ENMU officials remember former president

PNT Staff Report

Officials at Eastern New Mexico University say the institution’s third president will be remembered for overseeing a critical period of growth.
Donald C. Moyer, ENMU president from 1960-65, died April 3 in Nevada. Services were held in Henderson, Nev., according to an ENMU press release.

“ENMU is a strong university today because of previous presidents like Dr. Moyer. His leadership during a period of substantial growth was vital to the development of the school. Dr. Moyer is remembered as one of the positive forces in Eastern’s history,” said Steven Gamble, current ENMU president.

Moyer, born April 6, 1919, was hired in 1957 by New Mexico as chancellor and executive secretary of the newly formed Board of Educational Finance (now the Board of Higher Education). In 1960, he became president of Eastern.

Under his leadership, Eastern substantially increased in enrollment and several buildings were constructed, including two high-rise dormitories. He was also the driving force for building a new football stadium between Clovis and Portales, as well as beginning the construction of a new state-of-the-art basketball arena, according to the release.

“He set very high academic standards,” said Robert Matheny, a former ENMU president who was an ENMU student during that time. “He oversaw a rapid development of the campus, including an almost doubling of enrollment. He represented Eastern extremely well, and did a great job of reaching out to students. The students also had a great respect for him. He was calm and laid-back, but had a fire inside.”

Moyer, who grew up in Decatur, Ill., and received a doctorate from the University of Chicago, left ENMU to become chancellor of Nevada Southern University. During his term, the university was reorganized and became the University of Nevada at Las Vegas (UNLV) in 1968.

“He was a heck of a personality and a great leader,” said Marshall Stinnett, an ENMU regent who was the editor of the Portales News-Tribune during his tenure. Eastern experienced tremendous growth under him. He had a vision for the University, and saw it through.”

Following his death, Nevada Senator Harry Reid credited Moyer’s vision for the respect it enjoys. He said Moyer started the hotel administration program there and created the first on-campus housing facility.

Bill Terry, a Las Vegas defense attorney who served as UNLV’s student body president in 1968, said in a Las Vegas Review-Journal article that Moyer was among the key players whose courage and persistence helped break University of Nevada-Reno’s monopoly on higher education in Nevada.

Terry said Moyer was labeled a rebel, along with students, community leaders and others who at the time wanted for Las Vegas what Reno had: a decent university.

“That’s how the Rebels got their name,” Terry said of the university’s mascot. “We rebelled against the northern domination.”

According to the article, Moyer was paid $20,000 a year for his work as UNLV’s first chief executive. That was enough to have a home with a pool in downtown Las Vegas, where he and his wife, Jewel, would entertain university supporters and plot strategies to funnel more higher education dollars to Southern Nevada.

After he left UNLV, Moyer became executive director of Planning and Institutional Studies for the University of Alaska.