Robert Frank will be inaugurated on Sunday as the 21st president of UNM.
Frank’s inauguration ceremony will take place along with the unveiling of a giant U in front of Hodgin Hall.
Michelle McRuiz, managing editor of the UNM Alumni Association’s magazine “Mirage,” said the statue was a gift from the association in an effort to strengthen campus pride.
McRuiz said the last U-shaped statue stood atop Hodgin Hall and was erected in 1922 by then-President David Hall. She said the previous statue was 10 feet tall and illuminated every time UNM won a football game.
But McRuiz said the University took the statue down in the mid-1930s and that the lighting of the statue on Sunday will mark the return of a University tradition that has long been absent.
“This U really represents the collective pride of our students, staff and alumni,” she said. “UNM is a school of traditions, and we feel like it’s important to honor those traditions and start new ones.”
She said the association originally planned to situate the statue on top of Hodgin Hall again, but the Federal Aviation Administration told the association not to, because it would make it more difficult for pilots to land at the Albuquerque Sunport.
“We’re relatively close to the airport, and those strong lights on top the building do not make the FAA happy,” she said. “It would be a safety concern.”
She said that although the University plans to keep the U unlit during the daytime, the University intends to illuminate the statue at night throughout the year. She also said the U’s color will change from white to red for special occasions, such as when the Lobos win football games or during Homecoming Week.
“It’s a great honor to be able to unveil and light this U the day of his inauguration because he’s a three-time alum of UNM,” she said, referring to Frank. “We’re very excited to have a Lobo back on campus leading the University.”
Frank, who received his bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees at UNM, said he is excited for his inauguration, and that he is thrilled that he is back in New Mexico. He said he is honored to serve as president of the University.
“I am a proud graduate of UNM and it is a tremendous honor to be back home in New Mexico, serving as president here,” he said. “I know how extraordinary this University is. I knew it as a student, and I know it today.”
Frank said that because he owes his presidency to his education at UNM, he promises to focus on improving academics during his term.
“UNM gave me a quality education that enabled me to compete nationally with the best and brightest,” he said. “I want to dedicate my tenure as UNM president to making sure that all of our students have the same opportunity to realize their dreams.”
Frank said he thanks the Alumni Association for rebuilding the statue.
“Thank you to all the alumni who helped bring our U back,” he said. “Though the U was first associated with athletics, I see it as a symbol of all things Lobo.”
Schedule of Events
Unveiling of the alumni U
Plaza in front of Hodgin Hall
All events are open to the public