Residence hall named for donors

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By Martin Salazar

Three New Mexico Highlands University benefactors who dedicated their estates to providing scholarships to students in this area are being honored by the university.
Highlands regents voted unanimously last month to name the new student residence hall after Ken and Sue Crimmin and Emiteria “Matie” Martinez Robinson Viles.

The Crimmins set up an endowment at Highlands worth around $500,000 more than 25 years ago. More than 180 students have received scholarships to attend Highlands through the endowment.

Viles, who was an orphan, set up a separate foundation that provides scholarships for students who have lost one or both parents. According to the Viles Foundation, about 870 students have been granted about $2.4 million in scholarships since the foundation was established in 1959.

Regent Jesus Lopez recommended more than two years ago that the Crimmin and Viles families be honored for their contributions, and board chairman Leveo Sanchez told the board last month that there was no reason to wait.

Lopez said Viles was born in Sapello and was orphaned. She married a wealthy man from the Pecos area.

When her husband died, she met with an attorney and asked him to set up a scholarship fund for students who had lost one or both parents. Lopez said the Viles scholarship has helped many area residents, including himself, County Manager Les Montoya and former Luna Community College administrator LouElla Marr-Montoya. Lopez said the Viles scholarship covered his tuition and books at Highlands, and he said it would be nice for the university to finally recognize someone like Viles, who is often overlooked.

Lopez said the Crimmins were from Maine, and Ken Crimmin came to Camp Luna during the war. The Crimmins ended up staying in Las Vegas.

The couple, who had no children, arranged to leave their accumulated wealth to Highlands to provide scholarships. Lopez said the initial endowment was at least $500,000.

He said the Crimmins and Viles weren’t regents or university officials. He described them as ordinary, humble people who left a legacy at Highlands.

“I see no more fitting tribute regents could bestow than to honor these wonderful benefactors (by naming the student residence center after them),” Lopez said.

Specifics of the name have yet to be worked out, but the building will likely be named the Viles-Crimmin or Crimmin-Viles Student Residence Hall.