In 1889, the Legislative Assembly of the Territory of New Mexico passed a bill to create UNM. Three years later, the school opened its first building, Hodgin Hall, to a class of 108 students, said UNM Alumni Association Director Karen Abraham.
After 125 years, UNM has expanded its campus to 769 acres and has an enrollment of 22,773 undergraduate students, according to a U.S. News ranking.
“I think what’s incredible is that (UNM) has not only survived, but it’s thrived and it’s changed people’s lives,” she said.
On Friday night, a crowd gathered outside of Hodgin Hall to celebrate UNM’s 125th birthday. The Alumni Association began planning the celebration event back in November, Abraham said, and the organization had since contacted a variety of people to notify them about the event, including students, alumni and prominent members of the University community. Abraham said she considered the celebration to be a success because of the turnout.
“It’s a wonderful mix of people who care about the University and are celebrating,” she said.
Attendees of the event also celebrated the achievements they witnessed UNM attain during their time with the University. UNM Alumni Association President Randy Royster said the institution has been successful in its engagement with the community.
“I think that every year, we see a higher level of engagement of students, of alumni, of community supporters,” he said. “We see constantly more of a collaborative effort between the University community and the community of Albuquerque at large.”
UNM alumnus Russ Rhoades, who graduated in 1966, said that the quality of many of the programs at UNM has expanded and improved since he graduated.
“We’ve come a long, long, long way since I was here,” he said. “And I’m proud of that.”
The celebration also included students who came to celebrate their school. Jeremiah Henderson, a senior studying elementary education, said he came to celebrate UNM’s birthday because the institution is a big part of his life. He said his experience at the University has been a positive one.
“The more I stayed with it, the more I loved UNM,” he said. “It’s been a really great college experience.”
Henderson said he hopes to stay connected and celebrate more anniversaries in the future.
“I’d definitely love to come back to be an active alum at UNM,” he said.
Abraham said there will be another celebration of UNM’s 125th birthday in September, during homecoming. She said during the upcoming year, there will be other anniversaries to celebrate as well, such as UNM Hospital’s 50th birthday and the Art Museum’s 50th birthday.
“As you celebrate all of these things, it gives you an opportunity to reflect back and plan for the future,” she said.