Contact: Wendel Sloan at 575.562.2253
PORTALES—Dr. Donald C. Moyer, the third president of Eastern New Mexico University from 1960–65, passed away April 3 in Nevada. Services were held in Henderson, Nev.
"ENMU is a strong university today because of previous presidents like Dr. Moyer. His leadership during a period of substantial growth was vital to the development of the school. Dr. Moyer is remembered as one of the positive forces in Eastern's history," said Steven Gamble, current ENMU president.
In 1957, Moyer, born on April 6, 1919, was hired by New Mexico as chancellor and executive secretary of the newly formed Board of Educational Finance (now the Board of Higher Education).
In 1960, he became president of Eastern. Under his leadership, Eastern doubled in enrollment and several buildings were constructed, including two high-rise dormitories. He was also the driving force for building a new football stadium between Clovis and Portales, as well as beginning the construction of a new state-of-the-art basketball arena.
"He set very high academic standards," said Dr. Robert Matheny, a former ENMU president who was an ENMU student during that time. "He oversaw a rapid development of the campus, including an almost doubling of enrollment. He represented Eastern extremely well, and did a great job of reaching out to students. The students also had a great respect for him. He was calm and laid-back, but had a fire inside."
Moyer, who grew up in Decatur, Ill., and received a doctorate from the University of Chicago, left ENMU to become chancellor of Nevada Southern University. During his term, the university was reorganized and became the University of Nevada at Las Vegas (UNLV) in 1968.
"He was a heck of a personality and a great leader," said Marshall Stinnett, an ENMU regent who was the editor of the Portales News-Tribune during his tenure. Eastern experienced tremendous growth under him. He had a vision for the University, and saw it through."
Following his death, Nevada Senator Harry Reid released the following statement: "UNLV is the respected institution it is today because of the vision of Donald Moyer. He started the hotel administration program, which is recognized as one of the best in the world. He created the first on-campus housing facility. Don worked tirelessly to raise money for projects, including the original student union, which now bears his name. I am grateful to President Moyer for all his contributions to southern Nevada."
In an article in the Las Vegas Review-Journal about the growth of UNLV, Moyer said, "It's amazing to see all of this activity on campus. It's unbelievable, really. Some things remain, but so much is new. It's a tremendous university now with big numbers. We knew they would come. We knew it would become a big university."
Bill Terry, a Las Vegas defense attorney who served as UNLV's student body president in 1968, said in the article that Moyer was among the key players whose courage and persistence helped break University of Nevada-Reno’s monopoly on higher education in Nevada. Terry and others succeeded in pressuring the Board of Regents to name UNLV's student union in Moyer's honor, even though Moyer by then was finishing up his three-year tenure.
"Don Moyer was the first president who advocated putting UNLV on parity with the big university, UNR," Terry said.
"That was not a popular approach at the time. He raised the issues that needed to be raised, and he helped build what you see today."
Terry said Moyer was labeled a rebel, along with students, community leaders and others who at the time wanted for Las Vegas what Reno had: a decent university.
"That's how the Rebels got their name," Terry said of the university's mascot. "We rebelled against the northern domination."
"We knew it could, and we knew it would, become a great university,” Moyer said in the article. “We were trying to prepare for that future. To see it today is just amazing."
According to the article, Moyer was paid $20,000 a year for his work as UNLV's first chief executive. That was enough to have a home with a pool in downtown Las Vegas, where he and his wife of 59 years, Jewel, would entertain university supporters and plot strategies to funnel more higher education dollars to Southern Nevada.
After he left UNLV, Moyer became executive director of Planning and Institutional Studies for the University of Alaska.