A lot has changed in the past 100 years since the roaring 1920s. 

The end of the first World War, the ratification of the 19th Amendment and the tuberculosis pandemic all culminated at the turn of the 20th century — and the University of New Mexico was no stranger to these growing pains.

From a birds-eye lens, UNM’s governance landscape was not too far off from today — there were budget shortages, transplant leadership, constant construction, and athletic funding issues. However, only focusing on the similarities would be to erase the changes the University has made over the past century. 



Enrollment is — and likely always will be — a major focus of discussion surrounding the health of a university. If we look back to our 20th-century roots, we can see that UNM has historically attracted local New Mexicans seeking an accessible education. 

According to University Archivist Portia Vescio, UNM had just over 350 students enrolled 100 years ago. Today, that number sits at about 18,800 full-time students. 

With a growing population comes a new range of challenges, from funding to leadership to vision. In 1919, the man chosen to reshape UNM and lead the University into a new decade was Tennessee-born teacher David Spence Hill.

A tale of two presidents

Come 1920, UNM had only been up and running for just under three decades and the governance of the new University is evident of that according to Vescio. 

“This was a time where the regents in the early University had a hard time finding presidents — they didn’t know what they were looking for,” Vescio said. “They were more businessmen, they didn’t necessarily have academic backgrounds, so they didn’t know what made a good president of a University.”

Hill was appointed as President of UNM in 1919 and served until 1927 when he resigned.  

“The most common thing I think was said about Hill was that he had an 1890s mentality in the 1920s.” Vescio said. 

According to Vescio, the most notable difference between President Hill and current UNM President Garnett Stokes is their experience coming into the position, adding that Stokes has done a much better job leading the University than Hill. 

“She did have administrative experience when she was coming in, and so she had a better handle of what problems to expect,” Vescio said. “I think she’s also done a really good job at listening to the faculty and staff and students and getting their opinions on what’s going on and what is needed — and that is something that Hill flat out refused to do.”

In 1920, eight faculty members resigned under President Hill after disagreeing with some of his policies, such as requiring all teaching faculty to carry graduate degrees according to Vescio. 

“To Hill, they were just replaceable, so he replaced them,” Vescio said. “He accused his faculty of inflating grades to make students look better, he cut paid salaries because we were having budget issues then.” 

Although Hill was not popular among University faculty, he worked to grow the engineering program, even opening a new engineering and math building in early 1920. 

“I would say he did a lot of good things for academics, but his weakness was he really just couldn’t work well with other people,” Vescio said.

Making of a mascot

Although the Lobo mascot is a major symbol of UNM and can be found represented on campus from statues to the name of this newspaper, the New Mexican wolf hasn’t always been the mascot of the University. 

It was not until October 1920 that the Lobo was officially named UNM’s mascot through the UNM Weekly, the predecessor to the Daily Lobo

“In this wild west, we must have a name fitting to our surroundings,” the announcement stated. “The terror of the mountains and the prairie, the king of all the western lands is that feared and hated animal — the LOBO.” 

A real-life Lobo was donated to UNM by University alumnus Bruno Dieckmann in 1921 and was paraded before home games. 

An October 1921 issue of the UNM Weekly said that “while (the new live mascot) is of the man-killing variety, it will get along well with those of its kind.” The article also stated that it was unclear where the alumnus obtained the animal. 

Lobo Louie replaced the live wolf shortly after the animal bit a child who teased it less than a decade after obtaining the animal. Louie’s companion, Lobo Lucy, began accompanying the iconic mascot at University events in the 1980s. 

Beauty queens with a curfew

Regulations applying solely to female college students may seem unheard of in the present day, but it was commonplace at many universities up until the mid-20th century and UNM was no exception. 

With President Hill came the implementation of new rules for women attending UNM in 1920. Rules for women in 1920 included not being able to leave the city without the permission of the women’s general supervisor, not going downtown at night without an approved chaperone, and not loitering outside of fraternities.

“It seems to be that what they tried to do to make parents feel safe so that they would send their daughters to school,” Vescio said. “They’d kind of regulate the girls’ behavior to try to minimize the amount of trouble they could get into.”

The first set of regulations, presented by President Hill, was approved by the Board of Regents in October 1920. 

Also in 1920, the Mirage yearbook launched a poll to find out the most popular woman and the prettiest woman on campus, named the UNM Vanity Fair Contest. Mirage staff implemented the contest in order to increase yearbook sales and their yearly capital— only buyers could cast a vote. 

The winners were announced in the 1920 edition of the Mirage yearbook — June Spruce was named the fairest at UNM and athlete Dorothy Stevensen named the most popular. 

Vescio added that women have always been present on the UNM campus and that one of the early classes was comprised entirely of women. 

Makayla Grijalva is the managing editor of the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at managing@dailylobo.com or on Twitter @MakaylaElisboria

Alyssa Martinez is a beat reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at news@dailylobo.com or on Twitter at @amart447