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New Mexico Highlands' History

New Mexico Highlands' History

Nestled against the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, a chain of the Southern Rockies, is the historic city of Las Vegas, New Mexico, the home to New Mexico Highlands University, a state-supported institution offering bachelor and master degrees in a variety of disciplines.
With the arrival of the Santa Fe Railroad in the 1870s, civic leaders decided that this booming region needed an institution of higher education, and in 1893, the Territorial Legislature established New Mexico Normal School.
The school opened in 1898 under the guidance of a young educator and anthropologist, Dr. Edgar Lee Hewett, who was to take a prominent place in New Mexico history as founder of both the Museum of New Mexico and the Institute of American Archaeology in Santa Fe. From a charter class of 92 students and six faculty members, the institution quickly progressed and, in 1899, the name was changed from New Mexico Normal at Las Vegas to New Mexico Normal University. Because of expansions in academic offerings, the school was referred to in the New England Journal of Education as “one of the best normal schools in the country.”

By 1901, enrollment had surpassed 300. The growth of the institution increased with the admission of New Mexico into the Union in 1912, and in 1917 the school became a four-year teacher training college. Over the next decades accreditation was achieved, buildings were added and graduate work was introduced in several departments.
From its territorial beginnings, the school flourished with statehood and in 1941 was renamed New Mexico Highlands University, a name derived from is beautiful Northern New Mexico terrain.


Today, Highlands is known for its multiethnic student body, small classes, research activities, student and faculty achievements, and opportunities for students to combine study with real-world experience. Through distance education, Internet courses, and on-site faculty, Highlands also offers degree-completion and graduate programs in Rio Rancho, Santa Fe, Espanola, Farmington and Roswell.

Highlands' Presidents

Dr. Edgar Lee Hewett
Dr. E. J. Vert
Dr. W.E. Garrison
Dr. B.S. Gowen

Dr. Frank H. Roberts
Jonathon H. Wagner

Frank Carroon

Dr. H.C. Gossard

Edward Eyring

Dr. Thomas C. Donnelly
Dr. Charles J. Graham (interim)
May 19, 1970-July 30, 1970

Dr. Ralph Carlisle Smith        

Dr. Frank Angel

Dr. John Aragon

Dr. Gilbert Sanchez

Selimo Rael
1995 – 2001

Dr. James Fries (interim)
2001 – June 2002

Dr. Sharon Caballero

Manny Aragon
2004 – June 2006
Dr. Manuel Pacheco (interim)
July 2006 – January 2007

Dr. James Fries
January 2007 - present

Box 9000, Las Vegas, NM 87701      Facebook Twitter Youtube Portrait