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Stradivari's Disciple, Don Robertson


don robertsENMU alumnus Donald Robertson (BME 65) is the largest violin dealer in North America.

“Our big market is in the $50,000 or less range for instrument sales,” says Don. He currently has three violins and three cellos on inventory valued at over half a million dollars per instrument, two violas valued over $100,000 per instrument and two basses valued over $200,000 per instrument. The instruments’ production dates range from the 1600s-1800s. One of the instruments, a cello, is a Stradivarius. Stradivariuses are string family instruments produced by the Stradivari family, most notably Antonio Stradivari.

Antonio Stradivari (1644-1737) produced 1,000 instruments, and 650 of those are in existence today. Don sold a 1689 “Archinto” Cremona cello, one of the 55 to 60 cellos Stradivari made. Wood instrument experts consider Stradivari to be the greatest violin maker of all time. “Of the 12 violas Stradivari made, one is coming up for sale in a sealed bid auction. The starting bid is $45 million—three times record price,” says Don.

Robertson & Sons Violin Shop, Inc. specializes in six areas:

  • Dealership of Rare and Contemporary Instruments and Bows
  • World Class Restoration and Repair
  • Valuations and Certificates of Authenticity
  • Instruments and bows Sent Out On approval
  • Extensive Sheet Music Library
  • Nationwide Rental Program

Don opened Robertson & Sons Violin Shop, Inc. after teaching in Albuquerque Public Schools for six years and playing cello in The New Mexico Symphony for 10. He opened the shop in 1971 and says, “at the time, there were one or two shops in Albuquerque that did anything halfway decent with woodwinds, and that was unsatisfactory.” After 26 years in the University of New Mexico vicinity, Don relocated his shop to 3201 Carlisle Boulevard. Not only did Don relocate, but also expand to an 18,000 square foot facility that includes: a recital hall, practice rooms and instrument storage. Robertson & Sons Inc. is one of the few violin shops to repair basses; Don says most violin shops do not have the space to do so. “The biggest influencer on my decision to go into the violin business was my passion for woodworking,” a skill Don says he honed during his formative years by constructing model airplanes.

Don regularly travels internationally to attend auctions and meet with clients interested in selling instruments. “We import a good number of instruments and do most of our sales in the United States,” Don says. When purchasing instruments, Don notes that provenance, authenticity, condition and tone are key variables for which to look. He spends a good amount of time studying instruments and the more than 20,000 instrument makers as of 2014. Being a good student of his craft allows Don to address fraud, which he says is a factor in the woodwind industry.

Don gave firsthand examples when asked how technology has impacted the woodwind industry. He recently used Computerized Tomography, CT scans, to repair a minor crack near a violin’s sound post that had been created by worms. Don also cited dendrochronology, the study of the width of the growth rings in the top of a spruce. He says dendrochronology will likely debunk many instrument certificates in the years to come. Don added that “if Stradivari had had a band saw, he would have cranked them out like crazy.” Stradivari’s two sons Francesco and Ombono assisted him in instrument production. Similarly, Don’s sons assist him with various facets of the family business from sales to restoration and repair.

Born 30 away from Portales in Muleshoe, Texas, Don’s family relocated to Amarillo when he was young. His grandparents were farmers near Friona, Texas, and his father worked for the Santa Fe Railroad. As a high school student, the Amarillo Symphony tapped Don to join their ranks.

Don’s introduction to ENMU came during his summers as a high school student where he participated in ENMU’s Sunshine Music Camp, led by than Music Department Chair C.M. Stookey. Teacher and oral conductor Dale Kampter would go on to recruit Don along with other high caliber string students. Don also studied under cello instructor Arthur Welker. “Several of the students with whom I graduated in 1965 are still in the business in some form or fashion—teachers or performers mostly. We had a really swinging thing going,” Don says.

Don still remembers his other introduction to Portales: during the summers, he used to irrigate the peanut fields. Don has not been back on campus since 1965 and says, “it’s time that I get back.”

ENMU Alumna Promotes Family Yoghurt Products


karla ploegKarla van der Ploeg (BBA 10) immigrated to the United States in the early 21st century. Her family dairy farmed in the Friesland province of the Netherlands and extended that practice to Clovis, NM. The van der Ploeg family introduced a “yoghurt like no other” to not only New Mexico, but also West Texas: Freanna Original Yoghurt. A pre-World War II (1938) cow named Anna, along with her progeny, were major influences on the van der Ploeg recipe.

