125 Years of The University of New Mexico

In 2014, the University celebrated 125 years of providing higher education to students in New Mexico. UNM and the Alumni Association looked back at 125 years of history and accomplishments while also looking forward and planning for what lies ahead.

To celebrate, The University created "UNM@125," a visually stunning, one-hour documentary film about the history of The University of New Mexico seen through the eyes of alumni, administrators, students, staff and the community. Aracely (Arcie) Chapa has produced and directed an emotional and reverential tribute to UNM’s past as well as its future. This movie production is sponsored by the UNM’s Center for Regional Studies Opens in new window (CRS) with support from Dr. Tobias Duran. The documentary premiered during UNM’s Homecoming festivities in 2014.

The Early Beginnings of UNM and the Alumni Association

Built up from the New Mexico mesa and the originating words of the Territorial Act signed on February 28, 1889, The University of New Mexico was established with the mission to bring higher education to the Territory's citizens.

Early UNM students weathered much more than sandstorms and poor budgets. They defied critics who thought the University wouldn't survive in a territory without a public high school. For four years they shared a common goal—education. For a lifetime they shared affection for their alma mater.

UNM was created by Territorial Act on February 28, 1889 and its first students graduated in 1894. On March 30, 1897, seven of the University's 18 graduates formed an executive committee of the Alumni Association. Charles Hodgin, class of 1894, for whom Hodgin Hall is named, was the first president.

The only alumni event in the early years was an annual dinner in honor of new graduates, which included speeches by Board of Regents members, music recitals, poetry readings, and a history of the graduating class. By World War I, the Association was inactive except for its recording of alumni at war.

Although there was not an annual alumni meeting in 1920, the Association managed to raise $12,000 for the Domestic Science department to construct a new building. That same year, alumni gave football players sweaters with UNM in the University's cherry and silver colors.

The University and Alumni Association Grow

In 1925, UNM President David Spence Hill invited alumni back to the campus for the first Homecoming celebration. Students rose to the occasion and showed alumni their support. The event began with a pep rally and a bonfire. On Saturday, students had a parade of floats downtown, and fraternities and sororities decorated their houses. The climax was a football game against Arizona. Snake dancers entertained the crowd at half time. UNM lost 24-0. But for the first time in five years, the stands were packed and athletics made money.

The thrill of Homecoming 1925 did not carry over into the next year and the Alumni Association was inactive again. In 1927, the presidency of the University changed and then-acting President James F. Zimmerman encouraged the reactivation of the Association. Alumni Day was declared May 28. In addition to the traditional dinner and dance, a new activity was planned. Senior class members challenged alumni to a baseball game. Alumni lost. At the Association's request, Zimmerman proposed several projects for members. He suggested publishing a newsletter, starting a scholarship fund, assisting athletics in selling tickets, and recruiting high school students from around the state. Alumni went further by planning to help the University in obtaining money from Santa Fe. Alumni President Kenneth Balcomb, '16, wrote: "If the alumni will take care of these things, the long-haired profs and the be-spectacled managers of the Institution will grind out the abstract matters of the curriculum…"

Alumni began publishing their first newsletter, The Alumni News, in 1928. They organized clubs throughout the state to recruit students, establish a student loan fund, sold football tickets, and raised money for library books, equipment, and buildings. But for all of their successes, the alumni baseball team, The Has Beens, lost to seniors again that year.

The following year, a reorganized homecoming featured a bonfire, floats, house decorations, a dinner, and dancing. Freshmen women wore green ribbons in their hair and put their dresses and coats on Backwards. Undergraduate men had a pajama parade. The football team played Arizona and lost 6-0, but Homecoming was declared a success.

In 1930, UNM created an administrative position dedicated to alumni matters. Tom L. Popejoy, class of 1925, was named executive secretary. Alumni President Ray McCanna, class of 1917, listed new objectives for the Association: increase legislative appropriations, help students find jobs, and support athletics. The Great Depression did not dampen the spirit of the campus. Alumni wrote letters to their senators and representatives on behalf of UNM, established a student employment bureau, and conducted an aggressive sales campaign for football tickets. They adopted the motto: Make the University Second to None.

Class reunions at Homecoming began in 1931 with 25-year graduates. Pearce C. Rodey served as the Association's president in 1937-39. During his presidency, the Alumni Lettermen's Club was revived at Homecoming.

1900s: UNM Students

The Early Years:

  • 1889: UNM founded on February 28
  • 1892: Hodgin Hall was constructed
  • 1892: First football game versus Albuquerque High to make a two-game season; UNM lost both games 0-5 and 0-8
  • 1894: First UNM class graduated
  • 1895: UNM Weekly (Daily Lobo) published
  • 1897: UNM Alumni Association founded
  • 1898: First women's basketball team formed
  • 1899: First baseball game versus Goss Military Institute; UNM 18-Goss 9
  • 1903: First track and field meet versus Albuquerque Indian School
  • 1906: First dormitory (Kataka) built
  • 1908: First tennis match versus NM Mines; UNM 2-Mines 0
  • 1924: Students vote to cancel yearbook due to lack of funds
  • 1927: Charles Hodgin is awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Laws Degree from UNM
  • 1929: First UNM Homecoming
  • 1930: Freshmen Week inaugurated
  • 1937: Zimmerman Library built

Charles Hodgin

Vigas at Hodgin Hall

1940's: UNM Graduates

The Alumni Association's Mid-Century History

During World War II, the Association concentrated on keeping records of students missing or killed in the war as well as reporting the actions of those still participating. Homecoming attendance dropped, but the main traditions including house decorations, the parade, dinner, and crowning of a queen (established in 1935) continued.

