June 8, 2020
Las Vegas, N.M. – New Mexico Highlands University and the Las Vegas community are mourning the May 24 death of Bob Mishler, a beloved anthropology professor emeritus and community leader. He was 83.
Mishler joined Highlands in 1969 as the university’s first full-time anthropology faculty member, the beginning of a distinguished 38-year career with the university. He established the university’s first anthropology laboratory in 1970 and directed it until his retirement in 2007.
“When I think of Bob, I remember a man who gave so much of himself and truly personified the Highlands spirit of giving back,” said Highlands University President Sam Minner. “While his accomplishments and service were notable, the true testament of Bob’s life is the number of people whose journey was better because he was a part of it.”
In a 2016 interview, Mishler, an Indiana native, said his interest in anthropology was sparked when he was a young college graduate teaching at an adult trade school in Nigeria from 1960-1961. After returning to the U.S. he taught social studies before returning to graduate school at the University of Colorado – Boulder to earn his master’s degree in anthropology.
“Anthropology provides a framework for how to understand human existence and fits my view of the world,” Mishler said. “The world has a tremendous amount of antiquity, and everything in it is part of an infinite process of change over time.”
During his tenure at Highlands, Mishler conducted 35 annual field archeological investigations with his students, collecting many of the artifacts that are still part of the university’s anthropology laboratory.
“What’s unique about the archaeology in Northern New Mexico is its interplay between the pueblo worlds to the west and the High Plains dwellers to the east,” Mishler said.
The archeological field schools were centered primarily at the Tecolote Pueblo and the Tinsley Site, a small pueblo. Both are within 20 minutes of Highlands.
“Working with students in the field is a total immersion experience. You are training students in an academic arena, but they’re also working as a team in the sun and dust. Field school provides a foundation for building a picture of ancient pasts, but it’s only a beginning,” Mishler said.
A major focus of Mishler’s research was cultural resource surveys used to identify and protect cultural history. He secured approximately $1 million in archaeological grants for Highlands during his tenure.
Mishler was always been deeply rooted in historic preservation and planning in Las Vegas, culminating with receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award from the New Mexico Historic Preservation Division in 2010.
“Very rapid changes are destabilizing to humanity, but historical preservation provides a grounding, a reference, for the past,” Mishler said.
His service on the City of Las Vegas Design Review Board began in 1974. Mishler was a co-founder of both the Friends of the City of Las Vegas Rough Rider Museum in 1997 and the Las Vegas Citizens Committee for Historic Preservation in 1977.
More recently, Mishler took a leadership role with the Las Vegas New Mexico Community Foundation, which formed in 2017 with him as the founding chair of the board of directors. At the time of his death, Mishler also chaired the board of directors.
Elmo Baca served with Mishler on the board of directors for the Las Vegas New Mexico Community Foundation.
“Bob had a noble heart and embodied the spirit and ethic of community service better than anyone I knew,” Baca said. “I believe that Bob saw that creating a community foundation for Las Vegas with an endowment was perhaps his crowning achievement and legacy to the community.”
Baca said Mishler was a mentor to two generations of community leaders in Las Vegas.
Mishler is survived by his wife, Ann, and son, David. Another son, Thomas, died early in life. Ann Mishler asks that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Bob Mishler Memorial Fund at the Las Vegas New Mexico Community Foundation, P.O. Box 1002, Las Vegas, NM 87701.