UNM 125: The ancient history of the University
'When students went to school for an education'
Printed December 10, 1926
In 1889 the Assembly of the Territory of New Mexico passed an act establishing this University. Judge Rodey was the author of the bill, and because of a movement to have the University built on the banks of the Rio Grande, he specified the location in his bill. At this time Albuquerque was a town of 8,000 people.
A pamphlet of 15 pages issued in 1892 announcing the University and offering Foreign Languages, English, Elocution, Penmanship, Mathematics, Natural Sciences, and Civics. This was our first catalogue. But there were few people in New Mexico eligible for a university course and so a preparatory school was formed to produce men for the University.
Sixty-five students started to school in 1892 and by 1901 the enrollment had reached 140. No tuition was charged to the residents in the territory of New Mexico, and the students boarded with private families in Albuquerque. In 1902 the students, tired of the private family life, demanded dormitories and until suitable buildings could be erected the men lived in rooms in the Administration Building and the girls in the Ladies’ Cottage. The present Dining Hall was built and it was used as the Ladies’ Cottage and the Dining Hall then.
It was a gay campus that met the eyes of these students. Only two trees stood between the Administration building and the Sandias. The present Administration Building was one of the original; it has been enlarged by the adding of the south wing and Rodey Hall, and remodeled into the pueblo architecture. In President Tight’s administration, from 1901-1909, all the buildings on the campus were remodeled into this style. The roof on the Administration Building was taken off, and the arch windows made square. The dormitories were erected at this time. The girls’ dormitory was named “Hokona,” meaning virgin butterfly, and the boys’ dormitory “Wataka,” meaning male eagle. These names were derived from the language of the Taos Indians.
Beginnings of Student Activities
The first student publication, a monthly, appeared in 1898; it was called the “Mirage.” This name was later changed to the “UNM Weekly,” and finally the “Lobo.” The first annual was published in 1898; this was also called the “Mirage.”
The study body and the Engineer’s Society was organized in 1908. Two literary societies were started in 1898.
The following article on school spirit, which was printed in the first paper, illustrates that the students were eager to advertise their school, even then:
“One of the most disparaging things that can be said of a student body is that it has no spirit. This has been said of the students of our university. We deny the accusation, and in defense would point to the artistic application of beautiful red paint which adorns the fences and sidewalks of Albuquerque.”
Apparently, the girls started athletics at the U. In the first paper this seems quite discouraging: “The students are not very enthusiastic on the question of athletics.” There was some interest taken in bicycle and potato races, but the first big athletic thrill came on December 27, 1898, when “our champions,” as the Mirage called them, beat the Agricultural team in the first game of girls’ basketball. The team was organized after the challenge was received, but “our girls played a steady, winning game, characterized by brilliant individual work,” and won by a score of 4 to 2. At once interest began to pick up; another team of girls was organized, and a regular basketball court was laid off by the surveying class.
In February, 1899, the boys tried their hand at basketball, but decided that they were better at dumb-bells and Indian clubs. The girls now “have varied their exercise by taking walks with their teacher, and these prove very restful.”
This same month at a meeting of the Athletic Association, there was a demand for football by two of the boys, but it was decided to be too late in the season to buy a football. The association, however, did agree to the purchase of a bat, and a baseball team was organized. In May the boys won their first baseball game against the High School and Gross Military Institute by a score of 18-9.
The first record of a football team is found in the old Mirage of November, 1901. “The Varsity men lined up against the Vegas Normalites on November 16.” They were beaten in this game which was played at Vegas, but all seemed to enjoy the trip. The next game was with the Indians, several of the Varsity men being knocked out, but winning by a score of 11 to 7. After this victory a reception was given in honor of the football men. “Several exciting games were played, and Virginia reel was unwound, to the great enjoyment of all the participants.”
On January 7, 1902, the first game of basketball was won by the University men in a game with Albuquerque High. The score was 6 to 3. The game was given a fine writeup in the old Mirage: “The playing on both sides was fierce, but the High School became desperate when they saw the advantage of their opponents. So anxious were they to win that several rough plays were made, which if it did show their knowledge of football was entirely out of place in the game and counted against them in fouls. The Varsity boys caught and passed the ball remarkably and did some of the most scientific playing ever seen. Foul after foul was made by both sides; on the High School for holding the ball, on the Varsity for carry-overs. So eager were all in the game that many fouls were uncalled by the umpires.”
This sketch is of the beginning of the old UNM. It attempts to show life as it was in the good old days on the hill. Undoubtedly, our University has progressed, but has our human nature?