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Departing chancellor Garrey Carruthers leaves lasting legacy

Student, professor, dean, chancellor — Garrey Carruthers has had an evolving relationship with New Mexico State University since the late 1960s. On July 1 his latest chapter at NMSU as chancellor is coming to an end.

“I’ll miss him. I’ve been here under 13 or 14 presidents and there’s nobody I’d rather have as chancellor,” said Dr. Jim Peach, a distinguished professor in the department of economics, applied statistics and international business.

Peach has known Carruthers since the 1980s when they both served as faculty members at the university.

NMSU alumnus and chancellor Garrey Carruthers appears at a new student move-in day barbecue event on campus. (Photo courtesy of NMSU)

“He was always very cordial, very diplomatic. I was the new kid on campus and he’d been here a while and he welcomed me,” Peach said.

Carruthers left his faculty post to pursue politics — he served as governor of New Mexico for a term — and later went into private business. He came back to NMSU in 2003 as the dean of the College of Business. After ten years serving as dean he became president of NMSU and chancellor of the NMSU system.

“[As chancellor,] you are the CEO of a system,” Carruthers said. As “CEO” he manages the main campus, and the four community colleges. “You need to be able to provide a vision for that system … [and] make sure it operates properly.”

Carruthers’ vision has been one particularly focused on the financial sustainability of the university. More specifically, Carruthers has tried to create a budget that allows the university to run efficiently without frequent tuition hikes.

“He wants to make sure that even though we’ve had some downturn in enrollment that the structure of NMSU can sustain itself into the next decade,” said Janet Green, who has known Carruthers since she attended NMSU in the 1980s. She is currently serving as special assistant to the chancellor.

“His service as governor, as a successful businessman, as the dean of the College of Business and as a professor, that is all incredibly valuable. However, what I think makes him different is that he is the first NMSU grad to hold the position of chancellor.”

“We’ve taken, overall, about 38 million dollars out of the budget. About 21 million dollars of that is what we call recurring money — money that we would spend every year,” Carruthers said.

On the budget cuts, Peach said: “Every department, every organization on campus has had to take a hit. He’s done it in a way that did not tear the university apart. There have been very few complaints.”

In addition to taking money out of the budget, Carruthers has raised a lot of money for the university.

“I enjoy fundraising. I enjoy looking for investors. I’ve raised millions of dollars for this university,” Carruthers said.

The Aggie Ignite Discovery capital campaign, which kicked off in 2017, had raised over $80 million by the start of the 2017-2018 academic year. This is 62 percent of its goal of $125 million. The campaign is a comprehensive one meant to improve the NMSU system as a whole.

“He has been very involved in our capital campaign, the largest capital campaign ever,” Peach said. “People are writing checks to the institution because of him.”

Another defining aspect of Carruthers’ chancellorship is his longstanding relationship to the university.

“The university, in part, reflects the personality and the background of the president, and we’ve never had a president with such close ties to the university and such loyalty to the institution,” Peach said.

ASNMSU Vice President Emerson Morrow echoed these sentiments. “His service as governor, as a successful businessman, as the dean of the College of Business and as a professor, that is all incredibly valuable. However, what I think makes him different is that he is the first NMSU grad to hold the position of chancellor,” Morrow said.

“My best legacy is I graduated [from NMSU],” Carruthers said. “I’m an Aggie. I’m an Aggie. There’s probably few people who are more dedicated Aggies than myself. And I think everybody will think, he was an Aggie. He was a true Aggie.”

Faculty and students alike have expressed sadness about Carruthers’ time as chancellor coming to an end. “I am sad to see him go from that position. I think he’s done a lot for NMSU, so I hate to see him hang up his spurs,” Green said.

“I cannot imagine that the regents can find anyone as good as Garrey Carruthers. I just can’t imagine that,” Peach said. “He’s an Aggie through and through.”

Emerson Morrow also indicated he will miss Chancellor Carruthers, and specifically mentioned his mentorship. “When you’re around him it’s hard to not pick up a few tips and tricks — things that can be applied to your life just to make you a little bit more successful,” Morrow said. “He’s just a very interesting, wise person, someone you want to hear from and listen to because you know you’re going to leave that conversation a little bit better than you came into it … I don’t want him to leave.”

“I love, in particular, to mentor students,” Carruthers said, “because I’ve had a lot of experience in my life, a lot of good experience. I’m going to miss mostly just talking to students about what it’s like to be a businessman, what it’s like to be a governor, what it’s like to be a chancellor.” 

Though Carruthers expressed interest in staying for another two years, the regents decided against extending his contract and looked elsewhere for a chancellor.

“We’ve had a number of people come to this office who were just looking onward and upward for higher pay, bigger universities, and that sort of thing. I would hope that the next chancellor would believe that ‘this is going to be my place and I’m going to be here for a while,’” Carruthers said. 

Dr. Peach expressed frustration over the regents’ decision not to extend Carruthers’ contract. “What I would want is somebody who has an academic background, which Chancellor Carruthers has. Somebody with strong ties either to the state or to the institution, which Chancellor Carruthers has. Someone who will bring some stability to the institution, which Chancellor Carruthers has,” Peach said. “It’s a puzzling thing why [the regents] are even looking because they’ve got him sitting right there.”

Janet Green offered her thoughts as well, on what a suitable replacement might look like. “I would like to see somebody who can grow into a similar role in making sure that New Mexico State, as a land grant institution, is well-respected throughout the entire state of New Mexico. I’d like to see somebody who can really engage with the faculty, which I think is important,” Green said.

Emerson Morrow indicated he hopes Carruthers’ replacement will appreciate NMSU’s uniqueness. “I think our next chancellor should be someone with a firm understanding that NMSU is a place unlike any other,” Morrow said.

Morrow also wants a chancellor who values the needs of students.“The next chancellor should have a strong appreciation for student opinion. I think it’s all too easy [for students’ opinions] to be lost on the administration and [to] just not listen to students, but the university exists to serve students,” Morrow said.

Though Carruthers will no longer be chancellor, he is not leaving NMSU just yet.

“I’ll still be around the campus. They’ve allocated some space for me. I’ll do some work for the Domenici Institute, do some fundraising if the next chancellor thinks I’d be good for that,” Carruthers said. “I’ll always be here to help. I think all of us who are dedicated Aggies, at the drop of a hat, try to help out when we can.”

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