Center was described as one of the most modern and complete student union buildings in the Southwest. Built to replace Milton Student Center, this facility offered a place for students to dine, study and relax with friends. It was named in honor of former NMSU President Roger B. Corbett, and is frequently described as the “living room of campus.” Following an $8.6 million renovation completed in 1996, about 50,000 square feet were added to the three-story building. Today, Corbett Center has more than 100 employees working at the various dining facilities, labs, fitness center and post office. Corbett Center’s next renovation is scheduled to begin in fall 2013 to convert the old bookstore space into a student-oriented space. This change also will bring about changes in the remainder of the building.

Nov. 30, 1968 – The Pan American Center opens

The Pan American Center

The Pan American Center has been home to the men’s and women’s basketball teams and the NMSU volleyball team for more than three decades and it has hosted thousands of other events. The arena also has hosted the NCAA Men’s Basketball Midwest Regional, state high school basketball tournaments and hundreds of concerts featuring some of the top entertainers in America including George Straight, Garth Brooks, Willie Nelson, Pearl Jam and Notorious B.I.G. The complex first opened its doors in November 1968 for the New Mexico State men’s basketball team. When the facility was constructed, the price tag was $3.5 million and was part of a $22 million construction program for the entire university, which included Corbett Center and two observatories on campus. The facility was named the Pan American Center because of its position along Interstate 25, also known as the Pan American Highway and NMSU’s continuing programs with communities throughout the western hemisphere. In 2005, a $23.5 million renovation and expansion project on the complex began. A new annex building was added to the south end of the arena that features offices, practice facilities and locker rooms, which opened in November 2006. A new jumbo-tron was also added in the Pan American Center, where fans can see the game live and watch replays of the action.

March 1970 – The NMSU basketball team advances to the Final Four in the NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Tournament for the first time

Oct. 21, 1972 – The first section of the International Mall is dedicated

In 1971, the NMSU Alumni Association began collecting donations from alumni to construct a pedestrian mall as part of a campus beautification project. The university matched the donations and in October of the following year, formally dedicated the first section of the mall. Originally designed to replace Garrison Street and span only between Hadley Hall and Milton Hall, it was named the International Mall to reflect the more international focus of many of the university’s programs at the time. The I-Mall, for short, now spans a mile between the NMSU Horseshoe and the Pan American Center. In the 1990s, the university created a second major pedestrian walkway by turning Frenger Street into Frenger Mall.

1973 – Doña Ana County Occupational Education opens its doors

1973 – Pistol Pete becomes the NMSU mascot

First Pistol Pete Design

Pistol Pete made his first public appearance in 1973 at NMSU’s home football game against Utah State. Through the years, his costume has changed, but his goal never changed: bring Aggie spirit to all athletic events. Pete also makes appearances at community functions, birthday parties and weddings. The pistol-toting cowboy is named for Francis “Frank” Boardman Eaton who avenged his father’s murder in 1881 in Albuquerque. Eaton earned his nickname for his quick draw.

1975 – First NuMex varieties released

Developing plants for agricultural production in the Desert Southwest is a big part of what NMSU’s Agricultural Experiment Station does, and a number of varieties developed by NMSU since the mid-1970s bear the NuMex family name. Probably most familiar to the public are the chiles. NuMex Big Jim, developed by chile breeder Roy Nakayama, was released in 1975 and was the first NuMex cultivar of any sort. There are now 40 NuMex chile cultivars, including other New Mexican-type chiles, jalapenos, paprikas, cayennes and ornamentals. The first of 25 NuMex onion cultivars was NuMex BR1, released in 1981. A recent addition to the NuMex brand is NuMex Bill Melton, an alfalfa cultivar named in 2010 for its primary developer and a longtime NMSU professor. Developing a new cultivar can result in financial gain for the institution. NuMex Sahara is a bermudagrass variety developed by Arden Baltensperger and grad student assistants and, through the New Mexico Crop Improvement Association, exclusively released to the Farmers Marketing Corp. in 1988.

1978 – President’s Associates Scholarship created

President Gerald Thomas

The President’s Associates Scholarship program is one of the most prestigious scholarships in the state. It was established in the 1978-79 academic year by NMSU President Gerald Thomas, former vice president for development Steele Jones and business and community leaders led by the late state Sen. Frank Papen. Since its creation, the President’s Associates Scholarship has been awarded to 300 students, representing every academic discipline and every community in New Mexico. Successful applicants exhibit a combination of outstanding academics, leadership skills and a commitment to community service. In total, more than $3 million has been raised to fund the scholarships, and a permanent endowment valued at almost $2 million forms the foundation of future awards.

