Couple Gives UNM A $1.5 Million Gift
The University of New Mexico’s new synthetic turf football field now has a name.
In recognition of a $1.5 million gift to the UNM athletic program pledged by Albuquerque lawyers Turner and Margaret Branch, the Lobos will be playing on Branch Field at University Stadium when they step on that new turf for the season opener Sept. 1.
The announcement was made Tuesday on Albuquerque’s ESPN Radio, KQTM-FM (101.7). The Branches are part-owners of the station.
Paul Krebs, UNM’s athletic director, interviewed by the station, said the turf will bear a “Branch Field” logo at both 25-yard lines, with “Turner & Margaret” below in smaller letters.
“It’s a tremendous day for UNM athletics,” Krebs said. “I think it’s certainly appropriate recognition for a family that’s stepped up in support of our student-athletes and our program.”
The Branch Law Firm is also title sponsor of UNM’s Dick McGuire Golf Invitational and of the school’s postseason men’s basketball banquet.
The naming rights to the football field have been awarded for a period of 15 years, Krebs said.
The $1.5 million will be paid to UNM in installments, he said, pledged over a 7-year period. The money will not go into the athletics operational budget, Krebs said, but will be used to “benefit the athletic program and the football program.”
The construction of an additional weight room in the L.F. “Tow” Diehm Athletics Facility, Krebs said, is one possibility.
Turner Branch, interviewed on 101.7, said he and his wife hoped to get the attention of other potential donors with their $1.5 million gift.
“We just felt it was the right thing to do at the right time,” he said, noting that the football program is in the midst of a transition after the hiring of new coach Bob Davie. “We wanted to help in some way and offer a challenge and encouragement for others to do the same.”
Turner and Margaret Branch are both UNM graduates.
“I guess you could say I do bleed cherry and silver (the Lobos’ colors), and I always will,” Turner Branch said. “(The gift) is not a message of personal glorification, but participation by all.”
The Branches’ gift is the second-largest ever made to UNM athletics by living individuals. A year ago, UNM graduates Ian and Sonnet McKinnon gave the school $7.5 million, a third of which went to athletics.
In February, amid a controversy about funding for UNM’s renovation of its baseball stadium, a spokesman for Gov. Susana Martinez said the governor “was leery about naming any buildings after people who are still living — before their legacy in the community has been settled and deemed to be positive and worthy of taxpayer-funded recognition.”
— This article appeared on page D1 of the Albuquerque Journal