Memories and Reflections

A centennial is a wonderful time to reflect on the past and to share memories. Here are reflections from a few faculty at the School of Engineering. If you have a memory you'd like to share, please send an email to and we'll post it on the School's web site:

Memories of the UNM Campus

Chuck Hawkins, professor of electrical & computer engineering

I've been here since 1972 and when I was first offered the position over the telephone, I didn't know anything about New Mexico. I said, "Are there mountains out there?" Oh yes, there are mountains out here! It was quite a different campus back then. There was no landscaping. The duck pond was a gravel parking lot with Quonset huts from WW II. City streets ran through campus and they were just starting to close them off. Now I can walk around here, look at all the adobe architecture, the grass, the xeriscape gardens, the large variety of trees, and say, "This really is a pretty place! How fortunate I am to be here and see snow on the Sandia Mountains behind the campus." It's been great to watch the University and the School of Engineering grow.

Technology's Early Adopters

Ed Angel, professor of computer science and electrical and computer engineering

When I arrived in 1978, students were still entering computer jobs on punch cards. There was a single central computer for everything with a remote job entry station in a big room in Farris Engineering Center where students would punch their cards.

Then a couple of things happened. We went away from the mainframe idea. The UNM Computer Science and Electrical and Computer Engineering departments were early adapters of the UNIX operating system which we recognized was key to the future of computer science education and research. We started to get Vaxes (machines that were the forerunners of the modern architecture we use today) and graphics workstations, which really changed the computing resources available for students. We were early adapters of email and getting on the fledgling Internet. These advances were soon extended to the whole University.

The Computer Science Department was always very good at seeing where the best schools were going and saying, "That's where we're going too."

Partnering with National Laboratories

Greg Starr, professor of mechanical engineering

In May of 1980, I was the first inhabitant of the Mechanical Engineering building, because I had just received the robot manipulator and we needed space to put it in. So we put it in room 100, which became basically the UNM robotics lab.

My first graduate student was Cliff Loucks - who still works in the Sandia Robotics Center to this day - and we had been doing research for about a year when a gentleman from Sandia named Ray Harrigan walked in the lab and said, "We hear you have a robot down here."

So Ray and I talked. We had the same kind of research and career goals, and that led to a 25-year collaboration between myself and Sandia laboratories. Due largely to his management, the Sandia Labs Robotics Center was started. Today it is a world class center and it has the RMSEL (Robotics Manufacturing Science and Engineering Laboratory). We're still doing robotics work to this day, primarily at the MTTC building in the manufacturing and engineering program on the south campus. And it all started the day that Ray walked in my door.

The Emergence of Research

Gerald May, professor emeritus of civil engineering, reflecting on his term as SOE Dean (1980-1986) and as UNM president (1986-1990)

The first talk of 'high tech' occurred in the 1980s. During that time we created our first research centers. These centers crossed the traditional borders of engineering. The new developments in engineering were not strictly civil, mechanical or electrical; they crossed disciplinary lines. It was a time where we really stepped forward at the University from sort of a sleepy regional school when I first came here to a much larger and sophisticated system.