NNMC donor Butch Clark, left, takes a tour of the NNMC Branch Community College Greenhouse with Branch Community College, El Rito, Program Director John Ussery. Photo Courtesy NNMC
Gathered in El Rito are, from left, John Ussery, NNMC Branch Community College, El Rito Program Director, NNMC donor Butch Clark, Butch’s brother Will Clark and NNMC President Dr. Rick Bailey. Photo Courtesy NNMC
NNMC NEWS RELEASE
Northern New Mexico College’s (NNMC) new Technical Trades programs in Plumbing and Electrical Technology are benefiting from a generous $30,000 donation from Dr. Ralph (Butch) E. Clark III.
Clark earned his PhD in environmental planning from the University of London and has provided major support for environmental education at Western Colorado University (WCU). His interest in NNMC’s Technical Trades programs grew out of his involvement with affordable housing issues in his hometown of Gunnison, Colo. He was a founding member of the Gunnison’s Valley Housing Fund and continues to serve on its board. For several years he volunteered to help people with their maintenance needs, applying skills he learned working on his grandfather’s farm and on a dude ranch. In 2021, when someone asked Clark for help finding an electrician and plumber to work on their house, he soon realized that the few professionals available were booked up.
“One of the difficulties is that there’s not that much skill here in terms of simple things needed for housing, such as plumbing and electric wiring,” Clark said.
The nearest option, in Delta, Colo., would charge $100 an hour for the three-and-a-half-hour round trip to Gunnison, plus $150 an hour for the work itself. It brought home the vital need for trades people in the community, so Clark began searching for solutions.
Friends told him about NNMC’s trades programs. After researching it online, he drove down to check it out in June 2021.
“I liked not only what I saw, but what I heard from the staff down there,” Clark said. “Not only the fact that it was there but it was practical and it helped the community.”
Clark would like to find a way for those interested in a career in the trades or even homeowners wanting to learn how to maintain their home to learn those skills.
One of his ideas is to develop a partnership between the El Rito program and WCU, which previously offered a program in industrial arts. Clark would like to explore potential partnerships between WCU and NNMC in ways to benefit both communities and both institutions. NNMC President Rick Bailey and Major Gifts Officer Judith Pepper visited with WCU staff in September to plant the seeds for this exciting potential collaboration.
“From what I could see, it was really a good program, and we needed to do something like that up here, the practical teaching,” Clark said. “We need that kind of skill that they had been teaching here, and it’s really good to have this cross communication between universities and colleges.”
Clark did not earmark how the donation could be used so NNMC staff could determine where it would be most beneficial. Dr. Frank Loera, Chair of the Technical Trades program, has not yet determined where to utilize those funds but suggested he might apply it toward the purchase of a $37,000 CNC laser plasma cutter for the pipefitting program.
Clark hopes that his contribution to NNMC’s Technical Trades helps ensure the programs’ success.
“The program deserves it, and it’s exemplary, Clark said. “And hopefully it will continue.”
“All of us at Northern New Mexico College are incredibly grateful for our partnership with Butch,” said President Bailey. “He is kind-hearted, compassionate, and an absolute visionary who loves his community, and is committed to making a difference in students’ lives. We could not ask for a better partner.”
NNMC’s Technical Trades offerings include Associate of Applied Science, Technical Trades degrees with concentrations in Electrical Technology and non-apprenticeship Plumbing as well as Electrical Technology, Plumbing Concentration and Plumbing Apprenticeship certificates.
Northern New Mexico College has fulfilled the educational needs of the region for over a century. Originating in 1909 as the Spanish American Normal School in El Rito, Northern now offers more than 50 bachelor’s, associate, and certificate programs in a wide variety of fields, including recently introduced programs in technical trades. Popular programs include nursing and health sciences, business, liberal arts, education, and STEM programs. Graduates have gone on to pursue advanced degrees at colleges such as Johns Hopkins University and Purdue University, and employment at NASA and Los Alamos National Labs.
Northern is an open-admissions college offering the most affordable bachelor’s degrees in the state, and is competitively priced for all other programs. Northern is fully accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) and has earned prestigious national accreditations for its engineering, nursing, education, and business programs. To learn more, visit www.nnmc.edu