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NMSU College of Business names first Haight accounting chairholder

The New Mexico State University College of Business has selected Kevin Melendrez as its first Lionel Haight Endowed Chair in Accounting.

Portrait of Kevin Melendrez
The New Mexico State University College of Business has selected Kevin Melendrez as its first Lionel Haight Endowed Chair in Accounting. (NMSU photo by Darren Phillips)

Melendrez, an associate professor in the Department of Accounting and Information Systems, has served as head of that department since 2012. Professor Larry Tunnell will now step into that role, allowing Melendrez to focus on research and mentoring junior faculty in his role as the accounting department?s first endowed chairholder.

Funds from the endowment will help advance teaching and research in the department, Melendrez said.

?This endowment will allow us to further the activities of the accounting program,? Melendrez said. ?We will be able to do more to support our faculty?s research projects, send them to more conferences to present their work, and help them learn new and innovative ways to prepare our students for successful careers.?

The funds will be used to support the faculty?s efforts to connect with colleagues within the academic community and continue to advance the reputation of the department and the university, he said.

The chair honoring Haight, a former NMSU professor and head of the accounting department who died in 1998, began as the Lionel Haight Professorship, established by a $250,000 gift from Judy Gray Johnson and her husband, Michael, in 2010.

In 2011, with the goal of raising the professorship to a $1 million endowed chair, Johnson offered a challenge: If other donors contributed $100,000 to the fund within two years, she?d pledge an additional $100,000 to match those gifts. When that goal was met five months ahead of schedule, she doubled down on the pledge, offering another $100,000 matching challenge.

Thanks to contributions from alumni and supporters ? including significant contributions from Albuquerque CPA firms REDW, Moss Adams and KPMG and Las Cruces firm Beasley, Mitchell & Co. ? the million-dollar goal was met earlier this year.

As department head, Melendrez said he was able to spend time getting to know some of the donors who helped make the sixth endowed chair in the College of Business a reality.

?It certainly could not have happened without Mike and Judy Johnson, but it was a true partnership with so many people,? he said. ?We had more than 100 donors make gifts of every size.

?People I spoke to were so willing to give back to this campaign because they value the education, mentorship and positive experiences they had here,? he added. ?To hear people?s individual stories opened my eyes to the huge amount of success that many of our alumni have achieved.?

An NMSU alum himself, Melendrez earned his Bachelor of Accountancy degree here in 1998, followed by master?s and doctoral degrees in accounting from University of Arizona. He taught at Louisiana State University before returning to his alma mater in 2007 as an assistant professor.

?I had the opportunity to come back to NMSU and to be a part of the Accounting faculty as proud graduate of the program, and that was very appealing to me,? Melendrez said. ?Nine years later, it is tremendously gratifying to help continue the success of a program that has been built over a very long time by so many great faculty.?

James Hoffman, dean of the College of Business, praised Melendrez?s leadership of the accounting department.

?Kevin is the complete package,? Hoffman said. ?He?s an excellent scholar and an excellent teacher, as well as a leader our faculty can rely on for support and guidance.?

Judy Johnson said she got to know Melendrez during the fundraising campaign to establish the chair.

?He was one of the key people working on this, and I think he?s an outstanding choice to serve as the first recipient,? she said.