By Karl Terry: PNT Managing Editorial
Oscar Robinson’s 40-year career in higher education administration came to an end this week with his retirement as Director of Personnel Services at Eastern New Mexico University but Portales likely hasn’t seen the last of his public service.
Friends, family and associates gathered Saturday to honor Robinson on his retirement after 22 years at ENMU. All agreed the university and the community is a better place because of his contributions. They were also breathing a sigh of relief at Robinson’s plans to stay in the community.
“I always thought Oscar did a really good job at the university,” said Gene Bergman, former vice president of Business Affairs at ENMU. “He helped a lot of people with a lot of things.”
It was Bergman, along with former president Bob Matheny, who were responsible for bringing Robinson to ENMU. Both said they were looking for a more professional and structured approach to the personnel office and believe they got it when they located Robinson.
“I’m proud of Oscar’s success,” Matheny said. “We need a lot more like him.”
Robinson was Associate Director of Personnel Services at California State-Long Beach before coming to ENMU. He had been looking for a director’s job and wanted it to be in a rural community closer to his hometowns of Dallas and Okmulgee, Okla.
He confides that athletics has been a big part of his life and that continues as he plans to remain as an assistant track coach at ENMU.
While majoring in Animal Husbandry at Langston University in Oklahoma, Robinson was a member of the track and field team which won the Oklahoma Collegiate Conference championship four times.
After graduation, he joined the Peace Corps and was sent to West Pakistan as an agricultural advisor. While there he placed second in the 400 meters in the 1964 national games in Lahore, Pakistan.
Among the things he says makes him proudest is his time coaching youth sports in Portales, particularly basketball.
“Watching those kids grow up … and then when I walk down the street and a kid says, ‘That’s my coach,’ it makes me proud,” Robinson said. “The young men I worked with will always stick with me.”
Other accomplishments include his election to Portales city council for two terms, during which the Portales Recreation Center got its start.
He also served on a variety of local and statewide boards, including the Cultural Affairs Committee in Portales and New Mexico’s Martin Luther King Jr. Commission.
In 2006 he was honored by the New Mexico Legislature for getting the U.S. Board of Geographic Names to change the racist name of a hill near Lingo in southeastern Roosevelt County to Buffalo Soldier Hill.
Sen. Stuart Ingle of Portales said he’s known Robinson since he first arrived and says the fact that a personnel director has stayed in one place for so long speaks for itself. He also believes community involvement has been the key to Robinson’s success.
“I think he was one of the best guys I ever saw with young kids,” Ingle said.