Herkenhoff Family Bolsters Mineral Engineering Endowment

SOCORRO, N.M. December 3, 2009 – A family known for its longtime support of New Mexico Tech has donated nearly $1 million to supplement its endowment fund at the university in Socorro.

This plaque is one of three that adorns the entrance to MSEC and is devoted to the legacy of the Herkenhoff family. The Earl Herkenhoff Estate recently donated $959,000 to the Mineral Engineering Department's Herkenhoff Endowment.

Descendants of Mrs. Lillian Herkenhoff bequeathed $959,000 to add to the Herkenhoff Endowment Fund, which provides direct support to the university’s Mineral Engineering Department. Earl Herkenhoff, Lillian’s son and a 1936 graduate of New Mexico Tech, established the endowment.

“I want to express my deep personal appreciation for the major addition to the Herkenhoff Endowment Fund,” university President Dr. Daniel H. Lopez said. “This is an exceptionally generous gift and it will go a long way in fulfilling the goals of the endowment.”

Cheryl Pulaski Macey, who recently retired as the Director of Advancement at Tech, said the Herkenhoff Endowment is an excellent example of how alumni can support the university’s academic mission.

“The Herkenhoff legacy at New Mexico Tech is cemented,” she said. “We are truly blessed to have such generous alumni like Mr. Earl Herkenhoff. Earl’s vision and generosity will benefit students and the mining programs in perpetuity.”

Along with prior donations from Earl Herkenhoff’s estate from 2004 to 2008, the endowment total now is more than $1.45 million. Herkenhoff expressly wished that his estate would benefit New Mexico Tech and future students in the mineral engineering department.

“Earl became internationally known as an inventor and an engineer, but he always felt a special connection to New Mexico Tech,” she said. “He always wanted his trust to help another generation of engineers have the same opportunities he had.”

Mineral Engineering Department Chairman Dr. Navid Mojtabai said the existing endowment already supports several graduate students per year. The additional principal will allow the department to expand its student assistance fund, with travel and scholarships, and support faculty activities and salary enhancement.

“These contributions from Mr. Earl Herkenhoff’s estate have been a major force in helping the Mineral Engineering Department to survive and grow during the most difficult and challenging times for the department,” Mojtabai said. “I’d like to offer our sincere thanks to the memory of Earl Herkenhoff, as well as offering thanks to all alumni of New Mexico Tech who generously give of their time and for their contributions.”

Born in Socorro in 1915, Mr. Earl Herkenhoff earned an international reputation as a mining and metallurgical expert. He acted as a consultant in strategic metal deposits in many countries around the world and his experience garnered him opportunities to work for the U.S. State Department and international corporations. He was a prolific inventor and researcher; he held 15 patents related to mining operations and published numerous professional papers. In 1990, he received the Distinguished Alumnus Award from New Mexico Tech.

His mining engineering responsibilities took him throughout the United States and Canada, and overseas to Australia, Africa, Peru, and Chile where he provided mining and metallurgical consulting services to the U.S. State Department’s Trade and Development Program, Kaiser Aluminum, Phillips Uranium, New Jersey Zinc, Southern Peru Copper and Marcona Mining Co..

In addition to his bachelor’s in mining engineering from New Mexico School of Mines, Earl earned a master’s from the Idaho School of Mines. He was a registered Professional Engineer and a distinguished member of the American Institute of Mining, Metallurgical and Petroleum Engineers.

When he passed away in 2002, Mr. Herkenhoff’s ashes were scattered over ‘M’ Mountain.

Earl and his siblings literally grew up at New Mexico Tech. The family lived in the basement of Driscoll Hall for many years. His mother, Lillian Herkenhoff, was the matriarch of the family and longtime employee at New Mexico Tech. She supervised Tech’s dining and residence halls from 1920 to 1933 and from 1941 to 1950. She was affectionately regarded as the Grand Matron of Tech dorms and many students regarded her as a second mother.

As a young widow raising four children, she became a role model for many students in her era and beyond. All four of her own children – Gordon, Walter, Earl and Harriett – made their own marks in the early history of New Mexico Tech and went on to successful careers.

The boys all graduated from the New Mexico School of Mines with degrees in mining engineering: Gordon in 1928, Walter in 1935 and Earl in 1936. Harriet was the longtime secretary for President Edgar H. Wells.

Gordon, a civil engineer, founded Gordon Herkenhoff and Associates, one of the state’s most prominent firms. He also served as the director of the state Bureau of Public Welfare. He also received the Distinguished Alumnus Award from New Mexico Tech

Walter was superintendent for the Kennecott Copper Co.’s mine in Santa Rita, N.M. He also worked for several years in Los Alamos
Harriett married a Tech mining graduate, Eric Erickson, who worked for Anaconda Copper Mining Co and the Army Corps of Engineers. While secretary for President Wells in 1928, Harriett saved most of the university’s official records in a fire that destroyed the Old Main building.

Grandchildren and great-grandchildren of Mrs. Lillian Herkenhoff are still among the strongest supporters of New Mexico Tech, including Gay Herkenhoff-Dwyre, who initiated the latest donation, and Gordon “Corky” Herkenhoff, a Socorro area businessman and farmer who is a member of the Tech President’s Club and regular supporter of the university.

– NMT –

By Thomas Guengerich/New Mexico Tech