Karla put a business model to that recipe. She says, “I am helping to get the business off the ground. I’m in charge of the marketing, sales, and promotions. A big part of my job is building networks too.” Accounting, shipping, tracking, searching for new stores, production forecasts, helping with the production of the yoghurt, and container design, Karla says, are a part of her diverse daily workload.

In addition to Business Administration, Karla has training in photography and interior design. “My diverse background helps in my field; it also helps me in my follow through,” a message Karla hopes will resonate with those walking a few steps behind her. Karla is one of the many presenters ENMU tapped to speak during Women’s History Month.

A little over a decade into a new century, Karla says, “My goal is to help people lead healthier lives with our yoghurt. I think this is the direction that society is headed.”

Kaiwen Xu Calls New Mexico Home


kaiwen xuKaiwen Xu (MBA 13, BBA 11) vividly remembers his first day as an undergraduate student, “I arrived on campus with two big suitcases and two handbags. Back then, I was a stranger to the campus.”

Kaiwen earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from ENMU through the World American Cultural Exchanges (WACE) program. WACE, established in 1997, coordinates multiple-year undergraduate study programs where students from China study at American universities. ENMU has been partnering with WACE since 2004. Kaiwen’s home university was Sichuan University in Chengdu, the capital city in the Southwest China province of Sichuan. Kaiwen says, “the WACE program provided me with a bridge into American society.”

Kaiwen extended this bridge by also earning his MBA from ENMU. After graduation, Cannon Federal Credit Union hired Kaiwen as an accounting manager. Kaiwen says, “I am excited for the opportunity to practice my craft by proving my value and by getting results. You can’t build a reputation on what you’re going to do.”

His time at ENMU not only contributed to his success, but also made New Mexico his new home and ENMU became a part of him as he was a part of ENMU. Unlike his first day, Kaiwen says, “today, I am now a part of the Eastern New Mexico community.”

Gregory Peck Hyder


greg hyderENMU Greyhounds won the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) basketball championship in 1969. Gregory Peck Hyder (Attended 66-70) was a four-time All-American member of the team who the NAIA recognized as the tournament MVP his senior year. “He must be the greatest basketball player Eastern has ever had and played on the team that achieved the highest honor,” says former teammate Jim Guymon (BS 72).

ENMU inducted Greg into its inaugural Athletic Hall of Honors class in 1984 – the same year that the Chicago Bulls drafted Michael Jordan with the third overall pick. “He was Michael Jordan before there was a Michael Jordan. The things that Greg could do with the ball were amazing,” says his younger brother Jerry Hyder (Attended 67-71).

Head Coach Harry Miller and assistant coach Buddy Othick recruited the brothers out of Victorville, California in 1966 and 1967 for the Greyhound basketball program. Other notable recruits included Monrovia, California's John Irwin (MS 71, BS 69) and Albuquerque's Jim Guymon. “I would go home with Jim on the weekends. His parents treated me like their own son,” says Jerry.

It was a family affair with Coach Miller. “He had high expectations for us,” says John, but “up until his death, Coach Miller sent me and my wife Christmas cards annually and even came to visit my family long after my days at ENMU,” says Jerry. Under Coach Miller, the Greyhounds went to four consecutive NAIA tournaments and brought ENMU its first Final Four, title game and national championship in '69. “When we drove back from the championship game in Kansas City, I remember coming into Texico. From Texico to Portales, there were cars lined up everywhere – I mean everywhere! The support from the local community was amazing,” says John.

The National Basketball Association (NBA) and the league that merged with it in 1976, the American Basketball Association (ABA), had taken notice of ENMU's elite basketball program. The Sacramento Kings' predecessor, the Cincinnati Royals, drafted Greg in the third round of the 1970 NBA draft. Two years later, the Kings drafted Jim in the fifth round, and the Dallas Chaparrals of the ABA drafted Jim in the ninth round. Jim ultimately relocated to the United Kingdom, achieving success as a player first in London and then as a coach, eventually settling down in Southampton, UK.

The success of ENMU's basketball program in the late sixties set the tone for the school in the seventies. 1973 and 1974 saw the Cross Country and Outdoor Track teams bring two more national championships to Eastern New Mexico. The teams featured New Zealand and Kenyan running sensations Rex Maddaford (BS 74) and Michael Boit (BS 76). “ENMU belonged to District 7 at the time. We had gymnastics, golf, swimming and much more, and we dominated in each,” says Rex.

