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Albuquerque accounting firm gives $25,000 to support endowed chair at NMSU

The effort to establish New Mexico State University's first endowed chair in accounting got a boost today, as one of the largest certified public accounting firms in the Southwest pledged $25,000 in support over the next two years.


Left to right: Kevin Melendrez, Kathy Brook, Judy Gray Johnson, and Ron Rivera.
Albuquerque-based accounting firm REDW has given $25,000 to the New Mexico State University College of Business in support of establishing the Lionel Haight Endowed Chair in Accounting. From left to right are NMSU Accounting and Information Systems Department Head Kevin Melendrez, Interim Dean Kathy Brook, alumna and frequent donor Judy Gray Johnson, who has pledged a series of matching gifts to establish the endowment, and REDW Managing Principal Ron Rivera. (NMSU photo by Amanda Bradford)

Albuquerque-based CPA firm REDW presented a check for its first installment of $12,500 Monday morning in support of the Lionel Haight Endowed Chair in Accounting in the College of Business.

A professorship in honor of Haight, a former NMSU professor and head of the accounting department, who died in 1998, was established in 2010 with a $250,000 contribution from one of Haight's former students, Judy Gray Johnson, and her husband, Michael. Judy Johnson attended NMSU from 1969 to 1972, majoring in accounting, and found Haight to be a demanding but supportive teacher who had a significant impact on students.

Johnson pledged an additional $100,000 in the fall of 2011 to match contributions to the accounting professorship, with a goal of establishing a $1 million, fully endowed chair.

Today's contribution from REDW rounds out the $100,000 the college needed to receive Johnson's matching gift - and it prompted a second $100,000 pledge from Johnson, who said she's sure there's more support out there for reaching the million-dollar goal.

For REDW's managing principal, Ron Rivera, supporting the endowed professorship added up perfectly. He said NMSU's professors help mold many of the accounting graduates his firm hires, and the teachers' level of involvement gives them insight that helps the firm match candidates with positions that maximize their potential.

"NMSU has proven to be an excellent source of new accounting talent for our firm, and we believe a key factor in our ability to hire the best and brightest is actually the faculty," Rivera said. "Their accessibility and knowledge of their students' strengths and abilities helps us consistently make the right hires."

Rivera, a University of New Mexico graduate who serves on the NMSU College of Business Accounting Advisory Council, said he views the gift as an important investment for his company.

"We rely on the skill and expertise of our professionals, and so it is in REDW's best interest to strengthen the pool of accounting talent available to us here in New Mexico," he said. "We also believe that providing this type of material support to NMSU's accounting department is a way to invest, not only in REDW's future, but in the future of our community as a whole."

Interim Dean Kathy Brook said the endowed chair - the fifth in the College of Business - would enhance the school's ability to attract and retain faculty members who will continue a tradition of providing a high standard of academic excellence and a nurturing and supportive learning environment.

"The level of involvement our faculty has in the long-term success of our students is one of our greatest strengths," she said. "This generous gift brings us closer to creating another endowment that supports both learning and personal discovery at NMSU."

For more information on the Johnsons' second $100,000 challenge, contact the assistant dean for development at the College of Business, Andrea Tawney, at 575-646-4917 or atawney@nmsu.edu. To make a secure online gift directly to this endowment, visit http://giving.nmsu.edu/haight.html.