NMSU computer science endowed professorship recognizes faculty excellence – Las Cruces Sun-News

LAS CRUCES – Hue McCoy started his foray into computer science in the 1960s. Even back then he had a number of high-paying job offers after graduation. In the mid-1970s McCoy began a career at White Sands Missile Range and also taught part-time at New Mexico State University. He joined NMSU’s computer science department’s full-time faculty in 1990 and retired from NMSU twice, the first time in 2001. Then he sat out a year and came back to NMSU and retired again in 2011.

When teaching computer science, McCoy always felt strongly about connecting his students with employment opportunities. Over the years he’s connected hundreds with opportunities for jobs.

“I had been out in the workplace so they would come to me and say ‘I’m looking for a job now what’s available?’ I have many former students working at White Sands, at Sandia National Labs, at Intel,” said McCoy. I like to keep up with them.” 

Michelle Watson was among a handful of women getting degrees in computer science at NMSU in the early 1990s. “I had him (McCoy) for classes in both my junior and senior years,” she said. “Phenomenal classes to prepare anybody for the real world and what it’s like to be a computer scientist in the industry.”

These days, McCoy’s goal is to attract and keep top computer science professors at NMSU. The Department of Computer Science established its first Endowed Professorship named for McCoy and his late wife Pat, who provided the seed funds to start the endowment in 2019.

McCoy is passionate about computer science education and securing NMSU’s place as a leader in that field. McCoy’s wife Pat was also a long-time NMSU employee, spending 29 years as a counselor for NMSU students in the university’s counseling center, she retired in 2008. She was an expert on eating disorders and campus sexual violence and presented her work at several national conferences. After they had both retired, they wanted to do something for the university. They have contributed to other scholarships for NMSU students. Then they had the idea for the endowed professorship.

“I decided to try to do something a little bigger to help,” McCoy said. “I was hoping to give the department a way to attract faculty from other institutions.”

A number of McCoy’s former students are supporting the endowment. Mike Dowell, who grew up in Gallup, is among them. Dowell worked for two small technical companies in Las Cruces doing computer programming and hardware and software testing but returned to NMSU to work on a contract with Sandia National Labs developing user interfaces for some of their physics models. While working at NMSU he taught some programming classes in both the computer science and business departments. He left NMSU after 10 years and has since worked as a government contractor at White Sands Missile Range.

“Hue McCoy was a huge influence on me and I know many others,” Dowell said. “I always wanted a way to honor that along with both Hue and his wife Pat. I was so pleased when I saw that the endowment had been created and I was honored to contribute to it these past years.”

“It’s no surprise that Hue McCoy’s former students support this endowed professorship. He has been an inspirational computer scientist to many of our alumni,” Pontelli said. “Hue cares about providing support to strengthen our computer science program and take it to the next level, to be a leader in the field. The McCoy endowed professorship is part of the foundation to build on that vision.”

The first professor chosen for the Hue and Pat McCoy Endowed Professorship was Huiping Cao, a computer science professor at NMSU since 2010, whose research is focused on data mining, applied machine learning, data engineering, and application domains such as smart grids, high-performance computing, agricultural and environmental sciences.

“Huiping Cao is an excellent choice for this endowed professorship,” said Enrico Pontelli, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “Her research is valuable and our students who study with her are able to engage in cutting-edge science.”

Nearly 30 years after she graduated from NMSU, Watson stays in touch with McCoy, a professor who encouraged the few women in NMSU’s computer science program back then. She and her husband, also an NMSU Computer Science alumnus, decided to donate to McCoy’s endowed professorship.

“NMSU had a great computer science department when I was there,” Watson said. “I just kind of fell into the field and it ended up being great. They had great relationships with businesses to the point where I was getting recruited for internships and upon graduation. It was fairly easy to get a job after graduating from NMSU with a computer science or electrical engineering degree.”

After spending 10 years at Hewlett-Packard and a government contractor, Watson returned to NMSU many times to recruit new graduates. She currently is working on mobile apps for a large healthcare company.

Watson points to universities across the country where there are many in-depth classes in different areas of computer science and even colleges of computer science are available to students.

“It would be nice to continue to expand course offerings for the state of New Mexico and for those kids attending NMSU,” Watson said. It’s a good school and I would hate to see it not live up to its potential. Providing funds for the salary of a professor who is so passionate about NMSU is essential.”

Visit this page if you are interested in donating to the Hue and Pat McCoy Endowed Professorship.

Minerva Baumann writes for New Mexico State University Marketing and Communications and can be reached at 575-646-7566, or by email at mbauma46@nmsu.edu.

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