By Tony Parra: Freedom Newspapers
PORTALES — When July rolls around, Eastern New Mexico University will look different. Thurman Elder won’t be roaming the hallways of the Jack Williamson Liberal Arts Building with a calculator and math textbooks in hand.
Elder has announced he will retire after more than 37 years of teaching math at the Portales university. Elder has come up through the ranks from professor to chairman of the Mathematical Sciences Department to his current position as dean of the Liberal Arts and Sciences Department.
“I’ve thoroughly enjoyed every day teaching,” Elder said. “Eastern’s a great place to be. I wouldn’t have been here for so long if it wasn’t.”
Elder said he received four or five offers, which would have led him away from Portales, but he declined to move. He said he decided to retire because after 37 years it has taken its toll on him.
“I liked it here,” Elder said. “I like what Eastern does for students and the positive impact it has on them. It’s been a real joy to watch freshmen grow up and mature.”
Elder said he hears from former graduates who took his courses and recently heard from a former student who graduated from ENMU in 1977.
Elder has been the dean of the Liberal Arts and Sciences Department since 1997. He started out as a teaching assistant in September of 1967.
ENMU President Steven Gamble said the loss of Elder to the university would be felt. Gamble commended Elder on the work he has done while teaching at ENMU.
“Dean (Thurman) Elder has done a wonderful job,” Gamble said. “He exemplifies what a good dean should be. He’s a good leader and understands Eastern’s affairs well. He is an outstanding scholar.”
He said class sizes haven’t changed much, even though enrollments have fluctuated over the years. Elder said during the early 1970s ENMU had an enrollment around 4,400 students. He said one change he has seen is the way students communicate with each other.
“I think the communication between students has changed,” Elder said. “It seemed like there were a ton of study groups and I don’t see that now. It may be because the responsibilities have changed.”
Elder received his bachelor’s degree in mathematics from ENMU in 1964 and his master’s degree in mathematics from ENMU in 1966.
Elder spent some time participating in the United States Air Force summer faculty research program. He was assigned to Particle Beam Systems Section of Space Application Branch in the summer of 1987 where he said he did classified work for the Air Force.
Elder served on several professional mathematical organizations and on review committees for the ENMU courses.
“We will miss him greatly, but we are so glad for the excellent years he has given us,” Gamble said.
Elder has taught many students during his tenure but come July, life will have a different feel to it after 37 years of teaching at ENMU.
“I’ll miss it all,” Elder said. “You don’t spend 37 years at a place and not miss it. I’m going to miss friends, faculty and certainly the students.”