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NMMI grads ‘prepared to lead, prepared to serve’

Lisa Dunlap Photo High school graduates hug after receiving their diplomas Saturday morning. Kaitlyn Laux of Truth or Consequences, New Mexico is in the middle. Ashley Andrews of Roswell is at left and Patricia Ramos of Manila, Philippines, is on the right.

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A noted military historian and a former astronaut and U.S. senator helped inaugurate 150 New Mexico Military Institute cadets into the next stages of their lives by delivering the commencement addresses Saturday morning at two ceremonies in Pearson Auditorium.

Brig. Gen. Douglas Murray, NMMI chief academic officer, said that 173 high school and college students have graduated from the Institute this academic year, with 23 doing so in December. This spring commencement included 94 junior college students and 56 high school students from across the United States and many foreign nations. Among the junior college graduates this year were 15 who have received commissions to enter the military as second lieutenants, 13 in the spring and two in December.

Regardless of whether the cadets were entering the armed forces or not, Murray said that he considers them all to be commissioned to lead and to serve.

Dr. Kelly Jordan, the speaker at the high school ceremony, said he considered himself a lifelong associate with NMMI cadets, as a Virginia Military Institute alumnus who went on to graduate from the U.S. Army Airborne and Ranger schools. He also earned a master’s degree and doctorate from Ohio State University.

A combat veteran, Jordan has taught military history at several U.S. universities, including West Point and Notre Dame, and he now works with the American Military University.

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His speech drew on themes developed in “The Avengers” movies regarding the concept of superheroes. While characters can become superheroes in different ways, he said, what is essential to being a hero is to behave honorably. Without integrity and character, he said, superheroes are not heroes, but just people with super abilities.

“We come from the same type of honor tradition that requires us to live according to a strict code: no lying, cheating or stealing or tolerating those who do,” Jordan said, “and the expectation we now live with is that this honor code has become a permanent part of our being.”

The commencement speaker for the junior college ceremony peppered cadets with “moon” balls to encourage them to dream and used a jumper cable as a prop as he talked about the importance of preparation and remembering the fundamentals.

Dr. Harrison H. Schmitt, an Apollo 17 astronaut in 1972, grew up in Silver City, New Mexico, before earning degrees in science and geology from the California Institute of Technology and Harvard University. After working with the National Aeronautical and Space Administration, he served as one of New Mexico’s U.S. Senators from 1977 to 1983. He has been a university adjunct faculty member and has written a book about energy and space exploration. He also has created an endowed fund at NMMI.

Schmitt explained that a $10 set of jumper cables was part of the equipment aboard the Apollo as backup in case something went wrong with the hundreds of millions of dollars of technology on the lunar module.

“Make sure you always have jumper cables in life,” he said, adding that many people from generations before have achieved great things without the technology of today but by relying on their wits.

“You have now added to your wits with your education here at New Mexico Military Institute, wits and knowledge that will be used for the country you serve,” he said. “As Americans soar for a future on the moon and ultimately on Mars … it will be your generation that creates that future. It will be your generation that leads the way.”

Remarks were also given by NMMI leadership and by the valedictorians and salutatorians of each school. The high school valedictorian was Allen DeGroot of Dexter, who also earned honors and an associate’s degree from the junior college. The salutatorian was Danh Huu Nguyen of Ho Chi Minh, the Republic of Vietnam. The valedictorian of the junior college class was Davis Steelman of Bedford, Texas. The salutatorian was Weston Bennett of Huntington Beach, California.

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 310, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.


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Lisa Dunlap is a general assignment reporter for the Roswell Daily Record.