NMSU Regent Isaac Pino, of Santa Fe, welcomes coach Lou and Mary Henson to an alumni event hosted by the NMSU Santa Fe Alumni Chapter. (NMSU Courtesy Photo)
Julie M. Hughes
New Mexico State University
More than 200 alumni of New Mexico State University joined President Barbara Couture in Santa Fe Jan. 27 to celebrate the 80th birthday of coaching legend Lou Henson, as well as honor the more than 50 Aggies and thousands of American soldiers who 70 years ago sacrificed for their country during the Bataan Death March.
The reception at the New Mexico National Guard Bataan Memorial Museum was co-hosted by the newly reorganized NMSU Santa Fe Alumni Chapter. Retired Brig. Gen. Jack Fox and Gary Beene, both of Santa Fe, are leading the Santa Fe Chapter reorganization. Fox is a 1969 NMSU graduate and Beene a 1974 graduate.
“We have a large, diverse group of Aggie alumni in Santa Fe and many are ready to get back together to support NMSU,” Fox said. “Where we receive our education has a monumental influence in our lives. It shapes the way we think and who we are.”
With more than 2,400 NMSU alumni in the Santa Fe area, Fox said it is a perfect time to bring people together and for Aggies to have a greater, more organized presence in the capital city.
“We are excited about the many celebrations that came together to kick-off the reorganization of the alumni chapter,” Fox said. “This was a great opportunity to honor a man who is truly a legend in his own time. Lou Henson focused the spotlight on NMSU.”
President Couture, who spoke about Henson’s many contributions, agreed, “Lou Henson is an icon. Few people have had such great an impact on NMSU. His accomplishments are many and have been felt both on and off the court. He’s one of the winningest coaches in NCAA history, but he’s also helped shape the lives of students, create future leaders and make this university a better place.”
Henson is one of only 11 coaches to take two different schools to the NCAA Final Four. His teams have made 19 NCAA appearances and four NIT appearances. He is a member of the New Mexico State, Illinois and Hardin-Simmons Halls of Fame.
Fox said it also was timely to honor the 1,800 New Mexicans who sacrificed for their country in the Phillipines.
“We must remember those young men from New Mexico and NMSU who stood up and answered the call, many never returning home,” Fox said.
The celebration also marked the New Mexico Centennial and the Sesquincentennial of the signing of the Morrill Act, which would create the land-grant university system in the U.S., providing greater access to public higher education.
President Couture marked these occasions by talking about the impact NMSU has to the New Mexico economy. She said NMSU is a major economic engine for the state and alumni play a critical role in that.
Citing a recently released economic impact study, conducted by economist Jim Peach, a long-time NMSU business professor, Couture said NMSU’s greatest contribution to the economy comes from its alumni who choose to remain in the state. There are close to 50,000 NMSU alumni living in the state. Economic data has consistently shown that, in general, college graduates across the nation earn and spend more than those who have less education. New Mexico is no exception, she said.