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Former NMSU president remembered for contributions to education, dedication to university


Former New Mexico State University President William B. Conroy, whose contributions to the university inspired the naming of NMSU’s Honors College, died in early February at the age of 90. The NMSU Board of Regents will recognize Conroy’s legacy with a special proclamation later this month. Conroy served as NMSU’s president from 1997 to 2000, when he retired. In 2002, the university named the NMSU Honors College and its historic Henry Trost-designed building after him. Conroy also previously served as NMSU executive vice president and provost. Originally from New York, Conroy and his late wife, Patty, embraced Las Cruces as their home. They were avid supporters of NM State athletics as well as all NMSU students. William Eamon, Dean Emeritus of the NMSU Honors College, met Conroy when he selected Eamon to become director of the university’s honors program in 1995. Eamon said he knew immediately that Conroy “had a deep and genuine regard for bringing out the best in NMSU’s most talented students.” “Working with him, and under his mentorship, was without question the most enjoyable and rewarding experience of my career in academic administration,” Eamon said. Conroy was instrumental in renovating the former YMCA building into what is now known as the William B. Conroy Honors College building. “And he was enthusiastic about our plan to transition the program to New Mexico’s first Honors College, which happened a couple of years after he retired,” Eamon said. “I know he took great pride and satisfaction in the development of NMSU’s Honors College, which is fittingly named after him.” Eamon said Conroy maintained an interest in honors students after he retired from NMSU in 2000. “He was a gentleman in every way: kind, considerate, thoughtful and always helpful,” Eamon said. “He had a joyous and infectious enthusiasm for life, and I’ll always remember his wonderful broad smile, his unflagging optimism and humor, and the pleasure he took in learning about the achievements of NMSU’s honors students.” Conroy earned a bachelor’s degree in history from the University of Notre Dame. After graduation, he was commissioned as a U.S. Navy Ensign and became a naval pilot. He eventually flew the AJ Savage, the first naval plane built to fly an atomic weapon off an aircraft carrier, according to his obituary. After his Naval service, Conroy earned his master’s and Ph.D. degrees from Syracuse University, and began teaching at the University of Texas at Austin. He later taught at the University of Washington and Texas Tech University, where he founded the geography department and later became dean of Texas Tech’s College of Arts and Sciences. While at Texas Tech, Conroy and two others authored the Texas History textbook used by 80 percent of seventh-graders in Texas from the mid 1970s to the mid 1990s. Following his retirement from NMSU, Conroy and his wife split their time between Las Cruces, New Smyrna Beach, Florida, and traveling the world. They were frequently seen at NMSU events and Aggie games, and spent time with their five children, 12 grandchildren and 13 great grandchildren. Conroy and his wife were married for 63 years. She passed away in May 2020.