Edwina Gower (Photo by Noelle Bartl)
Edwina Gower (Photo by Noelle Bartl)

Edwina Gower reflects on her first year as the first lady of Eastern New Mexico University (FLOE), her goals and what being a Greyhound means to her.

Describe your first year as FLOE:

As I contemplate the highlights of the past year, a myriad of imagines flash through my mind. However, the ones that stand out above the others are graduations. It is such a privilege to be involved in what is a seminal moment is people's lives.

In December, I was seated on the floor during the ceremony (the first time since my own college graduation) as I also got see the realization of my husband's goal of becoming a University President. We've been married 33 years, and the pride and pleasure of watching him invested as Eastern's 10th President in the midst of all those others achieving their own dreams was a highlight of my life.

The May graduation allowed me to sit back and soak in the beauty of seeing so many families celebrating the milestone that graduation represents.

My connection with students was facilitated by the events attended. We strive to attend as many University events as possible. At times, that means "divide and conquer." There are times when I am at an event by myself because Jeffery is traveling on University business. Whether as a couple or solo, we always engage with others at the event. Those daily connections are what build relationships and make folks more likely to share successes and concerns.

What goals do you have for your role as FLOE?

My primary goal is to assist in building and maintaining relationships with students, employees, alumni, community members and donors. I hope to be someone who everyone feels they can come to for a hug, smile, friendship, advice or help. I don't have an official "job" at the University, but that gives me a lot of latitude to work across departments to help make things happen. 

A secondary goal, or project, right now is trying to help highlight the art we have here. ENMU is fortunate to have a number of significant pieces. The hope is to find information on all of them and create a place on the website where folks can see a picture and read the story with just a click.  Additionally, I'd like to have plaques made for the larger pieces to enable anyone who walks by to know the basic information about it. 

Favorite thing about ENMU and Portales:

That's easy… the people! It may sound trite, but the people here are undoubtedly the greatest strength of both the gown and town.

What does being a Greyhound mean to you?

It means joining a family. This feels a bit like marriage; you might not have known everyone in your spouse's family before the wedding, but you get the bonus of immediately having them in yours now.  That is true for anyone at ENMU, and it is a truly wonderful thing. We've been at a number of schools, and that feeling of family is pretty rare.

Describe how your volunteer work has shaped you as a person:

Each volunteer event, whether successful or not, was a building block in my education. People don't really change whether you're working with inner-city youth, poor people in a third world country, or as a docent at a zoo. Everyone has a unique perspective and story. If you can try to see the situation from their perspective and look for common ground, you can achieve a lot.

What advice do you have for students interested in volunteer work? What is a good first step for them to get involved and make a difference?

There is always someone who can use your wisdom, advice, help and love. Giving is the best "high" for anyone. So, take a little time to be introspective and determine what your gifts and talents are. Then, look for places where those can be utilized. Don't be afraid to try something; it isn't a life-long commitment. You grow and learn yourself just from engaging.

Are you involved with any organizations in Portales?

During this first year, I've tried to be cognizant of not taking on too much as we learn our new surroundings. Leadership Portales is one group that I did join and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. It helped me learn quite a bit about the town and the surrounding area while working with others doing the same.

Portales Woman's Club also reached out to me, and I did join. As of now, every first lady of ENMU has been a member! Recently, Altrusa invited me to join, and I believe that I will soon. Their commitment to literacy is close to my heart.  Reading is the key to learning, which is the key to self-sufficiency. 

Tell us about your background and family:

I was born in Paducah, Kentucky, and still have family there. My father, P.G. Gower, worked for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and died in 1984. My mother, Lois Gower, retired from G.E. and passed away in 2008. My sister, Carol Gower, lives in Clearwater, Florida, and is an accountant. We are incredibly close, and I treasure that relationship. 

Our son, Preston Elwell, graduated from college in May and recently began working in sports information at Angelo State. And, I believe that almost everyone is familiar with our dogs, Molly and Mindy. They are both rescues and spend their time "decorating" the carpet with their fur.

I worked in Human Resources in both manufacturing and banking before our son was born. My experience in that has been very helpful here. I intrinsically understand confidentiality and everything associated with hiring. I spent a number of years being paid to help employees, and now I can be an unofficial employee relations representative.

Who influences you? Who is your role model?

Intelligence and the acquisition of knowledge are things I highly value (it's why I married a smart guy). It's why I ask so many questions, too! There isn't a particular person who is a role model, but I've been fortunate to be around a lot of people over the years and have tried to take note of the habits of those I admire. 

Any hobbies?

I love to read and like exchanging book information with other readers. Cooking is another passion and one way that I show my love. I enjoy trying to pair wine with each course and watching folks as they experience that. Also, sharing treats with the amazing folks who work here is loads of fun.

Favorite places you have traveled? Any upcoming vacations planned?

We recently returned from my first, and Jeffery's third, trip to Hawaii. Our time was spent on Kauai, which is called "the garden island." Its name is apt, and a highlight was a three-hour chocolate tasting at a cacao farm. It was intense (pun intended!).

We've also spent the past year getting to know some parts of The Land of Enchantment and look forward to seeing more this year. By far, my favorite vacation experience was swimming with the manatees in Florida. Being in the water and touching those gentle giants was wonderful. 

My favorite destination was New Zealand. We were there before the earthquake, and it was magical.  We will get back there one day when we have two full weeks to explore both the north and south islands.

Interesting fact about you:

I collect giraffes and have over 200 of them! They are wonderful creatures, and I can spout facts about them until your eyes glaze.

Final thoughts:

There are two things I'd love for everyone associated with ENMU to know:

You are encouraged to voice ideas to help us continue to improve. Every one won't come to fruition, but some will. Jeffery is only one person, and the University will be poorer if only his ideas are considered for implementation. So, feel free to brainstorm about something in your area or something that is University-wide. Because if hundreds of ideas are considered, then the very best of those, when implemented, will have a much wider and deeper impact. 

Secondly, this place exists to educate students. If students aren't enrolled, then no one is needed. So, it's everyone's job to help recruit and retain students who will benefit from what we have to offer.  ENMU isn't the best place for everyone, but we are a great place for lots of potential students.  Admissions has the primary responsibility for this, but if each one of us (students, staff, faculty, administrators, alumni, etc.) will jump in and help, we can ensure more people are able to take advantage of the excellent Eastern Experience.