Graduation guest speaker stresses importance of higher education

By Clarence Plank: PNT staff writer

Tradition took center stage in graduation ceremonies Saturday at Eastern New Mexico University.

More than 360 students receiving degrees heard guest speaker and former ENMU President Robert Matheny explain how families are beginning to establish traditions of higher education at the university.

“Many of these students have come from New Mexico families and the university gave them an opportunity that they might not have had,” Matheny said.

Matheny said it only takes a generation to start a new family commitment of pursuing higher education and aspirations for a better life.

Christina Martinez is the first step in a generation establishing those traditions.

Martinez graduated Friday from New Mexico Highlands University in Las Vegas. N.M., with a master’s degree in social work. Her daughter, Rachelle Urban, also graduated from New Mexico Highlands and her son, Richard Urban II, graduated from ENMU on Saturday.

“Our family a generation back (felt) college was not a place to be,” Martinez said, noting her college experience changed it all.

“When I went to college after I got out of high school, I decided that when I had children I wanted them to go because it is a great experience. It helps you to grow and teaches you about the world.”

Added Rachelle, “I think it is awesome that we all got to graduate together by helping each other to learn and to grow. “It is one big accomplishment for all of us. I’m very proud of my mom because we’re both going into social work together. She can help me and I can help her at the same time.”

Rachelle graduated May 8 from NMHU with a bachelor’s degree in social work and her brother, Richard, graduated from Eastern with a bachelor’s degree in history.

“They were required to go to college,” Martinez said. “There was no — are you going to college? It was…you are going to college.”