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NMMI selects its new commandant

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A retired Army officer with 27 years of active duty who also has served many years as a top administrator at military schools has been named the new commandant and dean of students at New Mexico Military Institute.

Col. Thomas L. Tate (Submitted Photo)

Col. Thomas L. Tate is expected to begin his work by mid-November.

Maj. Gen. Jerry Grizzle, NMMI president and superintendent, announced the appointment Friday evening and said that Tate is known for his achievements as a soldier-scholar.

“He has proven again and again his ability to lead large, complex enterprises, mastering many different responsibilities and missions in varied military and academic environments and circumstances,” Grizzle said. “He is a proven capable leader of impeccable ethical and moral values. He will be a superb role model for our cadets and employees.”

Tate most recently served at Howe Military Academy in Howe, Indiana, starting as commandant in 2016 and then becoming president of the private college preparatory school. His work there ended in summer 2019.

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Prior to that, he was at Marion Military Institute, a public military junior college, in Marion, Alabama, joining in 2008 as its commandant and also serving as director of its Center for Leadership and Career Development.

Before his decade of work with military schools, he served as an officer with the U.S. Army in many capacities. He commanded units and battalions in Central and South America, the Persian Gulf, Europe, the Horn of Africa and the Pacific Rim. As the commander of a joint special operations task force, he was responsible for Army operations in the Horn of Africa, Yemen and the Swahili coast. He also served as a professor of military science at the Florida Institute of Technology.

Tate said that he thinks the NMMI position provides a good opportunity to continue to serve young people.

“I am a strong believer in military education and the holistic approach that the military model provides,” he said. “New Mexico Military Institute is a superb institution and a superb institution to advance that model.”

The commandant is responsible for cadet mentoring, morale, discipline and leadership training. NMMI, considered a specialty school that receives state funding, currently has about 800 high school and junior college cadets enrolled.

Tate will be arriving as cadets are dealing with the effects of the pandemic on their fall semester, which has restricted vistors to campus, moved some instruction online and required other changes to corps training. Most cadets have been in quarantine in their barracks since Oct. 19 due to a COVID-19 outbreak. The quarantine is expected to end by Oct. 29.

Tate said he thinks the COVID prevention protocols in place are sound and are working.

“Especially just coming in, I need to assure everyone, including parents and the community, that the health and safety of all involved, beginning with the cadets, is my No. 1 priority,” he said.

A native of Alabama, Tate earned all of his degrees from schools in that state. Those include a Bachelor of Science in Education from Auburn University, a Master of Science in International Relations from Troy University and a Doctorate in Higher Education Administration from the University of Alabama.

In addition, he has completed several Army officer and leadership training programs.

He is married to Virginia, a speech-language pathologist.

Tate is the 24th commandant at NMMI. He replaces Lt. Col. Jonathan Graff, who left in August to work at the Army Headquarters in Wiesbaden, Germany. Graff had been with the Institute for eight years, including five years as commandant.

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 351, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.