Photo of NMMI’s McBride Museum is courtesy of its photographer, Maj. Nelson Miller, Public Affairs Officer, NMMI.
THE NEW MEXICO MILITARY INSTITUTE
Roswell’s most enduring and beloved industry is the New Mexico Military Institute. It takes young men and women and produces community, state, national and world leaders.
NMMI — ITS BEGINNINGS
In Joseph C. Lea, from Confederate Guerrilla to New Mexico Patriarch, its author, Elvis E. Fleming writes (in Chapter 11):
“Roswell, the city whose early development was promoted largely by Captain Joseph C. Lea, is home to one of the nation’s most outstanding military schools: New Mexico Military Institute. Lea was called ‘the Father of the Institute’ as well as the ‘Father of Roswell.’ The military academy that J.C. and Mabel Lea coaxed into existence, has for many decades enjoyed a reputation as an excellent school, both academically and militarily. Its continued success is a living tribute to Captain Lea.”
Fleming goes on to explain in this chapter of his book that the origin of NMMI might well have been due to Lea’s unwieldy son, Wildy Lea, and the exasperated father’s need to find a place where his son would receive discipline as well as an education. Wildy was enrolled in the “Junior Preparatory Department of Fort Worth University, where the Commandant of Cadets, Colonel Robert S. Goss, exercised resolute authority over his cadets.” Mrs. Lea made frequent trips to visit her stepson, became well acquainted with Colonel Goss and was impressed with his ability to subdue young Wildy Lea. Mrs. Lea proposed to Goss that he establish a military school in Roswell. Captain Lea and his business partner, Horace K. Thurber, donated 16 acres of their cattle land for the establishment of this school. “A temporary site was provided in the spring of 1891 when the Leas offered five acres of land and an adobe house on their property on the north half of the present 400 block of North Main Street, just north of the Lea residence and across the street west of the county courthouse.” Funds were raised. The Goss Military Academy, which was to become the New Mexico Military Institute, was begun.
According to Major Nelson Miller, Public Affairs Officer of NMMI:
Along with male cadets, female day students attended the school at its beginning in 1891. Female attendance ended not long after, and the school was all male until 1977 when women were officially admitted for the first time as full members of the Corps of Cadets.
Lindsey Schuda is the Regimental Commander for the current year of 2002-2003. She is the third female Regimental Commander in the history of NMMI.
Pictured above is Paul Horgan, Pulitzer Prize winner, teaching NMMI cadets perhaps around 1962. This photo from the NMMI archives was provided to Roswell Web Magazine by Major Nelson Miller.
The following lists some of the many “very important persons” who attended NMMI. These names were supplied by Major Miller upon request of the Roswell Web Magazine:
Conrad Hilton — hotelier/restaurateur; three Pulitzer Prize Winners: Paul Horgan (who twice won the Prize), Ira Harkey and Tommy Thompson; John Morgan — Congressional Medal of Honor; Peter Hurd — artist; James Malone — Ambassador to the United Nations; Bill Daniels — inventor of Cable Television and philanthropist; Sam Donaldson — television newsman and commentator; Chuck Roberts — senior anchor of CNN News; Frank H.H. King — Doctor of Letters, Oxford University; Roger Staubach — Football Hall of Fame; James Honochick — Baseball Hall of Fame; Austin Cushman — CEO of Sears Roebuck; Norman Brinker — restaurateur , CEO of Pillsbury; Joe Green — Rockwell Fund; Raymond Holland — Space Hall of Fame; Clyde Snow — International Forensic Expert; Edward Joullian — president, Boy Scouts of America; Owen Wilson — actor, Academy Award nominee for screen writing; Steven McKnight — genetics researcher; Victor Lownes — Playboy financial manager, producer of Monty Python’s Flying Circus; John VanDenburg — Founder of American Fence Company.
All photos accompanying these NMMI articles on the Industry page are courtesy of Major Nelson Miller.
The following articles were written by Major Terry D. Waggoner, assistant professor of sociology and psychology for New Mexico Military Institute.
This first essay by Maj. Waggoner was published in The Sally Port magazine, an alumni publication of NMMI. It is herewith republished, by permission, in the Roswell Web Magazine.
