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NMMI celebrates first Class of 2020 graduates

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Jacob Michael Galvan, left, and Terrell Nishimori take the oath to become second lieutenants in the U.S. Army from Lt. Col. Aaron Johnson during Friday’s graduation ceremonies at the New Mexico Military Institute. Behind them on the stage are, from left, Maj. Gen. Jerry Grizzle, president and superintendent of NMMI; Lt. Gov. Howie Morales; Col. Timothy Paul, president of the NMMI Board of Regents; and Brig. Gen. Douglas Murray, chief academic officer. (Lisa Dunlap Photo)

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A diverse group of New Mexico Military Institute cadets from across the United States and seven foreign countries became the newest graduates of the school Friday during a commencement ceremony in Pearson Auditorium.

The “first contingent” of the Class of 2020, as Brig. Gen. Douglas Murray described them, included three high school graduates and 20 junior college students. Two cadets also received their commissions as second lieutenants in the U.S. Army. Most of the remaining members of the class will graduate in the summer.

“What each of you have done at NMMI will be part of all of your lives forever,” Murray said, “and you will leave a legacy at NMMI as well. It is not the end of your learning— and particularly for the junior college cadets – it is not even the beginning of that learning. It is rather significantly a foundation for a lifetime of learning and discovery in which you will use what you have learned, experienced and done here to become a leader among your generation, whether in the corporate world, education, government or, most significantly, where leadership is needed in the world today, the family.”

Lt. Gov. Howie Morales gave the commencement address to the class. He implored cadets to serve others, to remember what they have gained at NMMI and in New Mexico, and to remain humble — aware that they could not have achieved what they did without the help of many other people.

Morales is the first in his family to attend college and now holds a doctoral degree in education from New Mexico State University. Public education reform and improvement have been among his top priorities while in government, first as a state senator and, since January 2019, as lieutenant governor.

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He told cadets about his deep appreciation for how education can make a life better, and said he recognized that NMMI graduates have benefited from an education of the “whole person,” one that addressed their mental, physical, spiritual and social lives.

He also said service to others is the most important endeavor in life and that “winning” means doing your best while also treating those around you with respect.

He asked cadets to use their education to benefit New Mexico and help it solve its challenges, either by remaining in the state or returning later to contribute their expertise and experience.

“You should be so excited about the possibilities right now,” he said, “but never forget the lessons that you learned here and especially never forget where you come from.”

He also told them that, while love for others might never be discussed during their professional training, it is essential.

“The most important and the most powerful thing that we can always keep in our mind is to recognize that to show love, kindness and compassion is the most powerful thing we can do on this earth,” he said. “And it is our responsibility to do so, especially at a time when there is a lot of contention and when we recognize the educational opportunities and the journey and what you have learned are all connected to being a wonderful, involved human being. … I can tell you from experience that the reason I stand here today is the ability to show love, kindness and compassion and the willingness to accept that from those around me and to recognize that we are all in this together.”

Following his address, Morales and others presented diplomas to young men and women from Roswell and several other New Mexico cities as well as from Oregon, Hawaii, Texas, Georgia, Florida, American Samoa, Nigeria, Austria, Tanzania, Canada, Zambia and Fiji.

Lt. Col. Aaron Johnson then administered the oath of office to Jacob Galvan and Terrell Nishimori as they became officers in the U.S. Army.

Their bars were pinned on by friends and family, and they accepted their first salute from an enlisted member of the Army. Galvan had his bars affixed by Sgt. 1st Class Jose Corral, who also gave him his first salute. For Nishimori, the bars were affixed by his mother and father, while the salute came from his grandfather, a former Army specialist.

Galvan will continue his studies at the University of North Texas and be assigned to the Texas National Guard. Nishimori will attend Norwich University in Vermont and serve with the Army Reserves.

Lt. Col. Jonathan Graff, commandant of cadets, told the new graduates that the habits they practice will determine their character and the tools they will rely on in times of trouble and stress.

“Continue to develop the habits that you have developed here, exercise them regularly,” he said. “Continue to grow stronger in them.”

The ceremony ended with the Institute tradition as graduates, faculty, cadets and family and friends sang “Old Post”: “No matter where we go, old friends, Old Post, place we love most, in you our hearts will grow.”