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NMSU's 'Doing What Counts' campaign establishes 31 new endowed faculty funds

The efforts of the New Mexico State University Foundation's "Doing What Counts" comprehensive campaign have made an impact on many departments throughout the university, including the establishment of 13 new academic chairs and 18 new professorships.


The Linebery Chair, established by Tom and Evelyn Linebery, was the first chair created during the campaign, which began in October 2005 and is the largest ever undertaken by NMSU. The chair was added to the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences and is the largest private sector endowment given to NMSU to date.

An endowed academic chair is the most prestigious appointment for a university. Chair holders focus on specific areas of study, which brings experts in those fields to the campus and draws attention to the quality of work that goes on at the university.

John Fowler, current Linebery Chair holder and agricultural economics and business professor, said the creation of the chair has allowed the college to focus on several volatile issues to increase research and learning. The chair also has funded new scholarships, drawing more students to the program and to NMSU in general.

"These chairs all increase visibility for the university," Fowler said. "They allow NMSU to be recognized as an intellectual bastion where creative research is encouraged. It also allows us to bring in and maintain the best and brightest scholars."

Another chair, added to the Department of Geological Sciences by and named after Foundation Board Chairman Michael L. Johnson, was the first endowed academic chair established in the College of Arts and Sciences during the campaign.

Historically, geological sciences has focused on the areas of field geology and sedimentology, but because of the new chair addition, the department was able to hire an isotope geochemist, expanding its region of focus and research.

"The creation of the Johnson Chair allowed us to expand in that area without having to sacrifice anything else the department has been working on," said Nancy McMillan, department head for geological sciences.

NMSU geological sciences professor Frank Ramos is the current Michael Johnson Chair holder for geochemistry. McMillan said the research support gives Ramos the opportunity to expand and enrich the department.

"The chair provides significant research money to the department and benefits everyone involved in geology here. It really does bring us up a notch," McMillan said. "The addition of all of the new chairs also acts as a morale booster in times of budget cuts and difficulty. It allows members of the campus community to say, 'look what these donors have done for us, someone is on our side.'"

In addition, 18 new professorships were established during the comprehensive campaign.

A named professorship can provide the holder with more resources to advocate for his or her specific program. Receiving a professorship is an honor for a faculty member, because it recognizes his or her academic reputation. Funds to support professorships help NMSU retain talented faculty who are in demand by other universities and the private sector.

Rola Idriss, civil and geological engineering professor and recipient of the Ed Foreman Professorship, said receiving a professorship is an honor, and the professorships established during the campaign will add to the success of NMSU.

"Endowed professorships are meant to support and promote excellence at NMSU," Idriss said. "They are a lasting investment in our faculty and our students. They recognize outstanding faculty members and honor their contributions to teaching, research and service."

Professorships also promote research and discovery.

"This prestigious award has had a great impact on my research and teaching at NMSU," Idriss said. "It has allowed me to further expand and establish my area of research in Smart Bridges, as well as attract the very best students to my research program. I am very grateful for both the recognition and the support."

Riis Gonzales, vice president of development for the NMSU Foundation, said endowed appointments such as chairs and professorships are important for the individuals who receive them and for the university as a whole.

"As teachers, those faculty honored with endowed positions will influence the lives of thousands of students, inspiring bright minds and addressing critical issues facing humanity," Gonzales said.

The success of the campaign is evident because it has showcased the quality of educators at NMSU and the campus community's desire to see the university succeed, Gonzales said.

"By almost tripling the number of endowed faculty positions at our university, the 'Doing What Counts' campaign has permanently elevated the level of academic and scholarly activity on our campus," he said. "NMSU will be forever grateful to the donors who have made the choice to invest in our faculty; the return on this investment is immeasurable."

The NMSU Foundation will celebrate the successful "Doing What Counts" comprehensive campaign as part of its biannual Board of Directors meeting held in conjunction with the university's Homecoming week, Oct. 25-30. For more, information visit http://foundation.nmsu.edu.