ENMU to honor alumni during homecoming

Dawn Wolf-Taylor

The Eastern New Mexico University Alumni Association will present its annual alumni awards at the 36th annual ENMU Foundation Breakfast Oct. 8 during homecoming.

Each year, after receiving nominations from Eastern graduates and friends of the University, the ENMU Alumni Association selects recipients for two special awards, Outstanding Alumni and Distinguished Service. These awards have been given annually since 1966.

Two ENMU graduates, Ralph Sigala and Gary Bratcher, were chosen to receive the 2011 Outstanding Alumni award.

Sigala, a native New Mexican and first-generation college graduate in his family, earned a BA in psychology and speech pathology and a minor in Spanish at ENMU in 1965. He earned an MA in psychology and personnel services in 1969 from ENMU and began his career that same year as a counseling psychologist at California State University – Fresno.

Returning to his home state in 1974, Sigala earned a doctoral degree in guidance and counseling from University of New Mexico and was employed there in both faculty and administrative roles, including assistant dean of students. He served as director of the UNM – Valencia campus until 1994.

In 1981 Sigala was elected to a six-year term on the Albuquerque Public Schools Board of Education and served as president of that board. Sigala has served on many other civic and educational boards, including the Hispanic Association of College and Universities and United Way.

Sigala was newly married during his graduate years at Eastern, and his first child was born during this time. He fondly remembers pulling the first-place winning Newman Club homecoming float with his 1957 Mercury in his freshman year at ENMU.

Native New Mexican Gary Bratcher was one of the first students at ENMU to graduate with a BBA in the newly-created agribusiness degree program in 1968, and earned an MBA from Eastern in 1969.

He was recruited by the United Fruit Company through the ENMU Placement Bureau and relocated with his family to Central America as an agricultural trainee in the banana industry right after graduation.

Bratcher accepted the position of general manager for the Del Monte Banana Company operations in the Philippines in 1982 and also served as president and CEO of Fresh Del Monte Produce.

Upon his retirement in 1994, Bratcher and his family moved back to New Mexico. He was appointed cabinet secretary for Economic Development in 1995 by Governor Gary Johnson and served three years. He was a member and chairman of multiple organizations throughout his time in New Mexico, including interim CEO of the New Mexico Lottery and executive director of the Valles Caldera Trust and National Preserve.

Bratcher and his college sweetheart and wife of 43 years, Janette Ann (Machura) Bratcher, currently reside in Texas, where they are closer to their children and grandchildren.

Of his college days, he said, “Agriculturally speaking, I learned that there was something less desirable than chopping cotton” when he was tasked with counting all the peanuts turned up in a 100-foot row as part of one of his agriculture classes at ENMU.

The ENMU Alumni Association also gives an award annually for Distinguished Service to the University. This year’s recipient is Thurman Elder.

Elder received a BS and an MA in mathematics from Eastern and did additional graduate work in mathematics at the University of Colorado before earning a Ph.D. in mathematics at Texas Tech University.

He began his long and distinguished 37-year career at ENMU as an assistant professor of mathematics and served as chair of the Department of Mathematical Sciences from 1981 to 1997.

Elder was a member of the ENMU Faculty Senate and the Athletic, Computer and Curriculum Committees, to name just a few. His research was published in professional journals that include the Journal of Numerical Analysis and the Journal of Mathematical Analysis and Applications.

Elder represented ENMU as a faculty representative in the Lone Star Conference and the NCAA and was inducted into the ENMU Athletics Hall of Honor in the Support Category in 2004. He served as dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences for nine years as well as being the interim dean of the College of Business.

He received the Distinguished Faculty Emeritus Award in 2009 and continues to serve ENMU on the Bench Club and ENMU Foundation boards.

Elder recalled that his high school counselor directed him toward an engineering school, but he transferred after one year to ENMU. One calculus/differential equations class at the engineering school convinced him he was right where he was supposed to be at ENMU.