Sept. 16, 1978 – Aggie Memorial Stadium opens

Since the late 1970s, Aggie Memorial Stadium has been the home of NMSU football. Officially dedicated in September 1978, the Aggies christened the stadium with a 35-32 victory over rival University of Texas-El Paso. The top seven crowds in the history of Aggie Memorial Stadium have come in games against UTEP. The stadium’s capacity is 30,343, and was constructed at a cost of $4 million. The construction was funded by the New Mexico State Legislature as part of a capital outlay package. The stadium features many unique qualities beginning with the “berm” type of structure, which locates the field slightly below ground level with seating both above and below the natural ground level. The Board of Regents voted to retain the name Aggie Memorial from NMSU’s previous stadium to honor NMSU students who had served in the armed forces, including veterans of the Korean and Vietnam conflicts.

1979 – College of Health and Social Services founded

NMSU has a long history of health-related education, with courses in “home nursing” taught as far back as the early 1900s. In the late 1970s, work began to combine the already existing Department of Nursing with the newly created departments of social work, which was then a program in the College of Arts and Sciences, and health sciences, which was part of another program in the College of Education. In 1979, the College of Health and Community Services was founded. The NMSU community college system and the School of Continuing Education were originally part of the college as well. In the mid 1990s, the name was changed to the College of Health and Social Services.

1984 – The American Southwest Theatre Company is founded by Bruce Streett and Mark Medoff

December 1984 – NMSU’s Noche de Luminarias begins

Lighting Luminarias

More than 5,000 luminarias light up the NMSU campus each December during the annual Noche de Luminarias. One of the largest luminaria displays in New Mexico, the candle-lit paper bags begin at Piñon Hall, wrap around the duck pond and follow the International Mall to Corbett Center Student Union. The university tradition began in 1984 as the President’s Holiday Reception. It is a way for the university to kick off the holiday season.

1988 – NMSU celebrates the university’s centennial

1989 – NMSU officially designated as a Hispanic Serving Institution, where at least 25 percent of undergraduate full-time students are Hispanic

2001 – NMSU’s ever-diverse student body becomes a “minority majority”

Fueled by a growth in the numbers of Hispanic, African- American and American Indian students, a majority of NMSU’s undergraduate student population has represented minority groups since 2001. Today, NMSU is routinely recognized as one of the top universities for Hispanics, Native Americans and other minority populations and ranked as one of the top degree-producing institutions for many of those same groups.

Aug. 20, 2004 – NMSU establishes the state’s first Honors College

In fall of 2004, NMSU established the state’s first Honors College to provide an enriching environment for academically talented and motivated students. The college’s goal is to enhance NMSU’s undergraduate experience while attracting greater numbers of academically talented students. The Honors College supplements the degrees offered by the universities six academic colleges by awarding various levels of honors distinction to students who complete the prescribed honors track. The Honors College is housed in the Conroy Honors Center, named for William B. Conroy, who served as NMSU president from 1994-1995 and again from 1997-2000. Originally constructed as the YMCA Building, the Conroy Honors Center is one of the oldest buildings on campus, built in 1909.

October 2005 – More than $250 million raised as part of Doing What Counts, NMSU’s first comprehensive fundraising campaign

Launched in October 2005, New Mexico State University’s comprehensive “Doing What Counts” campaign was the most ambitious fundraising endeavor ever undertaken by the university. The original goal of $150 million by December 2008 was met early in the effort causing the NMSU Foundation Board of Directors to revise the goal to $225 million by December 2010. That mark, too, was exceeded and in October 2010 the university announced that more than $250 million had been raised. During the campaign, more than 200,000 gifts were received from more than 28,000 individuals, 3,500 corporations and businesses and 150 foundations. The contributions have supported the creation of 13 new academic chairs, 18 professorships, 323 scholarship endowments and 52 campuswide name designations of buildings, classrooms, laboratories and sports facilities.

Feb. 13, 2012 – NMSU’s Chile Pepper Institute certifies hottest pepper on the planet

Bhut Jolokia chile pepper's

From the time of Fabian Garcia, NMSU has a long history of chile pepper research. In 2012, NMSU’s Chile Pepper Institute formally announced the results of a first-of-its-kind scientific study on “super-hot” chile varieties. The results: the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion was declared the hottest pepper on the planet. The institute also identified the previous world record holder – the Bhut Jolokia chile pepper in 2007. A world leader in chile research, the Chile Pepper Institute continues to help New Mexico chile growers through science.

June 1, 2013 – Garrey Carruthers named NMSU president

Photos of Garrey Carruthers

On June 1, Garrey Carruthers became the first NMSU graduate to lead the university as president. As a former student, faculty member and dean, he’s seen the university grow over the past 50 years. In his own words, NMSU is “one of the best universities in the country and the most important institution in the state,” and, with the help of the NMSU community, the university can become even better.

2018 - 130 Years of NMSU

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