August 16, 2017

NMSU regents should keep Garrey Carruthers at the helm in troubled times


A photo of the Tays Center at the New Mexico State University-Alamogordo Campus. Photo via university website.

We and other legislators had hoped that the regents of New Mexico State University, in accepting the recently announced retirement of Chancellor Garrey Carruthers’ at the end of his contract next year, nonetheless would ask him to stay on for two more years. Chancellor Carruthers’ record of vision and leading the institution is outstanding, and big challenges lie ahead. The university needs him.

Senator John Arthur Smith (D-35-Doña Ana, Hidalgo, Luna, Sierra) is the Chair of the New Mexico Senate Finance Committee. Senator Steven P. Neville (R-2-San Juan) serves on the New Mexico Senate Finance Committee. Senator Mary Kay Papen (D- 38- Doña Ana) is the President Pro Tempore of the New Mexico Senate.

NMSU and all of our public universities in New Mexico today are facing extraordinary, difficult circumstances driven by state budget cuts and unstable state revenues. In his time leading New Mexico State, Chancellor Carruthers has made the hard decisions necessary to maintain this key institution, body and soul. His long, distinguished career demonstrates real commitment to the university, to New Mexico, and to his community.

Garrey Carruthers first set foot on the NMSU campus in 1959 as a student. He later went on to earn two degrees from NMSU and became a professor, dean and vice president. He is the only NMSU graduate ever to have served as the university’s president and chancellor.

Since he took the helm in 2013, NMSU initiated ambitious and successful programs to strengthen the university, including Aggie Development Incorporated in 2014. The corporation allows NMSU to better manage and develop its land, property and water assets. It also allows NMSU to operate more like a business in turning some of its assets into revenue streams for the university.

In 2014, NMSU partnered with the Burrell College of Osteopathic Medicine to create the state’s newest medical school on the NMSU campus. The public-private partnership benefits the health and well-being of people across New Mexico, and the region, by addressing the severe shortage of primary care physicians, especially among New Mexico’s underserved, rural populations. The Burrell College of Osteopathic Medicine is a freestanding, privately funded, separately licensed and independently operated entity. No taxpayer dollars go toward its operation. It admitted its first class in August 2016.

NMSU publicly launched its Ignite Aggie Discovery campaign earlier this year – the most ambitious campaign in NMSU history with a goal of raising more than $125 million in cash and pledges. To date, the campaign is more than 62 percent complete, having raised nearly $78 million. Those funds benefit students across the entire NMSU system, including each of the university’s community colleges. This past year the most successful fundraising year NMSU has had since the beginning of the campaign four years ago. NMSU was also able to raise more in cash and pledges in the past year than at any time in the past decade.

Garrey Carruthers helped establish NMSU’s economic development center, the Arrowhead Center, shortly after becoming dean in 2003. Today, Arrowhead is recognized as a leader in the region for fostering entrepreneurship, business incubation, economic analysis and other economic development activities.

He played a key role in working with retired Sen. Pete Domenici to establish the Domenici Institute at NMSU. The institute hosts an annual public policy conference when some of the best minds in the country meet to discuss important topics, such as national security, the federal budget, mental health and energy policy.

NMSU needs consistency and stability of leadership to come through the current financial challenges it now faces. The last thing we need is another administrator who views NMSU as a steppingstone to a bigger job, who has to learn about the university from scratch. We hope the regents would see the wisdom in keeping Chancellor Carruthers – who is extremely capable – at the helm for an additional two years.