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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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NMSU regents meeting highlighted by major gift, changes to president's contract

The New Mexico State University Board of Regents on Monday announced the school had received a major gift by an anonymous donor who stipulated it must be spent on the purchase of an airplane for university use.


Bob Gallagher said the money, $1.25 million, would not buy a jet - nor would it buy a new plane. It could buy an older model plane that could enhance the university's mobility.

"The family, who wants to remain anonymous, wanted the university to have access to a plane," Gallagher said. If NMSU does not use the money to buy a plane, it forfeits the gift.

Gallagher said despite the university's other needs, the restricted gift was good news for three reasons. First, as the state's land-grant institution, NMSU has offices in 33 counties. At a moment's notice, staff or officials from the university might be needed in Grants or Farmington. An airplane would facilitate its land-grant mission.

Second, with the comprehensive fundraising campaign in full swing, the plane will make flying to meet donors more efficient and productive.

Third, trips to Santa Fe to address the Legislature will require less wear and tear on staff and faculty if they can fly instead of drive. Often a member of the university will be required at the drop of a hat to make the four-hour drive, testify for an hour and then drive back, Gallagher said. Failure to appear for that hour could be costly to the university.

Possible changes to the university's health insurance programs also were discussed.
Vice President of Business and Finance James McDonough told the regents that negotiations with the state continued over moving the active NMSU employees into the state employee health insurance pool.

While these negotiations have been ongoing over the past year, state officials only recently agreed to classify NMSU employees as state employees.

Previously, McDonough said, the state wanted to classify NMSU as a "local government agency" and that would have been too costly. But working with Secretary of Finance and Administration James Jimenez and Gov. Bill Richardson, McDonough said there had been a breakthrough to designate NMSU a "state government agency" - meaning they could be in the state employee pool.

If negotiations are finalized, it could mean a reduction in costs for most - but not all - of NMSU employees' health care premiums. Changes could become effective as early as July. Further changes could open the Employee Health Center to all employees, not just those with insurance. Retirees would remain with Blue Cross Blue Shield in a newly negotiated, fully insured plan. Benefits would not be affected.

In actions taken by the board,President Martin's contract was amended to provide additional deferred compensation at the completion of his five-year agreement with the university. The original contract provided that an amount equal to10 percent of his salary would be placed in a separate fund to be paid at completion of his contract in 2009. The regents Monday approved a proposal to set aside an additional $25,000 annually from non-operating funds provided by the Foundation to be placed in the same fund. If Martin completes his agreement, he receives the full amount. If he does not, he receives none of the additional funding. Funds for the added deferred compensation came from another restricted anonymous gift, according to Gallagher.

Gallagher noted that other amendments were being made at the same time because of the situations at other universities causing the board to look at its own termination policies for its presidents. He emphasized the changes had nothing to do with Martin.

Those amendments included requiring that - in the event of resignation or termination by the board or mutual agreement - the president's residence be vacated two months after the termination and the president would be entitled to receive up to $4,000 for expenses.

The new terms allow the president to assume a faculty/ researcher position with the university in the departments of economics, agricultural economics or within the College of Education, depending on the university's needs. The university would provide $40,000 in academic support the first year and $8,000 thereafter.

Under the amendments, the president would be entitled to a six-month leave to prepare for returning to a faculty role. Salary adjustments also were clarified under the amendments. The salary would be adjusted to 65 percent of current salary if appointed to a 12-month position or 58 percent if appointed to a nine-month position.


A new slate of officers also was elected at the meeting. Steve Anaya replaces Bob Gallagher as president of the board of regents. Laura Conniff was elected vice president and Sherry Kamali, student regent, was elected secretary-treasurer.

Gallagher noted that Gov. Richardson was vetting nominees for the vacancy on the board and might name a new regent within the week.

Mary A. Benanti
March 13, 2006