NMSU Black Programs partners with NMSU Athletics to honor black athletes and historical firsts

Cecil Rose, the Black Programs director at NMSU, speaks at the Celebrating the Firsts event at the Stan Fulton Athletics Center. Feb. 22, 2024.
Cecil Rose, the Black Programs director at NMSU, speaks at the Celebrating the Firsts event at the Stan Fulton Athletics Center. Feb. 22, 2024.
Leah De La Torre

As Black History Month came to a close, the New Mexico State University Athletic department teamed up with NMSU’s Black Programs to bring  the community together and celebrate several influential black figures that have passed through the doors of New Mexico State.  

Coaching staff, donors and even Las Cruces Mayor Eric Enriquez gathered in the Villanueva Victory Club at the Stan Fulton Athletic Center to honor historical black figures at New Mexico State and in the New Mexico community. The celebration honored the first black athletic director at NMSU, Dr. McKinley Boston, the first black principal in New Mexico, Dorris Hamiliton, and former NMSU women’s basketball star, Anita Skipper.  

“This is what this is, this is a celebration of some people who have accomplished some tremendous things,” said opening speaker and former NMSU football athlete Preston Williams.  

James Hall, Senior Associate Athletic Director, introduces keynote speaker McKinley Boston. Feb. 22, 2024. (Leah De La Torre)

Cecil Rose, the director of Black Programs under the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, said the inspiration for the event came from a few different aspects. First, looking at the history of New Mexico, NMSU, and the greater Las Cruces community, as well as the want to celebrate the individuals who have had a substantial impact, in addition to honoring athletic greatness.

 

“When we think about celebrating the firsts, it is almost saying we want to not only give them their flowers, we also want to give them their bouquets,” Rose said. 

Rose mentioned that Doña Ana County NAACP President Bobbie Green and NMSU Senior Associate Athletic Director, James Hall, were key contributors to this event, in addition to several other events that will be held in the future.  

Former Athletic Director McKinley Boston Jr. then took the podium as the keynote speaker. There, he talked about his experiences as a student athlete in a segregated sports environment, and how his entire career has been full of firsts.  

Keynote speaker McKinley Boston recounts his past accomplishments throughout his life. Feb. 22, 2024. (Leah De La Torre)

“I am a product of the Civil Rights Movement in the 60’s,” Boston said.  

Boston said his entire high school sports career in North Carolina was segregated, and his coaches instilled confidence in black athletes. He said his coaches would remind them that they were equal to everyone else. 

As a freshman in college, Boston said he experienced being in a locker room with both whites and blacks for the first time ever, and that he was comfortable.  

“I’m comfortable because my coach told me, I was okay, I’m their equal,” Boston said. 

In his career, Boston previously served as director of athletics at Kean College and director of athletics at the University of Rhode Island. He also was the first black vice president of student development and director of athletics at a Big Ten conference school, the University of Minnesota, before he was named NMSU’s first black director of athletics in 2004.

Las Cruces Mayor Eric Enriquez recognizes Anita Skipper for her accomplishments as a NMSU basketball athlete. Feb. 22, 2024.
(Leah De La Torre)

Boston helped strengthen the relationship between academics and athletics for student athletes during his time at NMSU, where the graduation rate among student athletes jumped to 73%. He also saw 16 Western Athletic Conference team championships and 33 WAC individual championships during his tenure.  

Anita Skipper, an NMSU women’s basketball legend, was the first player in division 1 college basketball, men’s or women’s, to have scored 2,500 points, 1,000 rebounds, and 300 steals in a collegiate career. After graduating from NMSU, Skipper was the 29th overall pick in the Women’s National Basketball Association 1997 inaugural draft and played in nine games for the Cleveland Rockers.  

“It’s an honor to be here for this inaugural event, just with Black Programs and NMSU Athletics, honoring those of us who did some firsts for the university,” Skipper said. “I live here, I moved back here in November of 2020, so I am around already, but to be honored in this way is very special.”  

She said she felt special to be part of this inaugural event and hopes that it will continue and be widely received within the

Las Cruces Mayor Eric Enriquez addresses the crowd before reading out proclamations for the Celebrating the Firsts event. Feb. 22, 2024. (Leah De La Torre)

community.  

“Black history is every day, it’s every month, it is not just February, but we recognize that this is a time where we set aside to think about some people who have made their mark in history,” she said.  

Also honored was former educator and first black principal in New Mexico, Dorris Hamilton. Hamilton was the first Black woman to graduate from the University of Arkansas, where she was personally congratulated by Martin Luther King Jr. She served Lynn Middle School for 20 years and was a role model for nearly 20,000 Las Cruces students over the years.  

Las Cruces Mayor Eric Enriquez read the proclamations to all three recipients.  

Rose extended his thanks to both NMSU and Athletics for their support and involvement and expressed his hope that this event will continue.

“We are really committed to really building partnerships, collaboration and community, so thank you again from NMSU Athletics,” Rose said.  

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About the Contributors
Noah Apodaca, Staff Writer

Noah Apodaca is a junior at New Mexico State University, where he is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Journalism and Media Studies with an emphasis in broadcast, as well as a minor in government. This is Noah's first year with The Round Up. 

Born and raised in Las Cruces, New Mexico, Noah got his start in the media industry in 2022, when he joined KRWG-TV's News22 program as a writer, reporter and anchor. With News22, he has covered a wide range of topics, including traveling to the 2023 Conference USA Championship game in Lynchburg, Virginia. 

In addition to News22, Noah has worked with NMSU's journalism department’s online news publication, Kokopelli, KFOX14 in El Paso, Texas, and U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich.

In his spare time, you can catch Noah at the gym, at the airport fulfilling his love of travel, or at home streaming some Disney+ alongside his five dogs. He is ecstatic to join The Round Up team this year!

Leah De La Torre, Multimedia Specialist
Leah De La Torre is entering her second year at The Round Up as a multimedia specialist. She will be majoring in Journalism and Media Studies. She grew up in El Paso, Texas. De La Torre has been making videos with her family and friends since she was in elementary school, and her love for the camera continued through high school as she became a member of the video and broadcast team. There, not only did she learn more about photography and video making but gained an interest in journalism. Her other interests include playing the cello, sewing, and listening to her favorite music artists like Her’s and The Strokes. Working for The Round Up, she hopes to continue doing what she loves, being behind the camera and contributing to making and telling stories about her community.

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