THEY EACH TEACH
by Maj. Terry D. Waggoner
The amount of preparation NMMI provides its new students is amazing. New students, affectionately called “RATs” (which stands for Recruits at Training), are prepared, not only by the Commandant’s Office and Corps leadership to assume the role of cadet, they are also mentored by faculty in the Academic Academy.
Many young people come to NMMI with outstanding study skills. Others, either because they were not exposed to the skills in their former schools, or because they did not make these skills their own, would have a difficult time meeting NMMI’s demanding standards. Realizing this, several years ago NMMI designed the Academic Academy, which runs in conjunction with RAT Week. This Academy is an intense, week-long course designed to teach young people how to succeed in the classroom. The Academy preps them in such areas as note-taking, active listening, classroom habits, writing, editing and critically analyzing material, and test-taking skills. In this way, all cadets entering NMMI have the opportunity to develop and fine-tune their academic skills, which assists them in getting the most out of the NMMI experience. This Academy is just one example of how the NMMI “family” pulls together to help cadets succeed.
“Family Weekend” photo taken by Nelson Miller.
One thing that has amazed me during my years at NMMI is how every Institute employee cares so much for the cadets. Most institutions have fine teachers and staff, and they do their jobs well, but many are not as committed to the students as are those at NMMI. I hear staff and faculty members encouraging cadets wherever I go on campus, and it is evident that the employees’ focus is on cadet success. New cadets have expressed to me that they appreciate the way everyone wants to help them, as opposed to handling them “efficiently,” then ignoring them. The time staff and faculty members take to focus on the cadet, listen to him/her, and express interest and concern, is time well spent. It pays off in greater retention, greater cadet performance, and development of “a heart” for the school, which is shown by the strong alumni support that this institution receives. NMMI has a place in the heart of former cadets that is life-long. One rarely sees this level of student devotion develop in the sterile environment of many other educational institutions.
Heart without substance is like kissing through a screen door.
It is comforting to know that not only are the cadets being watched over at the personal level, but that academic standards and Corps performance standards are top notch. The Alumni Association and NMMI continues to support an environment that helps young men and women come into our midst, learn and strive, become part of an extended family, and leave with the tools needed to be a success in today’s world.
This photo of the Sally Port and Hagerman Barracks, labeled “Hagerman2” by its photographer, was taken by Nelson Miller and loaned as a courtesy to the Roswell Web Magazine to accompany these articles.
Much of the information in the next article by Maj. Waggoner was previously presented by him in The Sally Port, an alumni publication of NMMI.
NMMI: JEWEL OF THE DESERT
by Major Terry D. Waggoner
Every year, a new group of young people enter NMMI. They bring with them all the hopes, dreams and experiences of their young lives.
We like to believe they come to us as wide-eyed innocents, full of fire for learning and discipline. We also believe they leave our campus upon graduation with a more mature understanding of the way the world works, their place in the world, and how to navigate through the world they face in the future. We know our cadets demonstrate part of this understanding through the grades they earn and their standing in the Corps, and we have the stories of our alums which reinforce that NMMI was an integral part of their own success in life. However, how do the cadets feel about the school while they are attending NMMI? Are they as optimistic as we about what the Institute does for their personal growth?
I thought, because I have been here for many years and have rubbed shoulders with our cadets, that I somehow “knew” everything there was to know about cadet attitudes and viewpoints. This year, I decided to “get inside their heads” to discover if what I believed actually lined up with what was in their minds. I asked students in my psychology classes to write a journal entry to explore their feelings about who they were when they arrived at NMMI, who they feel they are at this point in their lives as a result of being at NMMI, and how they feel their NMMI experience will impact their future. It was interesting to read about NMMI from the cadets’ viewpoint. Here are some of their responses:
“I was your typical momma’s boy … the growing up I have done here … has proven to my advantage … due to the fact that NMMI has an excellent reputation, I will be attending the Academy next year. Without NMMI, the odds that I would have been able to do that are not very good. … NMMI has set me up to succeed … there are many things here that have been less than fun … but it was more than worth it.”