The association also concentrated on a new cause during the war—raising money for a memorial to the University's fallen. Campaigns continued until 1959, when enough money was raised to build the Alumni Memorial Chapel. It stands today as a memorial to students killed in World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan.

Following the war, the Alumni Association wrote a new constitution generalizing its goals. It also produced a movie about the University's post-war growth for alumni clubs and persuaded the University to add a $5 alumni fee to the graduation fee. The Association had begun collecting dues around 1905 but received little, so the automatic fee boosted funds.

In the 1950s, the Association, under the direction of Winifred Reiter, settled into producing its newsletter and organizing Homecoming. In 1959, a consultant's report determined that the Alumni Association should be combined with the Fund Development Office to form one professionally run organization.

Alumni established committees for Homecoming, student recruitment, legislative support, awards, and more. Dues were eliminated. Together with the Development Office, alumni organized the Greater UNM Fund to support scholarships, libraries, and a host of other projects for the next 20 years. In 1971, Alumni split from the Development Office.

The Alumni Tour program began in 1966. In 1968, alumni sponsored a trip to Hawaii to cheer the Lobo basketball team and tour Honolulu. The trip was then the largest-ever commercially chartered booster club excursion.

Mid-Century Years:

Mirage Yearbook page

  • 1940s: ASUNM government formed
  • 1941: NROTC established on campus
  • 1941: First Ski meet versus ASU (Flagstaff); UNM 195-ASU 187
  • 1944: Institute of Meteoritics opens
  • 1946: School of Law opens
  • 1948: AFROTC established on campus
  • 1950: Johnson Gallery opens
  • 1952: UNM achieves full accredited
  • 1959: New SUB opens

As UNM grew and master plans were drawn, both Hodgin and Rodey Hall—the adjacent assembly building – were slated for destruction to make way for a loop road around the edge of the campus. Rodey Hall was torn down in 1971 and Hodgin Hall was scheduled for destruction just a short while later. News of the impending doom of the University's first building, however, resulted in alumni forming a committee to raise money for the preservation and restoration of Hodgin Hall. The subsequent restoration was completed in 1983.

Hodgin Hall Becomes the Alumni Association's Home

The Alumni Association's first project in the 70s was to restore the University's oldest building, Hodgin Hall, which had been all but condemned.

Rapid increase in student enrollment and the increase in building led to the scheduled destruction of Hodgin Hall in the early 1970's. UNM Architect Joe McKinney succeeded in getting the building listed on the New Mexico Register of Cultural Properties in 1974 and the National Register of Historic Places in 1978. The newly formed Alumni Restoration and Preservation Committee, in conjunction with the University, raised enough money to renovate Hodgin Hall. In 1983, the Association moved in, sharing the space with staff from the Development and Public Affairs offices.

In 1980, a new dues program was introduced. Other benefits for alumni, such as insurance, credit cards, and campus services, were started in the 1980s. New alumni chapters formed throughout New Mexico and the U.S. Chapter members sponsored scholarships, recruited students, and enjoyed the camaraderie of other UNM alumni. Homecoming introduced the crowning of a king in 1980 in response to a male student's running for queen in 1979.

Recent History

In 2005, the UNM Board of Regents established Hodgin Hall as the official UNM Alumni Center. Alumni lobbied the State Legislature for funds to renovate the building. In January 2010, the Alumni Relations Office vacated its historic premises, and packed away all of Hodgin Hall's treasures. The treasures were stored during the renovation and the Alumni Association moved into temporary headquarters next door to the UNM Law School.

Hodgin Hall renovations began in February, 2010 and were completed in September 21, 2011. Renovations included: opening the basement to allow for a beautiful reception area, transforming several old offices into meeting rooms with state-of-the-art technology, creating an art gallery to display the works of our talented alumni and installing exhibits to tell the story of the university and its alums.

Related: Alumni Memorial Chapel History

The UNM Alumni Memorial Chapel is a placeholder of significant events in the lives of alumni. Built in 1962 as a memorial to alumni killed in the nation’s wars, the UNM Alumni Memorial Chapel has served the campus community in joyful and trying times. Dedicated to UNM’s fallen soldiers of World Wars I and II, Korea, Viet Nam, Iraq, and Afghanistan, whose names are listed on its south wall. The chapel is a place of both reflection and remembrance. Thousands of weddings and numerous memorials have taken place within its walls. Its simple elegance complements any occasion, public or personal. More Chapel history here.

Recent History:

  • 1960: Alumni Memorial Chapel built
  • 1960: KNMD (now KUNM) goes on air from their new basement studio in the SUB
  • 1964: School of Medicine opens
  • 1965: The "Pit" constructed
  • 1972: UNM Cancer Center opens
  • 1976: Duck Pond constructed
  • 1976: Alumni Association begins fund drive for renovation of Hodgin Hall
  • 1989: Alumni Presidents' Clock installed by Duck Pond
  • 1997: Lobo bronze installed atop the northeast corner of Central and University
  • 2014: UNM celebrates 125 years as a university