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NMMI breaks with alumni group

LAS CRUCES – Although the New Mexico Military Institute ended a nearly 50-year-old relationship with the school’s alumni association in April over financial concerns, the alumni group is not going quietly.

The NMMI Alumni Association’s board of directors issued a letter to members and donors Tuesday complaining that the Roswell-based school’s administration is demanding the group turn over $5.2 million in assets. Spokesmen for the NMMI could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

The alumni group also said the NMMI administration had “overtaken” the group’s office on campus and that unnamed school representatives had made “false public statements about financial practices at the Association.”

In late February, the NMMI board of regents warned the Alumni Association that if it did not improve accounting practices and provide audited financial statements, the school would break with the group, which provides funds for cadet scholarships and promotes ties between the school’s more than 14,000 alumni.

The NMMI formally ended its relationship with the Alumni Association in April. The NMMI has since formed its own Office of Alumni Relations, and hired as Director James D. Lowe, whose previous job was executive director of the Alumni Association.

In a newsletter, NMMI Superintendent Jerry Grizzle said: “One of our first initiatives will be a membership drive. I was shocked to learn that only 241 (alumni) were annual members last year.”

In the letter issued Tuesday, four members of the Alumni Association’s board of directors urged members and donors to be patient and “understanding as we begin to navigate what has become an incredibly difficult and unusual situation arising” between the group and school administration.

In an email, John Phinizy, a member of the Alumni Association’s board of directors, said the group had hired the certified public accounting firm of Moss Adams to audit its books.

Phinizy, however, did not respond to other emailed questions, which sought clarification of the Association’s claim that ” … in this unprecedented campaign being waged by certain people within the administration, laws have been broken and false statements have been made.”

Phinizy did not provide a copy of any written demand from the NMMI seeking the alumni group’s assets or say whether the group was contemplating legal action.

The letter to alumni said the group’s leadership would be “setting the record straight” in the coming weeks, adding: “Ultimately, this is your association. Its future must be decided by those who built it and funded it and who support it every year through membership. It cannot – and will not – be dismantled by others.”

Despite the sometimes defiant tone of the letter, in a news release Phinizy said the NMMI administration, regents and Alumni Association all want the best for the school.

“I am confident that we will find a way to work together to get back on track and serve all of our constituencies,” he said.