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Engineering graduates take part in longtime tradition

Engineering students who are graduating this coming weekend will have the opportunity to take part in a 20-year tradition unique to NMSU: the Sociedad de Ingeniero. This semester's ceremony will be held at 4:30 p.m. Friday, April 7, at the Corbett Center Auditorium.

In 1989 the College of Engineering deans and department heads wanted to create an organization that would help engineering students understand the worldwide importance of their profession.

"We wanted something special that would inspire NMSU engineering students, to make them proud of what engineering is and what it contributes to society, and also to encourage all grads to practice their profession in an ethical and moral manner," said J. Derald Morgan, dean of the college at that time.

Morgan, along with co-founders Assistant Dean Joe L. Creed, Associate Dean J. Eldon Steelman and University President James Halligan, formed the society and held a graduation ceremony specifically for engineering students?a tradition that has been instituted every semester since.

"It was organized to bond with the new engineering graduates as they departed, impressing upon them the importance of their career selections. By picking the name Sociedad de Ingenieros, we felt this would set us apart from other institutions and show our pride for NMSU's diversity," Creed said.

The title alone carries with it a tremendous amount of meaning. In romance languages, particularly Spanish, the word "ingeniero" extracts meaning from the word "ingenuidad," translated as ingenuity or genius. The word "ingeniero" has remained a title of respect that represents the academic rigor required to obtain such a degree and the achievements that come with it. Therefore, "Sociedad de Ingenieros" was chosen not only to highlight the diverse group of students who make engineering their profession, but the vocation and designation "ing" to precede the names of the graduates.
Sociedad de Ingenieros' founding membership includes Associate Dean Larryl Matthews and department heads George D. Alexander, Rohinton K. Bhada, Satish J. Kamat, M. Don Merrill, George Mullholland and Kenneth R. White.

The ceremony is held at the end of each semester on the day prior to the university's graduation. Creed explained that the ceremony allows the graduates and deans and department heads the opportunity to have one-on-one time, which is not possible at the university-wide graduation ceremony.

"The ceremony includes some of the history of the college, reading of the Engineer's Creed and one or more 'honorario' or 'eminente' members who are selected each semester based on their accomplishments in the engineering profession and/or service to the NMSU College of Engineering," Alexander explained. Eminentes are alumni of NMSU engineering; honorarios do not have to be alumni.

Once a student is given the designation, they will forever remain a part of the society. It serves as a reminder to students to practice their profession in an ethical and moral manner.

It remains the purpose of the society to instill pride in the graduates and give them the opportunity to be a part of an organization that is unique to their college. "We wanted graduating seniors to be more conscious of their role and responsibility," White said.

"This was to be an organization that would allow us to bring our students together and their friends and relatives at graduation time. It allows us to say thanks for being a part of NMSU engineering," Matthews added.

After Sociedad de Ingenieros proved to be a success, it inspired Matthews to create a similar organization at another university, and it inspired NMSU's College of Agriculture to establish the Sam Steele Society.

As for the founding members, Morgan now lives in Missouri, working as a forensic engineer, and is head of J. Derald Morgan & Assoc., which provides electrical engineering consulting and forensic services.

Creed is now retired and living in Las Cruces. Through volunteer work he is involved with the Zuhl and Klipsch Museums, works with athletics on issues concerning the A-Club and Hall of Fame and continues to do stewardship. He remained active with the organization until his retirement in 2005.

Steelman is also retired and spends a significant amount of time with the Lion's Club in Las Cruces. As secretary of the New Mexico Lion's Crane Reading Foundation, Creed and other members work to improve reading skills in the state.

Matthews moved from Las Cruces to become dean at the University of Maine, and later moved to Indiana where he became the founding dean of the College of Engineering and Technology at Purdue University North Central.

White recently retired after serving a second stint as interim dean for the College of Engineering at NMSU and is still in Las Cruces.

Mulholland is also retired and living in Las Cruces. However, he is taught a chemical engineering class on fuel cell technology this spring, alongside associate professor Shuguang Deng.

Bhada retired, but worked part-time with the College of Engineering and WERC until 2008. He still consults part-time and is involved in the Christian Ministry of Jehovah's Witnesses. Alexander, Kamat and Merrill are all retired and living in Las Cruces.