LAS CRUCES, N.M. -- Growing up, baseball was Aggie Alumnus Michael Johnson’s favorite sport, as he and his older brother played the game with their mother sitting in the stands cheering them on. Baseball was a true love for Michael’s mother, Mineola, and it is in her honor that Michael and his, wife, Judy, will give $1.4 million to the NM State baseball program for facility upgrades.
“Baseball has been one of my passions during my entire life,” Johnson said. “My older brother and I grew up playing the game in Roswell, N.M. The love for the game was instilled in us by my mother, who was a huge baseball fan. It was the sport she really followed and enjoyed watching. She attended as many of our games as her work schedule would allow, cheering for my brother and me from the stands. We dedicate this gift as a memorial to my mother and hopefully it will bring good fortune to the New Mexico State baseball program for years to come.”
Michael and Judy have always been supporters of the game of baseball on a few different levels, including establishing a scholarship at Rice University for its baseball program and also as long-time season ticket holders for the Houston Astros and the Rice Owls.
“My wife, Judy and I have always enjoyed the game of baseball,” he added. “I coached Little League, Pony League, and Babe Ruth League for many years, and both our kids played baseball growing up. We were longtime Houston Astros season ticket holders and helped Rice University’s baseball team in the late 1990s with a similar gift, which helped that program become very successful and I feel very proud of being a part of that effort. I had been thinking about doing the same for New Mexico State over the past few years and this year seemed to be the right time.”
“Michael and Judy Johnson are great supporters of this university,” said NMSU President Garrey Carruthers. “With their commitment of time, leadership and financial contributions, they are helping to ensure NMSU remains one of the best universities in our region.”
“This gift from Michael and Judy Johnson is a program altering gift for NM State baseball,” said head coach Rocky Ward. “It’s really important to the growth of Aggie baseball. This will give us a much better chance to compete more consistently on the conference and regional levels, as well as help us significantly in our recruiting efforts, while giving our fans a great atmosphere to watch a baseball game. I want to thank Michael and Judy for their generosity and welcome them into the Aggie baseball family.”
"I am very happy that Mike and Judy chose to give NMSU Athletics and our baseball program this transformational gift, which will change the face of our baseball program in a significant way,” said NMSU Athletics Director McKinley Boston. “Our baseball facility will become state of the art, which will both enhance recruiting and also impact our ability to provide an improved quality of service to our fans. NMSU, our Head Coach Rocky Ward and our student-athletes will be forever grateful for this wonderful and significant gift."
The Johnson’s gift will assist in making much needed upgrades to the baseball facilities including:
· Addition of stands to accommodate more fans
· Chair back seating
· Stadium sun cover
· Dugout expansion and renovation
· Upgrade clubhouse lighting and systems
· Sprinkler repair down the left field line
· Exterior fences
· Repairing of the outfield fence
· Upgraded press box
· Upgraded scoreboard with video display and MPH (miles per hour) display
Michael and Judy Johnson have been extremely generous to NMSU. In 2006, the Johnsons gave NMSU a $1 million gift to help the College of Arts and Sciences establish its first endowed chair in the Department of Geological Sciences. In honor of Judy’s grandmother, an Aggie alumnus, they established the Daisy Gray Scholarship for students majoring in special education with a $150,000 gift in 2008. In 2009, the pair, who live just outside of Santa Fe, pledged $125,000 to the NMSU Center for the Arts to establish the new center’s costume shop, Jaki’s Closet, named after their daughter, Jaclynn, a 2011 NMSU graduate. In 2010, they donated $250,000 for The Lionel Haight Professorship and have since issued two $100,000 match challenges to work toward growing the professorship into a chair.
Michael Johnson retired from ConocoPhillips Co. in 2002. He graduated from NMSU in 1972 with a bachelor’s degree in geological sciences. He also has earned master’s degrees from Rice University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, as well as an honorary doctorate from NMSU. He serves on the NMSU Foundation Board of Directors as Past Chairman.
Judy Johnson attended NMSU for three years before transferring to the University of Houston where she finished her degree in accounting. She is a certified public accountant and retired from the City of Houston, Texas, where she held many positions before becoming city controller and director of finance and administration. She serves on the NMSU College of Education’s Board of Advocates, the NMSU College of Business’ Advisory Council, and also received an honorary doctorate from NMSU.
The Aggies have been playing baseball since the inception of the New Mexico College of Agriculture and Mechanical Arts in 1888. The program has seen various advancements since those early days particularly in the area of funding and facilities. Prior to the 2002 season, Aggie baseball had never qualified for postseason play. There were only nine 30-plus win seasons in the previous 40 years.
The 2002 season marked a breakthrough year as the team qualified for its first conference tournament, secured 30-plus wins (all against NCAA Division I opponents), won its first conference championship, and made its first NCAA postseason appearance.
The momentum has persisted. Since that special 2002 team, the Aggies have qualified for all but two conference tournaments, won another conference title (2012 WAC), and played in two additional NCAA regional tournaments in 2004 and 2012. Eight of the past 12 seasons have been 30-plus win efforts and the program has qualified for 10 of the past twelve conference tournaments.
Aggie baseball has received national Top 25 rankings in the polls several times and has developed into the most powerful offense in the country. The 2013 team was ranked in the top ten nationally in most offensive categories, qualified for the conference tournament, and won 30-plus games.