ENMU's sports programs were exceptional; the University had nationally and internationally recognized academic departments as well. Rex recalls, “I was running in a track meet in Toronto. The company 3M was the sponsor, and I got a chance to meet the president and vice president of the company's Canadian division. Both executives had earned their degrees at ENMU. They said to me that in the business world, ENMU's business school was second to none.”

The 70s also saw a string of ENMU concerts that were ‘number one.' ENMU was an entertainment hub that attracted the likes of Steve Martin, ZZ Top, The Dirt Band, LeRoux, Flash Cadillac, Olivia Newton John with Albert Hammond, Helen Reddy, Lee Michaels, Anne Murray, Blood, Sweat and Tears, Buddy Rich, Jose Feliciano, Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show, Charlie Rich, Ray Stevens, Flash Cadillac and the Continental Kids, Rick Nelson, Buster Crabbe, The Persuasions and many more. Albuquerque Economic Development, Inc. President Gary Tonjes (BS 78) says that “the Doobie Brothers were huge when they came to Portales for a concert, so ‘Jesus Is Just Alright' and ‘China Grove' were favorites of mine.”

Like the Doobie Brothers, ENMU found its championship form in 1969, a form that continues to shape and mold the University.

ENMU thanks all alumni whose actions, direct and indirect, contribute to ENMU's strength as a shaper of the strong institution with traditions and accomplishments we continue to honor. We hope you are inspired to share your story. ENMU dedicates this article to Mr.Gregory Peck Hyder (1948-2014).

Shannon Saltclah


shannon saltclahFor Shannon Saltclah (BS 08), giving back to her community has always been the driving force and motivation to pursue a career in health care. Shannon is currently a pharmacist at Tsehootsooi Medical Center in Fort Defiance, Arizona.

“I’ve always wanted to come back to the Navajo Reservation and give back to my people. I enjoy going to work every day knowing I’m going to educate someone about their medication and how it will benefit their health.”

Shannon grew up in northwest New Mexico. She is a member of the Navajo tribe, originally from Teec Nos Pos, Arizona, which is located on the Navajo reservation. Shannon’s mother and grandmother were major influences in her life. Her mother, a nurse practitioner, showed Shannon the passion and joy that health care can bring to one’s life. Her grandmother grew up on the reservation and never had the opportunity to attend school or learn English. Shannon remembers her grandmother telling her, “You are very lucky to have been given the opportunity to get an education. I wish I was given the same opportunity as you. Give back to your people, use your education to the fullest and make us proud.”

She chose to attend ENMU because it was close to home, has a strong science program, offered diversity, and gave her the opportunity to play college softball. Following in her mother’s medical footsteps and taking her grandmother’s advice to use her education to help others, Shannon chose to pursue a career as a pharmacist.

At ENMU, Shannon appreciated the campus atmosphere and small class sizes. She enjoyed playing softball for the Zias, working as a math tutor, and being crowned Miss Native American ENMU 2005-2006. She was able to build relationships with instructors and her classmates. “We became one big family. We studied for exams together, motivated, and encouraged each other to do our best,” Shannon recalls.

Of her teachers she said Dr. Manuel Varela was one of the notable professors who positively influenced her at Eastern. “I feel that his teaching style and assignments fully prepared me for pharmacy school. His upper level science courses challenged me to become a better student and gave me the confidence that I could handle coursework beyond an undergrad level. The study habits and work ethic I developed contributed to my success in pharmacy school.”

After graduating from ENMU, she went on to earn her Doctor of Pharmacy. While at UNM College of Pharmacy, she acquired additional prescriptive authority in Smoking Cessation, Emergency Contraception, and Vaccination. Working for a medical center that is part of the Indian Health Services, she knows she has opportunities to transfer to other facilities, but she feels like this is where she belongs. She enjoys the diversity that the Land of Enchantment has to offer.

Recently, Shannon went on a medical mission with 30 health care professionals to help Kenyans in need. They established clinics in rural Kenya to provide health care. The rural areas reminded her of home and brought to her attention how fortunate we are to have access to medicine in the United States. She would like to volunteer in South America soon, doing similar medical work with rural clinics. In January, Shannon became a Commissioned Corps officer with the United States Public Health Services. She is now Lieutenant Saltclah.

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