The new state-of-the-art Media Arts and Technology Department facility at New Mexico Highlands University has been named the McCaffrey Historic Trolley Building in honor of a generous alumni couple.
The university’s Board of Regents unanimously approved the building name at a public meeting May 31, with Leveo Sánchez, board chairman, making the recommendation.
“Joe and Martha McCaffrey have been highly involved with Highlands media arts for a number of years and have been very generous in making gifts to the department,” Sánchez said. “It’s rare to have dedicated alumni like the McCaffreys who graduated so many years ago and are willing to donate some of their wealth to the university.”
The McCaffrey’s gift will total $350,000 and is earmarked for the Media Arts and Technology Department. Their most recent contribution to the McCaffrey Family Endowment supports students in the department’s new Master of Fine Arts program.
“The McCaffreys have supported media arts student projects, purchased equipment, and funded retreats to create the MFA program,” said Kerry Loewen, media arts and technology chair. “They consistently support our program in other ways too, such as regularly attending student events. The McCaffrey’s are deserving of this legacy.”
Joe earned a B.S. and M.S. in physics and mathematics from Highlands in 1960 and 1961 respectively. Martha completed a B.A. in history with a minor in English in 1961. The couple has been married 57 years.
Joe completed a Ph.D. in physics from Colorado State University and worked at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory for 30 years as a bench scientist and science administrator. Martha completed a master’s in library science at the University of Maryland and was a longtime librarian and media specialist at Mandeville High School in Mandeville, Louisiana.
“After retiring and returning to Las Vegas in 2007, we observed the outstanding work being done by the Media Arts and Technology Department,” Joe said. “The students in media arts are committed, talented and creative. They leave the program with marketable skills that land them jobs.”
Martha said: “What I saw in media arts is a group of dedicated professors who challenge their students and set high goals. The professors created a caring learning environment that helped students succeed.”
Martha said this approach in media arts reminded her of her grandfather, who once chaired the Speech and Drama Department at Louisiana State University.
“This gift honors my grandfather’s memory and his teaching philosophy. He once wrote, ‘A good teacher believes in accessibility to students and companionship with them, promotes attitudes of professional ethics, and gives them hard tasks to do in friendliness,’” Martha said.
The McCaffreys said Highlands played an important role in their lives and they love the university.
“As young newly married students, we were given a firm educational foundation that allowed us to pursue our chosen careers. Without the help of caring professors, we would not have achieved our goals,” Joe said.
Martha said, “This endowment is a small way for us to repay what Highlands gave to us so many years ago. We wanted media arts students at Highlands to have the same opportunities we had.”
Joe said the McCaffrey family gift to Highlands is something the couple’s four children heartily endorsed.
Sánchez said that in addition to their generosity, the McCaffreys are dedicated alumni who have served the university in various capacities over the years.
Joe, who was named a Highlands distinguished alumnus in 2004, served on the Highlands Foundation Board beginning in 2006 and continues as an emeritus member. He also taught an introductory astronomy class for several years at Highlands and will teach calculus-based physics fall semester 2017.
Martha is a member of the Highlands Alumni Board. As a Las Vegas Citizens Committee for Historic Preservation Board member, she has mentored several media arts students in local internships through the university’s one-of-a-kind AmeriCorps Cultural Technology program.
Article and image from NMHU University Relations