$1 Million Lottie Wood Washburn Endowment Established for NMHU Foundation
Longtime teacher Lottie Wood Washburn’s educational legacy continues through a $1 million endowment her son, Beverly W. Washburn, established with the New Mexico Highlands University Foundation.
The endowment is the largest single donation ever made to the university.
Each year, the Lottie Wood Washburn Endowment is expected to fund $50,000 in scholarships for residents in and around Raton, Wagon Mound, and the former coal camps of Sugarite and Van Houten, who attend Highlands University. The university opened a center in Raton spring semester 2008.
Lottie Wood Washburn was born in Raton in 1900 and died in 1997. She began teaching in Northeastern New Mexico in 1920, after earning her teaching certificate from Highlands University when it was still called the New Mexico Normal School.
Washburn taught elementary school for 44 years, with her fondest memories being the 17 years she spent teaching students in Raton, Van Houten, Sugarite and Wagon Mound. She also taught in the Albuquerque Public Schools for 27 years.
In the summers, Washburn persevered with her own education, completing her bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Highlands University in 1940.
“I’m doing this endowment out of memory and respect for my mother, who spent her life trying to make a difference through teaching,” said Beverly Washburn, who is 84. “My mother was a dedicated educator who did whatever it took to get her students to learn. I remember her staying late after school to work with students to help them get up to grade level in reading.
“I hope mother is pleased with this education endowment,” Washburn said.
“This gift is going to touch countless more generations, and we thank you very much,” said Highlands University President Jim Fries at the endowment signing ceremony. “It’s amazing that there are still stories coming in about your mother’s contribution to education.”
Fries was referring to a May 21 Raton Range story about Raton’s early coal mining history told through the memories of Mary Cunja King, one of Lottie Wood Washburn’s students in Sugarite.
“My favorite teacher was Lottie Washburn,” said King, a Raton octogenarian.
Beverly Washburn was born in Raton. He joined the army in 1944 during World War II and served through 1946. His last assignment was as a first sergeant of an infantry replacement company in Japan.
Washburn earned his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of New Mexico, and went on to complete his master’s degree in electrical engineering from Stanford University. His graduate studies focused on power generation and distribution.
Washburn had a distinguished career as an electrical engineer, including long-time positions at Sandia Corp., now Sandia National Lab, and Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory, now Los Alamos National Lab. He started the laser program at LANL.
Washburn developed telemetry communication systems for rockets and missiles, and also has expertise in nuclear reactor safety.
Washburn’s broad-based expertise was in demand and he was often on loan to various government agencies. Following the 1979 Three Mile Island Accident at this nuclear-generating plant near Harrisburg, Penn., Washburn was an investigator for the president’s commission that investigated the accident.
He authored two books on nuclear power plant safety, and was also an adjunct faculty member at UNM.
In 1956, Washburn and a colleague developed and used a pioneering digital computer program to design the engineering for a section of Interstate 40 in New Mexico from Nine Mile Hill west of Albuquerque to the Arizona state line.
“My life is full of bits and pieces,” Washburn said. “My reward was always being able to make a contribution, and a difference. It runs in the family.”
“You’ve done some fascinating things in your life, and what you’re doing with this endowment is right on the list,” Fries said.
“This endowment is a big boost in our continued efforts to provide a four-year degree in one of the communities that we serve,” said Sharon Caballero, executive director for advancement at Highlands University. “A higher education is the key to greater success in life. Mr. Washburn’s endowment is opening up potential new worlds for the people of Raton.
“Thank you a million times over,” Caballero said.
Students interested in applying for a scholarship through the Lottie Wood Washburn Endowment may call the Highlands University Office of Financial Aid at 505-454-3318 or toll-free 1-800-379-4038.
An endowment committee comprised of Raton area residents will make the final selections for the scholarships.
For questions about the Lottie Wood Washburn Endowment, contact Caballero at 505-454-3198 or