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NMSU's Center for the Arts costume shop to be named Jaki's Closet

When New Mexico State University alumni Michael and Judy Johnson first started looking at opportunities to support the arts at the university, the idea to name the costume shop in the new Center for the Arts intrigued them because their daughter's closet at home had always reminded them of a theater wardrobe closet.

Michael and Judy Johnson (NMSU photo by Darren Phillips)

"Our daughter was always involved in plays and skits and was always putting costumes together. Her closet at home was always full of theater gear," said Michael Johnson.

The Johnsons have pledged $125,000 to the NMSU Center for the Arts to establish the new center's costume shop as Jaki's Closet, named for their daughter Jaclynn, a senior at the University of Southern California.

"We have always been big fans of the performing arts, particularly theater and the symphony," Johnson said. In fact, the Johnsons met at a symphony concert at NMSU when they were students here.

"The performing arts sometimes gets shorted, but it's a healthy university community that keeps the arts in the forefront," Johnson said. "This center will be a magnet for the whole community because there is nothing like enjoying the arts in a place designed to showcase them."

Johnson said that although Jaki is pursing a nursing degree, she still loves the arts and is excited about having a space named after her.

"She still takes us to plays every time we visit her and she hopes to see a play some day in NMSU's Center for the Arts," Johnson said.

The Johnsons live on a ranch just outside of Santa Fe, N.M. They also have a son, Matthew, who just graduated from Southern Methodist University with degrees in accounting, taking after his mother.

Michael Johnson retired from ConocoPhillips Co. in 2002 and currently serves on several corporate boards of directors. He graduated from NMSU in 1972 with a bachelor's degree in geological sciences. He also has earned master's degrees from Rice University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, as well as an honorary doctorate from NMSU. He serves on the NMSU Foundation Board of Directors as vice president of the Foundation, and is serving on the university's presidential search advisory committee.

Judy Johnson attended NMSU for three years before transferring to the University of Houston where she finished her degree in accounting. She has been a certified public accountant for 33 years and retired from the City of Houston, Texas, where she held many positions before becoming city controller and director of finance and administration. She serves on the NMSU College of Education's Board of Advocates and is still doing consulting work.

NMSU's Center for the Arts will gather the university's scattered arts programs in one central location, encouraging more collaborative activity and providing the community easier accessibility to the many creative endeavors on campus. The project has been a true blend of public and private funding. In November 2008, voters approved the bond initiative to secure the first $19 million. In its 2009 session, the New Mexico Legislature allocated another $5.5 million from its capital outlay fund. Private gifts and pledges from a variety of sources bring the total raised close to $26 million.

Construction on Phase I of the project is scheduled to begin in 2010. Phase I includes a Dance and Theatre Arts Performance Hall, which will be located at the corner of University Avenue and Espina Street. In addition to the 500-seat auditorium there will be classrooms and rehearsal space, state-of-the-art sound and lighting and fly storage space.

For more information on ways to support the Center for the Arts, contact Jill Grammer, director of development for the Center for the Arts, at jgrammer@nmsu.edu, (575) 646-3587 or (800) 342-6678. Gifts can also be made online at giving.nmsu.edu.