“I feel like the same person, and I think I look pretty much the same, but several people in my family have told me I have changed. My family tells me I am more confident and that I seem much more mature … It’s strange to feel a moral and emotional obligation to someone only because they are assigned to your particular group … there are adults and cadets here that have stood by me and shown the courage I was lacking more times than one. Those are the people I hope to become, and they are the ones I wish to thank … there is no doubt I have been changed by NMMI. I am a different person than when I came in, and I will never be the same. I hope and pray for the future of the school and I thank God for those people who believed in me when no one else did. If I could choose what to become, I want to be that person for someone else. I want to be the support they need to accomplish the impossible, because that is what I have done here.”
“I don’t come from a wealthy family and everything I have I have earned through hard work and dedication … the more significant aspect of my life here at NMMI is that I learned so much about myself that I would not have learned anywhere else. This school is great in bringing people together from all walks of life and allowing them to experience life through other people’s eyes.”
“FlameGuard” photo taken by Nelson Miller
“NMMI has made quite a few changes in my life … some good and some bad, but if I had the chance to decide whether or not to come here again, I would. … I have earned a commission … I have received outstanding training from the cadre at Dow Hall. … The training I have received from these professionals will be the backbone of my career in the Army.”
“Part of the reason why I wanted to come to NMMI was that my brother had graduated from the school. … my family also encouraged me to come to the school just to get a good education and get ahead in life … I found I can do things on my own … I have learned what it’s like to be on the top and on the bottom. A few years from now, I will look back and see that I chose a school that was not based upon partying and being wild. I think people will look at me as making a choice that was mature and respectable.”
“From that first semester as a RAT and new cadet, I learned a lot of things, from the value of teamwork to the pain and disappointment of losing a leader. I learned how to follow. NMMI has given me an opportunity to prove, both to myself and to others, that I can survive and even excel in a total military environment.”
“Friends Group” photo taken by Maj. Nelson Miller
“I know that I will be a much better and more well-rounded person for attending NMMI. When I first stepped on the campus of NMMI as a weak 14-year-old freshman, I had not a clue of how many different things I would experience in my four years here. I have grown physically … but my spiritual and personal growth are what I believe will get me through the next few years of college and the remainder of my life … I am much more mature and I do not hold many of the biases and prejudices that I had once held before entering NMMI. I have learned that nothing is just given to you, that you must work harder than the next person to succeed at NMMI. Before NMMI, I knew the difference between right and wrong, but NMMI has set in stone what was before set in clay … one of the greatest things about NMMI is that the standards for everything here are so high, a cadet like me has no choice but to meet them. In doing this, it has made me set high goals for myself in order to be a success in life.”
“This year I was a first sergeant … being in this leadership position gave me a lot of personal pride … I believe when I leave I will be ready for the real world.”
There were dozens more positive comments like these. At NMMI, cadets experience the holistic learning environment, both in the classroom and in the Corps. The opportunities to learn about life, values, motivation, commitment and excellence is evident at all levels. It is this opportunity to learn at a military school of the caliber of NMMI that is important for so many young people, which was eloquently expressed in many journal entries turned in by cadets.
NMMI is a jewel in the desert, a treasure hidden from much of the world by 90-mile stretches of highway and a desert best known for rattlesnakes and jackrabbits.
However, each year, hundreds of young people are launched from the Sally Port and travel to ports unknown. These young men and women carry within them jewels of great value — knowledge, honor, a sense of duty and a fire within them to do their best in all areas of their lives. These cadets are, first of all, what NMMI exists for, and second, they are our ambassadors. The successes of our cadets prove that it CAN be done — that high standards and high expectations can be maintained, and if held constant, will cause young people to want to meet those standards, and once met, will assist them to be all they can be.
What we are doing here at NMMI is not only important, it is vital — to the future well-being of our young people and ultimately our world.
This photo of NMMI Colts is titled “Over the Goal Line” by its photographer, Major Miller. The title seems a fitting finale to these articles about NMMI: Cadets who successfully completed their NMMI year(s) made hits over their goal-lines.
For more information about NMMI, access its website: http://www.nmmi.edu/