Family emergencies and financial hardships are not uncommon in students' lives, and may sometimes even cause setbacks in one's college career path.
Judge Les Smith and his wife, Judy, are sympathetic to these cases. That's why the couple has created the Smith Current Use Emergency Fund to encourage New Mexico State University's nursing students to stay in school even when they are facing difficult times.
"We just think if someone is working hard to become a nurse and some financial crisis is forcing them to quit, than they ought to have a chance to stay in school," he said. "We thought about how hard it is to continue one's education even with a scholarship, especially holding down a job and maybe having children and a family."
Although neither parent attended the university, Smith's two daughters are NMSU Aggies - one, a graduate of the nursing program.
The couple became loyal supporters of the university shortly after moving to Las Cruces from Truth or Consequences in 1996. After buying season tickets for football and basketball, they joined the Aggie Athletic Scholarship Association. They later created the Leslie C. and Judy L. Smith Endowed Nursing Scholarship.
"Then it occurred to us that maybe there should be a fund that could be used to help folks stay in school when they are at the cusp of quitting for financial reasons, such as lack of money for books," said the retired U.S. magistrate and state district court judge.
Jennifer Cervantes, assistant dean at the College of Health and Social Services, described the emergency fund as the first of its kind in the college.
"It has tremendous long-term impact," she said. "Unfortunately no amount of planning can guard against every contingency, and there are times when a student's financial circumstances can suddenly change. This fund would allow the School of Nursing to help students who would otherwise drop out stay in school."
Cervantes commended Smith's ongoing commitment to the college.
"He serves on our board of advisers, guest lectures, and even takes time to meet one on one with the recipients of the scholarship he and his wife Judy created. He is a true champion of this college. When I shared the exciting news of the Smith gift with our board chair, Carol Smallwood, she was inspired to create one of her own in Public Health Sciences."
Additionally, the Smiths are responsible for helping fund the NMSU Center for the Arts.