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Milton Hall: More than 70 years old and still going strong

Release Date: 23 Apr 2020
Milton Hall: More than 70 years old and still going strong

Before Milton Hall was home to the Journalism and Media Studies Department, the 70-plus-year-old building was the heart of the campus. Built in the 1940s, Milton Hall was the student union at New Mexico State University before Corbett Student Union Center was built in 1968. Instead of classrooms and computer labs, it had a dining hall, a ballroom, bookstore, barber and beauty shop, outdoor swimming pool, and even a bowling alley.

Lack of funding creates delays in completing Milton Hall

In May of 1942, construction began on the student union building through the Works Progress Administration. But, before construction could get far, the university’s Board of Regents was forced to shut down all WPA projects. It wasn’t until 1946, after facing many delays for lack of funding, that a deal was made to finish the building.

In May of 1947, Milton Hall was named after the university’s former president Hugh M. Milton. Later that year, Milton Hall opened its doors serving as a hub for all student activity outside the classroom. The building cost $394,304. In 1968, Corbett Student Union Center was built. Currently, Milton Hall is home to the Journalism and Media Studies Department, the Creative Media Institute, KRWG-TV, KRWG-FM, and other departments. In 2004, minor renovations were made to the first floor of the north end of the building.

Robert E. Merrell, a regional architect whose style focused on bringing structural beauty to his buildings, designed the new student union building. After opening his own office in Clovis, New Mexico, Merrell designed many buildings throughout the state. At NMSU, he also designed Rhodes and Garrett Halls.

A bronze sculpture of Milton is located in the grassy area in that small space between Domenici and Milton halls. It was created by NMSU alumnus Duke Sundt in 1986 and presented as a gift to the university by the United Council of Veterans of Dona Ana County.

In 2017, students in NMSU's Museum Conservation Program restored the bronze state of Hugh Milton in the grove near Milton Hall. (NMSU photo by Billy Huntsman)

About Hugh Megalone Milton II

Hugh M. Milton was born in Lexington, Kentucky in 1897. Milton would wear many leadership hats throughout his time at NMSU. After receiving his bachelors and masters in mechanical engineering from the University of Kentucky, Milton joined the engineering faculty at the New Mexico College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts in 1924.

Despite many personal hardships, from the death of his wife to the loss of his mentor Ralph Goddard in an electrocution accident, he served with honor as a professor, dean and president for more than 15 years. Milton is also credited with leading the college through arguably the most difficult period in its history, including a challenge to its accreditation. He became the dean of the College of Engineering in 1933 and president in 1938.

Milton’s Military Career

Despite his many academic duties, Milton maintained his role in the Army reserve throughout this period. When World War II broke out, he took a leave of absence from the university, re-entered active duty in the Army. He served as General Oscar Griswold’s XIV Corps Chief of Staff in the Pacific theater. Together, they led the defense of some of the most critical destructions of the Japanese fortresses, including spearheading an escape plan that liberated thousands of prisoners of war.

After World War II, he returned to the university in 1945 where he resumed his duties as its president for only two more years. He then resumed his career in the Army Reserve, and was promoted to Major General in 1951. Several years after that, President Eisenhower named him Assistant Secretary of the Army. In 1958, Milton was promoted to Under-Secretary of the Army, the second-highest-ranking civilian official of the Army. Milton retired from the military in 1961.

Hugh M. Milton joined the College of Engineering faculty in 1924. He became the dean of the engineering college in 1933 and university president in 1938.(Courtesy Photo)

Milton’s return to Las Cruces

After retirement, he moved back to Las Cruces where he became Vice President of the First National Bank of Dona Ana County, served on the boards of a wide variety of civic and charitable organizations and received many local and statewide awards, including the first Regents Medal given by New Mexico State University in 1972. Milton remarried and had two sons. He remained in Las Cruces for the rest of life. He passed away in 1987 at the age of 89.

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