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Engineering building named for John W. Hernandez, former dean

An engineering building on the campus of New Mexico State University will be renamed in October to honor former engineering dean and long-time researcher on water issues John W. Hernandez.

An engineering building on the New Mexico State campus will be named after former engineering professor and College of Engineering dean John W. Hernandez during the university's Homecoming Oct. 12. (NMSU photo by Meghann Dallin)

The building, now called Engineering Complex Building II, off Frenger Mall, will be renamed at 3:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 12, in a ceremony during New Mexico State's homecoming festivities.

"Dr. Hernandez is largely responsible for opening engineering to women and minorities, particularly Hispanics and Native Americans," said Jay Jordan, dean of New Mexico State's College of Engineering. "Many of his former students are prominent engineers in the United States and throughout the world. Several have told me stories of him answering homework questions over the phone at 10 o'clock at night or later. We are very pleased that the regents of New Mexico State have voted unanimously to recognize his many contributions."

Hernandez served as dean of New Mexico State's College of Engineering from 1975 to 1980. During his tenure, enrollment increased from 1,135 in the spring of 1975 to 2,300 in the fall of 1980. Faculty members in the college increased from approximately 45 in 1975 to 80 in 1980, with research, industry gifts and alumni giving increasing as well.

Hernandez earned a bachelor's degree in civil engineering from the University of New Mexico in 1951, a master's degree in sanitary engineering from Purdue University, in West Lafayette, Ind., in 1959, a second master's degree in environmental engineering from Harvard in 1963 and a doctorate in water resources management from Harvard in 1965.

He joined the civil engineering department of New Mexico State in 1965 as an associate professor and was tenured as a full professor in 1968. He created the New Mexico Environmental Institute in 1970, with William A. Dick-Peddie, former head of the university's biology department, and co-directed the Southwest Center for Women and Minorities in Engineering.

In February 1981, while on leave from New Mexico State, he was named deputy administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. In March 1983 he became acting administrator of the agency. In May 1983 he resigned that post to take a position with the U.S. Department of Energy, returning to New Mexico State in January 1984.

As a professor at New Mexico State, Hernandez taught engineering economics, hydrology, solid and hazardous waste, water resources management and water and waste water treatment. As a researcher, Hernandez has published studies for the United Nations, the U. S. Bureau of Reclamation, the New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission and the New Mexico Water Resources Research Institute, the New Mexico Game Department, the New Mexico Health Department.