When newly appointed president of New Mexico Junior College Derek Moore and his wife, Pinkie, came to Hobbs the first time, they flew from their home in El Dorado, Ark.
The view of the long, often barren vistas are not as visible from the air as they are from ground level in a car, so it may be they were a little surprised at the landscape and the distances across the plains of Texas.
“But when we got Seminole,” Moore said, “we knew we were nearly home.”
Moore, who has been in his new office on the NMJC campus only since July 1, has been making the most of his time, packing in 60 or more meetings in 22 days.
Those meetings have included various groups at the college, the college cabinet, department chairs and other faculty leaders, staff members at the college, the five Lea County public school superintendents, the Hobbs Rotary Club and other groups and individuals too numerous to name.
He has attended or led so many meetings in the last 20 or so days, that Pat Chappelle, president of the NMJC board, jokingly asked him at Friday’s board meeting whether he would like to schedule any more meetings this week.
When he hasn’t been in a meeting, Moore and Pinkie have traveled much of Lea County from Jal to Lovington — and Tatum is next on their agenda as they try to “get a feel for each community.”
“We visited Jal and I have never seen so many big trucks at one time,” Moore said. “They’ve got some new schools buildings that look great.
“And it looks like Eunice has some new school construction, and we know it has a great new coffee shop. We’ve been to Lovington and the schools look like they’re well maintained and of course, we’ve been all over Hobbs.
“Everywhere we’ve been, people have been so welcoming. I give Steve McCleery a lot of credit for that because he is working to make the transition as easy as possible.”
McCleery previously spent 18 years as the NMJC president.
Moore said he is not interested in bringing any big new changes to the college — at this time.
“What I want us to do is to keep doing what we’ve been doing it and do it well,” Moore said. “In my meetings with people at the college, I’ve done a lot of listening and I’ve learned two things. One, the people who work here love their jobs. Two, they believe in teamwork.”
Into those positives, Moore brings what he calls the three p’s: “purpose, people and process.”
“Purpose is what you are trying to do. You ought to be able to state it simply so that everyone can understand it. It takes people to understand the purpose, to buy into it, and then to engage in the process to get it done,” Moore said. “I live by those three things. They keep me grounded so that I don’t go off down some strange path.”
Moore is eager to have the college engage more with the community. He would like to see the college offer activities like cheerleader camps and perhaps sports clinics to bring students and their parents to the NMJC campus.
He wants to appeal in particular to students he describes as the “murky middle.”
The “murky middle” is composed of students who are neither at the top nor the bottom of student achievement, he said. They are often overlooked by the public schools they attend as the schools attend more to special needs students and provide challenges for students at the academic top.
Moore describes himself as having been one of the murky middle, without much thought he could go to college.
He said his mother urged him to take every opportunity to visit college campuses that offered activities for students and it gradually dawned on him he could be a successful college student.
“There are lots of kids like I was, and we need to provide chances for them to see what goes on here, and to remember there are opportunities for them,” Moore said.
While Moore has been acquainting himself with his new academic community, Pinkie has been working on packing up their house in El Dorado and making arrangement for movers who will bring their furniture and other belongings to the house they’ve just purchased in Hobbs.
When she gets the moving done and the two of them settled, Pinkie said she may look for a job for herself.
“She’s an expert at information systems,” Moore said. “And that’s probably what she’ll be looking at.”
The Moores have two adult sons, both married. One of their sons is a banker. His wife, a registered nurse, teaches at Tulsa University. The other is a licensed professional counselor at John Brown University.