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NMSU’s oldest academic building is 113 years old

Release Date: 08 Apr 2020
NMSU’s oldest academic building is 113 years old

It may not look it, but the Honors College is the oldest academic building on the New Mexico State University campus. Contractors set the cornerstone for the building on Jan. 7, 1907, for the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA). NMSU bought the facility in 1964. It was used by the music department from 1929 to 1965 and then until 1982, was used by the Air Force ROTC program. The building was vacant until 2002, when, after extensive renovation, it reopened as New Mexico’s first Honors College, named for William B. Conroy. The building was placed on the State of New Mexico Cultural Properties register in 1983 and on the National Register of Historic Places in 1988.

About William B. Conroy

Conroy, a former NMSU President who retired in 2000, came to the university as executive vice president in 1985 and served in that position until 1997. During 1994 and 1995 he also served as interim president and in May 1997, he became the 19th president of the university. Conroy was a strong supporter of the Honors Program including the renovation of this historic building. In December 1999, the university's Board of Regents unanimously voted to name the Honors Center for Conroy.

Honors College Design

Designed by noted Southwestern architect Henry C. Trost, in a style he called "Spanish Renaissance," the building was the first in a campus plan that called for buildings located around a horseshoe.

Trost moved to El Paso in 1903 and established, with his brother Gustavus Adolphus Trost, the architectural firm of Trost & Trost, a partnership that dominated the architectural scene of New Mexico, Arizona and west Texas for three decades. Trost's style was eclectic, but his blending of modern currents with Mission Revival style gave his buildings a unique character.

The building was placed on the State of New Mexico Cultural Properties register in 1983 and on the National Register of Historic Places in 1988. The Dona Ana County Historical Society selected the building for its 1997 "Building Most Worthy of Preservation" award.

Grants from the New Mexico Historic Preservation Division and the National Trust for Historic Preservation enabled the university to complete detailed studies of the building, including a Historic Structure Report.

Honors College Renovation

The building is located on the northwest corner of the Horseshoe. As the first Trost-designed building on the campus, its basic design became the stylistic model for Trost's later campus buildings.

The building renovation cost $1.8 million. More than 50 percent of the funds were from private donations including major gifts from Elsie Carr and the estate of M. Eugene and Ruthe Irma Sundt. At 9,468 square feet, the Honors College includes offices, a commons area, seminar rooms and an art exhibit area. The building preservation was conducted in keeping with the Secretary of the Interior's Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties. In giving the building a face-lift, designers maintained its unique windows and hipped roof with its terra cotta tile.

Over the entrance to the building is a replica of the original Y.M.C.A. insignia, which reads “Mind, Body, Spirit.” The replica was made from a mold of the original, principally because the terra cotta insignia was crumbling too badly to be saved.

The project also presented an opportunity to introduce students to historic preservation methods. Students from both NMSU’s Public History Program and Engineering Technology completed activities related to the preservation.

Honors College Education

The Honors Program provides undergraduate students with opportunities to broaden their academic experience. In small classes taught by master teachers, honors students engage in lively discussion and collaborative investigation of interdisciplinary topics and themes. About 900 students enroll in honors courses each year. The program oversees Crimson Scholars and sponsors the University Fellowships Office and the University Speakers Series

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