New Mexico Military Institute

by Mike Magers

New Mexico Military Institute, or NMMI, was founded in 1891 by Col. Robert Goss and Capt. Joseph C. Lea and was initially known as Goss Military Academy.  New Mexico had been organized as a territory of the United States under the bill known as the Great Compromise of 1850.  Under the bill, California was admitted to the Union, New Mexico and Utah were created as territories out of land gained in the Mexican War (1846-1848), these territories were allowed sovereignty in voting for or against slavery, the boundary between Texas and New Mexico was established and it made it easier for residents of so-called slave states to recover fugitive slaves.  The subject of slavery was hotly debated and this bill was the compromise reached by members of the U. S. Congress.

The young military school was officially established under Chapter XLI of C.B. No. 108 on February 23, 1893 that had been introduced by a Mr. Fall “to establish, maintain and control the New Mexico military institute in Roswell, New Mexico” by the committee on territorial and charitable institutions.  The school still sits on land donated to it by local rancher James J. Hagerman for whom the town of Hagerman, New Mexico is named.

In the summer of 1894, the Institute received a land grand of 100,000 acres as part of a group of land grants made for a variety of purposes.  The Institute at that time consisted of mainly one building and in 1897, the Carlsbad Current reported that work on this building was progressing nicely with the basement having been completed and walls first going up above ground.  Also that year, the Roswell Register reported that a two story hotel would be erected once the Institute’s building (see drawing below) was completed.  We believe that this was old Lea Hall, which was demolished to make way for the current Lea Hall around 1940.


(Image credit: Santa Fe New Mexican)

NMMI serves as a college preparatory school and a junior college with students ranging from grades 9-12 in high school and two years  of junior college.  It briefly served as a four year college from around 1948 to 1956, but that was discontinued.  Numerous former cadets have served in the U. S. military since World War I.  Its alumni includes at least one Medal of Honor recipient.  It became a coed institution in 1977 after allowing females to attend on a non cadet status as far back as 1891.  The mascots of the high school and junior college are the Colts and the Broncos, respectively.

Its enrollment more recently has hovered at around 900 to 1,000 students.  Alumni of note include hotelier Conrad Hilton, businessman Norman Brinker, journalist Sam Donaldson, General Edwin Walker of the U. S. Army, Lieutenant General of the U. S. Army Julian Ewell, numerous athletes including NFL player Roger Staubach, NFL player Wilson Alvarez (played one season with the Seattle Seahawks), Link Abrams who played professional basketball in New Zealand, Greg Morris who played one season at NMMI and now currently playing in the CFL), actor Owen Wilson, Medal of Honor recipient John C. Morgan and many others.

NMMI is one of three military schools in New Mexico.  The others are Bataan Military Institute and Española Military Institute.

Its recent head high school football coaches have included David Lynn, Major Dwight Burns and the current head coach, Randy Montoya.  NMMI won Class A State Championships in 1963 and 1965 in football under head coach Marshall Brown.

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