Alumni Association Honors Alumnus and Donors

SOCORRO, N.M. May 13, 2015 – The New Mexico Tech Alumni Association gave two awards at commencement this year. Ed Fries won the Distinguished Achievement Award. Chuck and Jessie Headen won the Distinguished Service Award.

Fries, Class of 1986, earned a bachelor’s in computer science – after he had already begun creating his first video games for the Atari 800 in the early 1980s.

He joined Microsoft in 1986, and spent the next 10 years as one of the early developers of Excel and Word.  Ultimately, he moved from the Microsoft Office team to pursue his passion for interactive entertainment and created Microsoft Game Studios.


Ed Fries accepts his award from president Dr. Lopez (middle) and Alumni Association President Paul Shoemaker. 


Over eight years, he grew the team from 50 people to more than 1,200, published more than 100 games including more than a dozen million-plus sellers. He co-founded the Xbox project, helping to make Microsoft one of the leaders in the video game business.  He was a prime promoter of that platform to game developers and had an important role in the acquisition of other game developers.

In 2004, Ed retired from his job as a Vice President with Microsoft to continue his work in the video game industry as board member, advisor and consultant to a broad range of publishers, independent game developers, and media companies.  In 2007 Ed launched his own startup, Figure Prints, an innovative company that uses color 3D printing technology to bring video game characters to life, such as those in World of Warcraft.  In the summer of 2010, Ed released “Halo 2600”, a “demake” of the Halo video game series for the Atari 2600. 

The Alumni Association also presented a posthumous Distinguished Service Award to Chuck and Jessie Headen, who have made the largest ever donation to New Mexico Tech.

Charles F. Headen was an astute and highly successful “land man” who commandeered every room he ever entered. He and his wife Jessie are posthumous recipients of this year’s Distinguished Service Award.  The recognition acknowledges, among many things, the extremely generous bequest to New Mexico Tech from the Headen estate.


Representatives of the Headen family accept the Distinguished Service Award. From left are the Headen's nephew Sam, sister Luann, Dr. Lopez and Paul Shoemaker.


Mr. Headen was 87 when he passed away in 2011. Upon his death, Mr. Headen bequeathed the majority of his vast property holdings to New Mexico Tech. The Headen Trust is a fund of more than $11 million that exists for the sole purpose of providing scholarships to New Mexico Tech students. To commemorate their donations, the new Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources building is named in their honor.

Chuck served in World War II as a pilot and aviation instructor. After the war, Chuck and Jessie met in Corpus Christi, Texas. On a lark, they decided on one first day of spring to marry for a month, an impulsive union that endured for 62 years.

The Headens purchased a title and abstract business in Socorro during the early 1960s, and eventually grew Security Title Abstract Company to include 11 title companies in New Mexico.

The Headens were long-time supporters, donors and friends of the university and the Socorro community. His love for the culture and people of the Southwest was immense, and he expressed it in many ways.

University President Dr. Daniel H. Lopez became fast friends with Headen soon after he came to Tech in 1987.  Lopez said that Chuck contributed generously to community causes, not the least of which was at New Mexico Tech.

Accepting the award on the Headens’ behalf were Sam Lukens, Chuck Headen’s nephew, and Chuck’s sister Luann.

– NMT –