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NMSU’s Rentfrow Hall named after long-time registrar for her dedication to students

Date: 06/25/2020

Rentfrow Hall was originally constructed in 1958 as a women’s gymnasium and named for Era Rentfrow, after she served as the university’s registrar for 40 years. The gym was the home for the Department of Physical Education and Recreation, which eventually became the College of Education’s Department of Kinesiology and Dance.

Black and white photo of  woman seated
Era Rentfrow was registrar of the New Mexico College of Agriculture & Mechanic Arts between 1922-1962. Rentfrow frequently used personal funds to make loans to students to cover their tuition, board, or books. She was proud of the fact that all students repaid these loans, no matter how long it took. (Photo courtesy NMSU Library and Special Collections)
Black and white photo of building
Rentfrow Gymnasium in 1958 was built to house the Department of Physical Education and Recreation. (Photo courtesy of NMSU Library and Special Collections)
Color photo of building
Rentfrow Hall houses the College of Education's Department of Kinesiology and Dance. (NMSU Photo by Amanda Adame)

/> About Era Rentfrow

Rentfrow was born in 1898 and moved to Mesilla Park at an early age. She attended the college's preparatory school, graduating as president of her class in 1915. She then enrolled at the New Mexico College of Agriculture & Mechanic Arts as one of 23 entering freshmen.

After graduation in 1919, she began a lifelong career of service at the college. In 1922, Rentfrow was promoted and became the college registrar. In addition to her duties as registrar, she was responsible for sending out publicity to prospective students, issuing student activity cards, supervising ticket sales for all college programs and much more.

Rentfrow frequently used personal funds to make loans to students to cover their tuition, board, or books. She was proud of the fact that all students repaid these loans, no matter how long it took. She found inspiration in student success.

Rentfrow was engaged to Joe Quesenberry, a student at New Mexico A&M and captain of the football team. He was the first Aggie killed in combat during World War I. She never married after his death.

Perhaps motivated by the loss of her fiancé, Rentfrow tracked and chronicled the Aggies who served during World War II. She dedicated herself to preserving the memory of the 126 Aggies who did not come home. Recognizing the need to secure their place in history, she gathered their photographs and biographical information from families and loved ones. The photos displayed in the rededicated Memorial Tower honor their memory.

In 1962, after 40 years as university registrar, she retired. She is credited as having one of the biggest impacts on the lives of students during this period. Shortly after her retirement, Rentfrow Hall was named in her honor.

Historic significance

Rentfrow Hall sits almost in the exact geographical center of the NMSU campus near the corner of Stewart and Williams. The architect is listed as unknown. The one-story building was constructed with stuccoed walls, brick surrounds, ceramic tile mullions and jalousie windows with sidelights and transom windows.

An evaluation of the building in the 2009 Heritage Preservation Plan determined the building did not meet the level of architectural or historical significance to warrant a determination of eligibility on the National Historic Register. Rentfrow Hall was slated for demolition as part of NMSU’s Master Plan.

Rentfrow’s legacy and importance to NMSU history may have played a role in the building’s renovation. In the preservation plan, evaluators insisted the name Era Rentfrow should be “carried forward on another campus building of similar visibility and import.” Siting her history of helping students and her long tenure at the university as well as an endowment in her name, the preservation plan states: “She is an important figure in the history of NMSU and the honor of her name should continue.” The building was not demolished and instead was renovated, thanks to a bond election five years later.

Rentfrow Hall undergoes a major renovation

The growing Department of Kinesiology and Dance housed in Rentfrow Hall needed major renovation after nearly 60 years without any upgrades. A floor-to-ceiling remodel began in April 2016, funded with $2.9 million from the 2014 General Obligation Bond. The renovation was completed in Fall 2017.

The project added a 2,700 square-foot dance studio, additional restroom space and renovated a 12,000 square-foot gymnasium, which was converted into two dance studios. Those studios are now divided by a retractable wall with retractable bleachers for public performances. Studio spaces are used as rehearsal spaces for students to practice choreography. Two labs for the kinesiology program also were added to the building. One is a Biochemistry and Molecular Exercise Physiology lab while the other is for Applied Exercise Physiology.



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