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University's oldest academic building to be dedicated as Honors Center

The dedication ceremony for New Mexico State University's renovated YMCA building, now the William B. Conroy Honors Center, will be held at 3 p.m. Friday, March 22, in conjunction with the university's Board of Regents meeting.



Danny Herrera of DynaCon Inc. works with other carpenters and construction personnel to put the finishing touches on the new William B. Conroy Honors Center at New Mexico State University. A dedication ceremony for the building will be held at 3 p.m. Friday, March 22. (New Mexico State University photo by Cynthia Mercado)

"This is a dream come true for the Honors Program," said William Eamon, director of the Honors Program. "The program will now have space for students and faculty to form an honors community."

The cornerstone for the building was laid Jan. 7, 1907, by the Young Men's Christian Association. The building has housed many university departments in the last century, but it has stood vacant since 1982.

The dedication ceremony will include remarks by President Emeritus Conroy and University President G. Jay Gogue.

Conroy came to the university as executive vice president in 1985 and served in that position until 1997. During 1994 and 1995 he also served as interim president and in May 1997 he became the 19th president of the university. Conroy, who retired in 2000, was a strong supporter of the Honors Program including the renovation of this historic building, Eamon said. In December 1999, the university's Board of Regents unanimously voted to name the Honors Center for Conroy.

The building renovation cost $1.8 million. More than 50 percent of the funds were from private donations including major gifts from Elsie Carr and the estate of M. Eugene and Ruthe Irma Sundt.

The new honors center will have 9,468 square feet and will be ADA accessible. The center will include offices, a commons area, seminar rooms and an art exhibit area. During the dedication, the first exhibition, "Louis Ocepek: Selected Prints," will be on display.

Eamon said he likes the idea that the honors center will be in the oldest academic building on campus. He said the Honors Program is the cornerstone of undergraduate academics and the building is the cornerstone of campus.

Designed by noted Southwestern architect Henry C. Trost, in a style he called "Spanish Renaissance," the building was the first in a campus plan that called for buildings located around a horseshoe.

Trost moved to El Paso in 1903 and established, with his brother Gustavus Adolphus Trost, the architectural firm of Trost & Trost, a partnership that dominated the architectural scene of New Mexico, Arizona and west Texas for three decades. Trost's style was eclectic, but his blending of modern currents with Mission Revival style gave his buildings a unique character.

The building is located on the northwest corner of the Horseshoe. As the first Trost-designed building on the campus, its basic design became the stylistic model for Trost's later campus buildings.

The building was placed on the State of New Mexico Cultural Properties register in 1983 and on the National Register of Historic Places in 1988. The Dona Ana County Historical Society selected the building for its 1997 "Building Most Worthy of Preservation" award.

Grants from the New Mexico Historic Preservation Division and the National Trust for Historic Preservation enabled the university to complete detailed studies of the building, including a Historic Structure Report.

"With this information, we were able to renovate the building in a manner that was consistent with the original design," Eamon said.

The building preservation was conducted in keeping with the Secretary of the Interior's Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties. The project also presented an opportunity to introduce students to historic preservation methods, Eamon said. Students from both the Public History Program and Engineering Technology completed activities related to the preservation.

The Honors Program provides undergraduate students with opportunities to broaden their academic experience, Eamon said. In small classes taught by master teachers, honors students engage in lively discussion and collaborative investigation of interdisciplinary topics and themes, he said. About 900 students enroll in honors courses each year. The program oversees Crimson Scholars and sponsors the University Fellowships Office and the University Speakers Series.

For more information about the dedication, please call the Honors Program at 646-2005.

Photo is available at http://ucommphoto.nmsu.edu/newsphoto/conroy_1.jpg.
CUTLINE: Danny Herrera of DynaCon Inc. works with other carpenters and construction personnel to put the finishing touches on the new William B. Conroy Honors Center at New Mexico State University. A dedication ceremony for the building will be held at 3 p.m. Friday, March 22. (New Mexico State University photo by Cynthia Mercado)

Julie M. Hughes
March 8, 2002