Last week, I drove to Las Cruces to attend memorial services for a close friend, Dean Flavia McCormick. The drive south was during one of the windiest days of the year and reminded me of many other such trips taken during the years I was either in school or teaching down there.
Upon arriving at Las Cruces, I took my usual drive on University Avenue and was shocked to note the many changes that have occurred during the last two years. Motels had sprung up on one side of the street and numerous campus buildings on the other. As I proceeded west, I noted many more changes as various businesses had been built and a convention center had been added. For the first time ever, I felt claustrophobic as I proceeded along that avenue. What had once been open space or residential areas is now closed in to the point of almost overshadowing the avenue.
After checking into a motel, my thoughts centered on my friend again. Dean McCormick began teaching on campus three years after I did, and we both had the opportunity to enjoy the space. She began her career there in the sociology department and then moved into the office of the dean of arts and sciences to become an associate dean. She was one of the few administrators on campus to whom I felt I could go in time of trouble. She was also one of those who became rather excited because I rarely followed the directions by beginning with the department head and letting him solve the problems.
Dean McCormick wouldn’t hesitate to call me to say a few words about my landing in the president’s office as my first stop or even about my taking the time to call a regent or two. She even taught me some rather colorful language as she explained my limitations, but we never had lasting upheavals because one or the other of us would decide we should go to dinner. I recalled so many of her efforts to build our little college into a university. She might have been a short person, but she stood head and shoulders above many of us as she fought for education.
While attending her services, I looked around at so many people with whom I had taught and even a few who were in some of my classes. The ensuing 44 years have begun to show on most of us and certainly reminded me that all those years have gone by in a hurry. We greeted each other warmly as we remembered our dear friend and I think each of us knew Flavia made us better people for having been our friend. The university has changed drastically, but friendship remains strong!