Eyes filled with tears Saturday morning in Eastern New Mexico University’s Campus Union Building Ballroom as university alumni and educators were honored for their years of accomplishments.
“I feel very, very humbled,” said Barbara George, an ENMU alumna and one of five local educators who were placed into the Educator’s Hall of Honor this year. “It was just a thrill and an honor and the people who are going in with me, like Dick Walsh, I’ve known for a long time, and to be in the same caliber with those kind of people is very humbling.”
George taught at Portales High School for 25 years and was the only coach to achieve both an athletic and academic state championship.
Ralph Sigala, one of two who received the Outstanding Alumni Award, choked back emotion as he thanked his wife and all of his ENMU family and friends.
“Without the camaraderie of special people, I would not have made it through so well,” Sigala said. “I arrived at ENMU as a teenager; I left as a confident young man.”
Sigala served more than 20 years in educational systems in Albuquerque.
The 36th annual ENMU Foundation Breakfast is held during homecoming each year to honor those who have given great personal or financial support to the university, but also to honor those who have accomplished great things with their degrees, according to Noelle Bartl, executive director of ENMU Foundation, a non-profit organization devoted to bringing in support for the university.
“The breakfast is about us thanking all of our supporters, not just the honorees,” Bartl said. “We just want to be able to say thank you to everyone who supports the university in their own way.”
Volunteer of the Year Robin Wells said she wanted to accept her award not only on her own behalf, but on behalf of others who have worked to support ENMU.
“There are so many who help others and Eastern behind the scenes,” Wells said. “Even an hour of your time of doing what you can do has an impact on your community, and it makes you feel like you have played a part.”
Wells has given more than 300 hours of volunteer time to the KENW station at ENMU.
ENMU graduates of 1961 were also honored at this year’s homecoming with the 50th class reunion and many other homecoming activities.
“I just really wanted to see some of the people I graduated with because I haven’t been back here in so long,” said alumni Ed Hall, of Wisconsin, who hasn’t been through Portales in 30 years. “We’ve talked a lot about the people who aren’t here that we were good friends with and old professors.”
ENMU President Steven Gamble said homecoming’s main purpose is for ENMU to show their pride in their past and present students and all of those who have showed support to both.
“They’ve done great things in this world and impacted people’s lives,” Gamble said of alumni. “We’re proud of each and every one of our graduates.”