A recent KFUN radio program that Jesus Lopez hosts had an old friend of mine as a guest. Willie Sanchez and I were students at New Mexico Highlands University together a long time ago.
This was the early 1950s when our veterans from both World War II and the Korean conflict returned and went to school via the G.I. Bill. They came to get a good and useful education so they could move on with their lives. Some of us younger students didn’t have the same work and study habits they had. In other words, they came to get an education and they had little time to goof off.
This created what we basically immature students considered a problem. Highlands graded our performance on the curve back then, so the student who studied hard, read the texts and wrote the assigned papers would get the highest grade on the tests. This set the curve for the rest of us, obviously because we usually had something much more fun to do than study.
My weakest subject throughout my years of education was (and still is) math. I dreaded even thinking about taking calculus and I barely got through algebra, trig and geometry. A Dr. Roberts was head of Highlands’ math department back then, and finally the time came when I had to take calculus to graduate. I had to have a decent grade there as well. Every class was torture for me and I just didn’t get it, as they say. However, right from the beginning of this class, one student stood out, and he often would question Roberts and sometimes expand on what was taught that day. Of course, that was Willie Sanchez, and I quickly caught on. Willie was a gifted mathematician, he was both sensible and likable, and wow! He didn’t mind helping those of us who were in the dark as far as calculus goes.
Several of us were struggling just to barely keep up, and we finally got up enough nerve to ask Willie for help. He’d meet with us in some vacant classroom in the old Springer Hall, and slowly, carefully and diligently repeat the lessons of the day for us, complete with all sorts of computations on the available blackboard. I’m confident we tried his patience many times, but what a rewarding experience that was for us. We actually passed the course with grades we weren’t ashamed of. I’m confident Roberts enjoyed having Willie as a student as well.
Highlands paved the way for Willie to get a doctorate in math, and he then returned to Highlands as a professor. He talked at length on the radio program about those somewhat tumultuous times at the school in the 1970s. He is both an example of what an education can do for one, and how best to use it to promote growth, both so necessary for a good school to excel.
Thank you once again, Willie for being so patient with those of us who thought we hated math (now I know differently and finally respect math) and for taking the time to show us that learning can be fun, really fun when presented in the right way.
Editha Bartley lives in Gascon in Mora County. She may be reached at 454-0563.