WRITER: Tiffany Acosta
Growing up in rural Kansas, Richard Aldridge knew he didn’t want to be a rancher or a farmer. So, after high school, he traded in the cold winters on the family ranch for New Mexico State University and sunny days in Las Cruces in 1961.
“I enjoyed math and science in high school and at an early age, I had my heart set on engineering,” said Aldridge, a 1967 electrical engineering graduate.
As a 21-year-old, Aldridge spent eight months in Japan working on a satellite-tracking program as an NMSU Physical Science Laboratory Cooperative Education student. Co-op education is experience-based learning for students through paid employment in practical, curriculum-related work assignments, and it began at NMSU in the summer of 1929 in the College of Engineering.
“There’s a big world outside the United States,” Aldridge said. “When I was sent to Japan, it was the first time I’d been out of the country and I really developed an interest and passion for travel.”
In addition to Japan, PSL work phases took him to California, Hawaii and Florida.
After graduation, he worked for a defense contractor as a communications engineer for the United States Navy in Vietnam from 1967-69. Throughout his communications engineer career, he worked for Exxon, Gulf Oil and Chevron in locales across the globe such as Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, Thailand and Angola. Over the years, he encountered fellow Aggies in Greenland, Hawaii, Virginia and Saudi Arabia. Aldridge retired in 2011.
For the lifelong experiences Aldridge gained through NMSU, he wanted to express his gratitude to the university so he created the Grateful Aggie Engineering Endowed Scholarship with a gift to the College of Engineering. The scholarship is expected to be awarded in fall 2017, and will provide $1,000 in support to at least two students from any engineering department.
“I received a great education and fabulous experience and I’ve long felt I owed a debt to New Mexico State University and the people of New Mexico.”
“Mr. Aldridge’s inspiring story and legacy gift will help to make the dreams of many Aggie engineering students come true,” said Robert Peterson, NMSU’s gift planning director.
Aldridge and his wife, Nancy, have been married since 1974. The couple’s only child is a Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy and is stationed at Naval Air Station Lemoore in California with his wife and their three children.
The Corpus Christi, Texas resident enjoys traveling for leisure and spent 10 weeks in Australia and New Zealand, two of his favorite international destinations, in 2015.
“I crossed that off my bucket list,” Aldridge said.
Full-time engineering students who are sophomores, juniors or seniors, U.S. citizens and have a minimum cumulative GPA of 2.5 are eligible to apply for the Grateful Aggie Engineering Endowed Scholarship.
“I did what I loved and loved what I did for 45 years. I hope that this gift will provide the same opportunity to some aspiring Aggie engineers,” Aldridge said.