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Aggie Memorial Tower to be rededicated

Since 1950, New Mexico State University's Aggie Memorial Tower has stood in memory of the 126 Aggies who lost their lives in World War II, but the tower has seen many transformations over the years and had fallen into disrepair.

New Mexico State University's newly remodeled Aggie Memorial Tower will be rededicated at 11 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 30. (NMSU photo by Darren Phillips)

As part of NMSU's Homecoming 2004, "ABCs of Aggie Innovation," the newly remodeled tower will be rededicated at 11 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 30, after the Homecoming parade. The ceremony will take place on the lawn and patio west of the tower.

NMSU's College of Health and Social Services incorporated the tower into the design of its new building, which opened earlier this year.

"It was a university vision to incorporate the tower and we're happy to have it as part of our new building," said Jeffrey E. Brandon, dean of the College of Health and Social Services.

The tower was reinforced and the first level has been established as a study lounge. The renovated first floor also will display photos of most of the 126 Aggies killed in action during WWII. The photos were gathered in the 1940s from the families of the fallen Aggies by Era Rentfrow, who served as registrar from 1922 to 1961. The second level of the tower houses a 900-square-foot computer lab.

The rededication ceremony will be led by retired Army Lt. Col. Gary Cataldo, current president and founder of the NMSU Army ROTC Alumni Chapter. Cataldo received a bachelor's in economics from NMSU in 1970.

The keynote speech will be given by retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Leo Marquez. Marquez is a 1954 graduate of NMSU. He began his three-star military career in NMSU's Air Force ROTC Program. Marquez went on to become the highest-ranked Air Force officer to graduate from NMSU and the highest-ranked Hispanic officer in the Air Force. He grew up on a farm in Peralta, N.M., watching planes fly over his father's fields.

Marquez served as a pilot for eight years and after he was grounded for medical reasons became the commander of a squadron of 300 people responsible for the maintenance of the F-106 interceptor airplane. He said he loved the leadership challenges of dealing with people. He retired in 1987 and moved back to New Mexico where he lives in Albuquerque not far from the place where he fell in love with flying.

Also participating in the ceremony are NMSU Board of Regents member James Manatt of Roswell, state Rep. J. Paul Taylor and Las Cruces businessman J. Henry Gustafson.

Manatt, a past president of the NMSU Board of Regents, was an advocate for the remodeling of the tower. He is a member of the NMSU Army ROTC Alumni Chapter and achieved the rank of first lieutenant in the Army. He received a bachelor's degree in journalism in 1971.

Taylor served in the U.S. Navy from 1942 to 1946. He received three degrees from NMSU, a bachelor's in 1942, a master's in 1954 and a Specialist in Education in 1963. In the 1940s Taylor led the fund-raising campaign to make the new tower a permanent memorial to Aggies who were killed in action during WWII. As a state legislator, he also was instrumental in passing the legislation that designated funding for the new health building.

Gustafson received a bachelor's degree from NMSU in 1940. He is a WWII veteran and achieved the rank of colonel in the U.S. Marines. He is a past president of the NMSU Alumni Association.

NMSU President Michael Martin will join Manatt, Taylor and Gustafson to present a memorial wreath in memory of the fallen. Musical selections by the Aggie Pride Band will include Battle Hymn of the Republic, the National Anthem and Taps.

A picnic lunch next to Young Hall will follow the dedication. The lunch is $10 per person.

For more information about the ceremony, call Cynthia Hoffmann at (505) 646-2773.

Editor's Note: A list of the 126 Aggies who are memorialized in Aggie Memorial Tower including the date of death, location of death and hometown, if known, is available by contacting Julie Hughes at juhughes@nmsu.edu.