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President's Medal

President's Medal Recipients

Conferred to individuals who have profoundly enhanced the university through four criteria:

(1) significantly supporting the university through donations or gifts,

(2) appreciably advancing STEM in higher education,

(3) enhancing the professional growth of the sciences and engineering in the service of humankind, and/or

(4) significantly enhancing the reputation of New MexicoTech nationally or globally.

Year Recipient Story


Kelly Family

Kelly Family

The Kelly family has been associated with the university since the 1940s, and their collective impact has been immense.

The patriarch of the family, John Martin Kelly, first came to Socorro in 1932 as an undergraduate at what was then known as the New Mexico School of Mines. He earned two degrees, first in Mining (1936) and then in Petroleum Engineering (1939). Those years in Socorro proved to be pivotal in his life – and in the future of New Mexico Tech.

He and his wife, Esther, married in 1938. They had four children -- Joseph James, Patricia Elizabeth, Mary Ann, and John "Mike" Michael.

Throughout his career John Kelly took an interest in New Mexico Tech, which honored him with an honorary Doctor of Science degree in 1963 and appointed him to its Board of Regents in 1975, a post he held only for two years before he passed away in 1977.

During his brief tenure on the Board, he played an important part in the founding of the Petroleum Recovery Research Center (PRRC). The PRRC’s building was dedicated in October 1978 and named the John M. Kelly Petroleum Building. Today, we commonly refer to the PRRC facility as the Kelly Building, keeping the Kelly family legacy alive.

Mike Kelly carried on the family tradition of service to New Mexico Tech. Mike earned his degrees from NMT – a B.S. in 1972, a M.S. in 1996, and a Ph.D. In 2000, all in Petroleum Engineering. He later joined the Board of Regents, serving from 1992 to 1997. He has been an adjunct faculty member as well as an independent oil consultant.

In 1995 Esther and the four children established the John and Esther Kelly Scholarship at New Mexico Tech.

The 2020 President’s Medal is truly a lifetime achievement award for the entire family. Mr. John Martin Kelly started a legacy of giving, public service, and civic duty when he first stepped foot on campus more than 80 years ago. Since then, the Kelly family has maintained that sense of loyalty, generosity and a deep connection to the institution.


Holm O. Bursum, III


Holm Bursum, III

Holm O. Bursum, III, loved Socorro, and felt strongly that he needed to whatever he could to keep it together and strong. Throughout the years he advocated for the community and was very vocal. He was one of those guys that believed that Socorro is the best place to live. It was his love for his community that influenced his decisions. He undertook a massive effort to revitalize the core of the business district.

Generations of the Bursum family of Socorro have shared a vision of a vibrant rural community with New Mexico Tech as the centerpiece. Mr. Holm Bursum III helped shape Socorro, and was always a steadfast supporter of our university. The Bursum family history and New Mexico Tech’s history are inseparable.


Dr. Corale Brierley

Dr. Corale Brierley

President Stephen Wells presented the second-ever President's Medal to Dr. Corale Brierley (B.S. Biology, 1968, and M.S. Chemistry, 1971) on August 25, 2018.

Brierley is internationally known for her pioneering research and contribution to applications in bioleaching and metal remediation. She has won numerous industry awards, served as editorial board members for journals, and has been elected as an officer of national committees and organizations.


Dr. Frank Etscorn

Frank Etscorn

Dr. Etscorn was recognized for inventing the nicotine patch right here at NMT.  His innovation and its subsequent success provided a foundation of support at Tech that is unprecedented.

If you’ve ever met Frank, you know that he’s not an ivory tower sort of academic. He’s outgoing, gregarious, funny, and witty. Frank is quick with a story and even quicker with a laugh.

He joined the faculty at New Mexico Tech in 1977 in the Psychology Department, becoming a full professor and dean of students in 1985.  

After several years of experimentation and testing, Frank and New Mexico Tech were ready to file for a patent. After more than two years of legal battles, we were collectively awarded the patent in 1986.  

The nicotine patch patent turned out to be quite lucrative for both Frank and the university. Since 1995, the revenues from the Habitrol patent have allowed the NMT Foundation to contribute more than $14 million in student scholarships. Since 2000, 3,572 students have received merit scholarships thanks to the endowment and thanks to Frank Etscorn’s invention.