University to honor educators

By Mickey Winfield: PNT Staff Writer

As Eastern New Mexico University prepares to celebrate its 2008 Homecoming this weekend, a group of eight educators is the first class of the university’s new Educators Hall of Honor.

Buck Wilson, founding member of the ENMU Foundation and former president, brought the idea to honor the educators forward — and ENMU Foundation members loved the idea.

“It’s been talked about for years, and it’s well overdue,” said Noelle Bartl, executive director of the ENMU Foundation.

Jimmie Fern Lees (B.A. in physical education and mathematics in 1952) is one of the first crop of honorees. Lees taught math and physical education at Portales High School for more than 31 years. She earned her master’s in mathematics at ENMU in 1961. She also was selected for the first Presidential Awards for Excellence in science and mathematics teaching.

“I love teaching mathematics,” Lees said. “I’m very honored and humbled. Eastern has turned out a great many really fine teachers and to be selected is just really special to me.”

“Everybody I talk to says that she was the best math teacher ever,” Bartl said.

Portales Municipal Schools Superintendent Randy Fowler also made the cut for the first class of honorees. Fowler (B.S. physical education and English in 1974) has received the New Mexico Superintendent of the Year and New Mexico Administrator of the Year awards in his career as a New Mexico educator and coach.

“I’ve been fortunate to work with a lot of great educators from Eastern New Mexico University in my career,” Fowler said. “I know that there’s probably a lot more people that were better candidates for this honor than me, but it’s very humbling.”

“The educators are the ones that are teaching all of us to go on with our careers and do great things,” Bartl added.

The inaugural class also includes William Hutsell Jr., Robert M. James, Joe Montgomery, Fernando Ramirez, Joe R. Moore and LaNelle Witt.
The group will be honored at a special gala to be held Saturday evening in the Campus Union Ballroom.

Bartl said there will be a permanent reminder of those educators honored in ENMU’s College of Education building on campus, complete with photos and names.

“When people go through the College of Education, they can enjoy the history and the heritage of what’s been going on there, and what will come,” Bartl said.

Fast Facts

What: ENMU Education Hall of Honors Gala

Where: ENMU Campus Union Ballroom

When: Saturday 6:30 p.m. Dinner served at 7 p.m.

How much: Free for honorees and guests, all others $15

For more info: Contact ENMU Foundation (888)291-5524