Highlands University president, Sam Minner, doesn’t currently have any tattoos but this year he’s going to get his first. The tattoo will be a small, purple square with the white Highlands “H” inside of it. As he finishes his 9th and final year as the president of NMHU, Minner wants a permanent commemoration of the university’s mission and everything it has meant to him during his tenure.
“I see Highlands as a place of opportunity for everyone who comes here,” Minner said. Highlands is always going to be with me for all kinds of reasons. Soon there’s going to be a tangible—and from what I understand painful—manifestation of that on my hide.”
As a first-generation college student, Minner was drawn to NMHU’s dedication to providing an exceptional education to anyone who enrolls—including numerous first-generation college students.
“Talent, intellectual ability, achievement, and drive are distributed throughout society. Opportunity is not. That’s a huge problem,” Minner said. “I’m so proud to be a part of an institution that provides opportunities to people from rural places in New Mexico who sometimes face difficult challenges in life. We, collectively, help them in the ways they want; we produce doctors, dentists, and lawyers, and we also produce people who go back home to their small communities with degree in hand to help those communities achieve.”
Minner says the most gratifying work he has done at NMHU is the daily work with colleagues, students, and community members—the kind of investment that never makes a headline but contributes to the overall success of the school.
“The magic happens between the people who work here and study here,” Minner said. “The most meaningful moments for me are when there’s a spark between a faculty member and a staff member, or when a student realizes—like I did myself many years ago as a first-generation college student—that the world is much bigger than I thought it was.”
Although Minner says he did not have a great high school career or a family with a lot of money, going to college helped him become engaged with the world in ways he had never imagined. Over the past eight years as president of NMHU, he has worked hard to ensure that students at Highlands have the same expansive experience he did.
“I’m proud that we’re open admission. It’s the true, democratic answer to education,” Minner said. “The mission at Highlands has made me a better president, better member of the academy, and a better community member.”
In addition to feeling a deep camaraderie with his colleagues at NMHU, Dr. Minner is grateful for the ways Las Vegas has embraced him and his wife, Joan.
“We have been welcomed by this community and supported. People drop by just to say hi, and I’ve had the privilege to work with them on projects and events. They are people I hope to have some association with long after I’m done with this job, because they’re great people, people of integrity, people who want to make the world a better place.”