Class of 1919
If you ever have the opportunity to look through the 1940 edition of Swastika, the New Mexico College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts (now NMSU) yearbook, you will come across the following caption beneath a photo of NM A&M’s registrar, Era Rentfrow:
One of the most efficient members of the College staff is Miss Era Rentfrow, registrar. Dispatching her duties with a competence mastered by few, she is known for her cheerful disposition. Her duties, in addition to those of college registrar include sending out publicity to prospective students, issuing student activity cards, supervising ticket sales for all college programs, keeping an official list of members of the alumni association. She is also Alumni Editor of the Round Up. Miss Rentfrow has contributed largely to the development of the college.
History proves the last sentence to be a gross understatement of her impact on what is today New Mexico State University.
Born in 1898, Era moved to Mesilla Park at an early age. She attended the college’s preparatory school, graduating as president of her class in 1915. She enrolled at NM A&M the following semester, one of 23 entering freshmen.
Era was engaged to Aggie footballer Joe Quesenberry, the first New Mexico Aggie to be killed in combat in World War I. She never married and, after graduating from college, began a lifetime of service to the students and alumni of NM A&M.
She graduated and began working at the college in 1919. In 1922, Era was promoted to the position of registrar. She developed a special bond with the students, all of whom came through her office. She frequently used personal funds to make loans to them to cover their tuition, board or books. She was justifiably proud of the fact that all students repaid these loans, no matter how long it took. Era found inspiration in student success; this inspired her to continue to make such loans out of her personal accounts.
Perhaps motivated by the loss of her fiancé, Era tracked and chronicled the Aggies that served during World War II. She dedicated herself to preserving the memory of the 126 gallant Aggies who did not come home. Recognizing the need to secure their place in history, she gathered their photographs and biographical information from families and loved ones. The photos displayed in the rededicated Memorial Tower honor their memory.
Life at the college changed considerably as the enrollment expanded to accommodate returning soldiers entering under the GI Bill. Era continued to serve and make an impact on each and every student she touched. An anecdote involving a future governor of New Mexico-he also would become dean of NMSU’s College of Business-illustrates just how much impact she could wield. Governor Carruthers found his life changed forever when, upon entering as a freshman, Era informed him that his birth certificate spelled his first name as “Garrey” not “Gary,” as he routinely used. Era’s advice to him was to make sure he spelled his name correctly in the future.
In 1962, after 40 years of devoted service as registrar, Era Rentfrow retired. No single individual had a greater impact upon the lives of students during this period. Today, her service and dedication is recognized in Rentfrow Gym, named in her honor shortly after her retirement.