“This afternoon, I half-believed that I cried…The names of those deceased and injured were just names until I came to the names of those that I knew intimately. I suppose that I feel it so badly because I spent the best years that I’ve known so far down there at Aggies [NMSU] and all the men I knew were an integral part of that memory. What can we do to really keep them with us?”
The original Aggie Memorial Stadium was built in memory of the first 126 Aggie soldiers who were killed in action during World War II.
The Aggie Memorial Committee - made up of community members as well as representatives of faculty, students, alumni of New Mexico College of Agriculture and Mechanical Arts (as NMSU was formerly known) - spent more than four years in deliberation before finally accepting the tower-stadium as an appropriate memorial for fallen Aggie soldiers.
At that time, the only memorial on campus was the one to Hiram Hadley, NMSU's first president, which once stood in front of the former Hadley Hall. Dean O'Donnell, then Dean of Students, appointed a committee with Professor W. Earl Beem as chairman, for the purpose of drawing up plans for a memorial building. Other permanent members of the committee were Miss Era Rentfrow, registrar of the college, the editor of the "Round Up" and the president of the Student Commission. In 1946, the committee began campaigning for donations with a goal of $165,000 for a memorial stadium — a memorial that would pay tribute to the sacrifices of the past but also serve the living community.
The outstanding feature of the stadium was (and still is) Memorial Tower. This structure, built on the west side of the stadium, housed the original Memorial Room in which pictures, plaques and records of the then Aggies who had lost their lives in battle. Electric chimes were placed in the tower and were used for playing melodies on holidays and for the daily campus call-to-classes. The current Aggie Memorial Room, which also functions as a study lounge, still features the images of the fallen Aggies.
On September 16, 1950, the completed stadium and tower were dedicated and officiated by President Branson before the football game between the New Mexico Aggies and the Hardin Simmons Cowboys.
The original Aggie Memorial Stadium was eventually torn down, however, the tower was left intact. It was renovated in 2003 during the construction of the Health and Social Services Building and rededicated on March 8, 2004 with Dean Jeffery E. Brandon officiating and esteemed alumni joining such as: Representative J. Paul Taylor '42, '54, & '63 (USN) and Colonel J. Henry Gustafson '40 (USMC).
Memorial Tower stands as a vital center for academics and as a living tribute to those Aggies who laid down their lives for their country, and is still used for annual events by the Alumni Association and the College of Health and Social Services.