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Late NMSU history professor honored with Lifetime Achievement Award

Lauded as a respected historian, a preservation advocate and a much-loved teacher, Clarence Fielder, the New Mexico State University history professor emeritus who passed away in April, earned one more honor on Friday, May 8.

Group of people standing
From Left: Clarence Fielder’s sister Gertrude Boyer, her daughter Marcia, Jeff Pappas, State Historic Preservation Officer, NMSU professor emeritus Beth O’Leary and Hobart Boyer pose for photo after the family received Fielder’s Lifetime Achievement Award at the 43rd Annual Preservation Awards in Santa Fe. (Courtesy Photo)

NMSU history professor emeritus Clarence Fielder, shown here at a New Mexico Farm & Ranch Heritage Museum presentation in 2013, posthumously received the State Historic Preservation Office’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

Fielder was awarded a posthumous Lifetime Achievement award from the Historic Preservation Division in the New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs at the organization’s 43rd Annual Preservation Awards. Fielder’s sister Gertrude Boyer along with her husband Hobart and daughter Marcia made the trip to Santa Fe to accept the honor on Fielder’s behalf.

“With this award, we honor Clarence’s dedication to historic preservation, which we saw in his many years of service as a member of the Cultural Properties Review Committee (CPRC) and in his tireless labor to preserve Phillips Chapel in his hometown of Las Cruces,” said Rick Hendricks, CPRC chairman and New Mexico State Historian. “As a fellow historian, I valued his unrivaled knowledge of the history of the Black experience in New Mexico and his eagerness to share what he knew with all who were willing to listen.”

Phillips Chapel was founded by Fielder’s grandfather and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places for its significance to the African American Community. It also served as a school for Black children during the period of segregation in the Las Cruces Public Schools (1925 -1954). Fielder led NMSU faculty, students and community volunteers in efforts to restore the church built in 1911. Now with a new minister, services are held every Sunday.

Fielder served as a historian for the state’s Cultural Properties Review Committee from 2006-2013 in addition to his 40 years at NMSU and 30 years teaching in Las Cruces Public Schools. However, a point of pride in his later years was the restoration of the historic Phillips Chapel, Las Cruces’ oldest African American church still in existence.