Thursday, April 15, 2010

‘T’ Mountain At Tech?

Mountain Mail Reports

One of the most prominent identifiers for New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology – and possibly for the general Socorro area – is the ‘M’ painted on Socorro Peak. The ‘M’ referring to ‘mining.’
But, according to a press release from the university, consideration is underway to replace the ‘M’ with a ‘T.’ Van Romero, vice president of research and economic development at New Mexico Tech, thinks it may be time for a change.
This year marks the 100th year anniversary of the ‘M.’
“Maybe 100 years of the ‘M’ is long enough?” questioned Romero in the press release. “This is the perfect time to rally together and bring Socorro Peak into the 21st century. Since the university is associated with technology, wouldn’t it be more appropriate to have a ‘T’ instead of an ‘M’?”
Romero was a student at Tech in the late 1970s, is now in charge of the ‘M.’ He approves requests to light the ‘M’ – or the ‘W’ when the high school athletic teams, the Warriors, have home games. His office is also in charge of maintenance of the ‘M’ and the site surrounding the peak.
“We’re getting ready to light the ‘M’ for the end of semester,” he said. “As I do that, I am wondering about where we go in the future. This seems like the perfect time to put a new look on Socorro Peak and change the ‘M’ to better fit New Mexico Tech culture.”

Socorro Tourism Director Deborah Dean said changing the ‘M’ would entail spending money on changing text and photographs in tourist brochures and other documents.
“It’s an image that has been a part of Socorro for a long time, the ‘M’ on the mountain,” Dean said. “For years and years people have asked, ‘what does the ‘M’ stand for? But [if this happens] will they ask what does the ‘T’ stand for?”
Random interviews with Socorro residents garnered the same general response: “don’t do it.”
“They better not do it,” a woman in Supermart parking lot said. “It’s been the ‘M’ Mountain and that’s the way it is, and I’ve lived here all my life.”
The painting of the ‘M’ on Socorro Peak is the oldest Tech tradition, dating to 1910, according to Paige Christiansen’s history of Tech, College on the Rio Grande. He wrote that the event was sporadic and unorganized until 1916 when then-President Fayette Jones organized the annual event and Paint the ‘M.’
Cash prizes were awarded to the team of two who first arrived at the ‘M’ with a 90 pound bag of lime. The event continues as a 49er’s Weekend activity, and promotes considerable spirit amongst the students.
In 2009, more than 100 people – students, faculty, alumni and community members – made the hike. Also, prizes are awarded to the first 20 students or teams of students who carry 50-pound bags of crushed marble.
Romero certainly wants to keep the traditional climb, but he feels that the mountain is ready for a facelift and a bit of modernization. He said Socorro Peak and the ‘M’ have undergone many changes over the years. Lights were added to the ‘M’ several decades ago but were not hard-wired until 2000.
A project to change the ‘M’ to a ‘T’ would also give the university an opportunity to improve access to the peak, Romero said.
“Currently, it’s very difficult to get from the parking area to the ‘M’,” he said. “It’s a pain. If we got enough of a production going, we could use that workforce to improve access so more people could enjoy Socorro Peak.”
A Facebook group, Miners Against Changing the "M" to a "T," has been formed to solicit comments on the controversy.


  1. Facebook group: Miners Against Changing the "M" to a "T"

  2. Facebook group: Miners Against Changing the "M" to a "T"