Eastern New Mexico University President Steven Gamble said he was expecting big things from the 484 graduates who walked the stage at Greyhound Arena Saturday.
“We’ve given them the educational preparation to compete with the graduates of any other school,” Gamble said. “I feel certain that this graduating class will produce doctors, civic leaders in their communities and leaders in education for at least the eastern part of the state and probably all of New Mexico.”
Daniela Garcia, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Spanish, was the first in her family to graduate from college.
“I’m excited,” said Garcia, as she waited to walk out into the arena. “It’s been a long wait.”
Her mother, Alice Ramirez, said the entire family was excited and proud to see Garcia graduate and she knew Garcia’s father, who is now deceased, would be, too.
“This is what he wanted for her from the time she was born was to go to school and get an education,” Ramirez said. “I want her to be able to succeed in whatever she chooses to do. I want her to be able to do everything I wasn’t able to do.”
Carol Erwin, assistant professor of English, was presented the Presidential Award for Excellence in Teaching at the beginning of commencement ceremonies.
One graduating student, Jordan Mitchell, who earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, said Erwin had a big impact on him during his college career.
“She’s remarkable. She was one of the professors who didn’t grade on a curve. Her standards were her standards,” Mitchell said. “My papers would come back covered in blood red (ink) but I learned so much. She inspired me to be better.”
Erwin said she felt honored to receive the award, voted on by students and her peers, because ENMU has many great faculty members who also deserve recognition.
“I’ve learned a lot from other faculty here and that has really made me a better teacher,” Erwin said. “It’s really nice to be recognized for something I have such a passion for.”
Sen. Tom Udall, commencement speaker for the event, gave the graduating class four pieces of advice: Find a way to give back; practice perseverance; be kind to yourself; and be kind to each other.
“Achieving the economy of tomorrow — where every American can grasp his or her own piece of the American dream — won’t be accomplished by tearing each other down,” Udall said. “It will be done by building one another up. So as you begin making your way in the world, respect differences of opinion, build upon shared beliefs, set aside cynicism… most of all, be kind to one another.”