Silver City, NM- 125 years ago, our campus came into existence. It was a much different place back then; a small college known as the Western Teachers College that was meant to educate individuals so that they could go out and educate the workforce. They started off with a small patch of land and created one of the buildings we still see around campus today. That was just the beginning: pretty soon, the small college began expanding in ideas and in goals, and pretty soon, Western New Mexico University was created.
To hear the individuals in the room, such as Dr. Shepard and Mayor Ken Ladner, speak about the past of the University, you could sense the pride in how far Western had come and all of the advancements it had yet to make. There was cake and chatter on the patio, a celebration before the celebration to come.
After taking a brief pause, everyone in attendance was invited to go out to the lawn to take a picture. Not knowing what kind of picture they meant, I wasn’t very excited to go. However, it is my duty as a reporter to attend these events on campus, so I walked those 30 yards from my desk to Old James to see what was going on.
When I got there, students were filling up the bleachers, anxiously waiting to see what was going on. The famed Mariachi Plata was playing and purple sunglasses were being passed all around. Jay Hemphill, our campus photographer, asked everyone to take their places within the chalk marks on the ground. If you were wearing purple, you got to be in one of the numbers: if you were wearing a different color, you had to stand in the back. I zipped up my dark purple sweater and went to stand directly next to a dog in the number because, hello, he was a dog.
Unfortunately, the dog soon moved, and there was nowhere else for me to go. I stuck my peace sign in the air, tilted my head to the side, and gave my best smile. I didn’t know where to look, but I figured no one would notice anyway. The moment was brief, I wasn’t sure anything had happened, but later on, I saw my peace sign and severely tilted head in the “5” of the 125 and I was thankful for that 30-yard walk and the duty of doing my job.
The final event I decided to attend that day was the naming of the cultural center. Having known it was under remodel for a while, I, along with the rest of my department, was curious to know what changes were made and what the new name would be. As the presentations were about to begin, a van pulled up and Dr. Felipe Ortego, a writer, teacher, and leader in the Civil Rights era, arrived on the scene.
Once we took our seats and got comfortable, the presentations commenced. Paulo Veltri, the new Director of the Cultural Center, spoke into the mic saying, “I would like to formally welcome you all to the opening of the Ortego y Gasca Cultural Center.”
In that moment the crowd went silent, and then burst into applause. I can think of no man more deserving of such an honor for all he has done for not only this University, but also his people and his culture. It was truly a moment worth being present for.
In the end founder’s day was everything I wanted it to be: there were history lessons, laughter, reminiscing, and cake. What was more beautiful than that was how everyone came together in celebration of one University, our University. No matter the experience we have had at WNMU, we can all say that it shaped us into the people we are today. Thank you Founder’s Day, for being a reminder of that.
Signed, a sentimental alumni