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NMSU’s Jett Hall named for beloved dean, pen pal to WWII Aggie soldiers

Date: 07/22/2020

After more than 60 years, Jett Hall is still home to the chemical, mechanical and aerospace engineering departments. The hall was named after Daniel Boone Jett, a beloved former dean of the College of Engineering and a professor of civil engineering for 30 years. The hall was named to honor him a year after he retired.

Head and shoulders of a man in black and white
Daniel Boone Jett was dean of the College of Engineering and a professor of civil engineering at the New Mexico College or Agriculture and Mechanic Arts for 30 years from 1926-1956. During World War II, Jett became a personal pen pal with hundreds of his former students serving in the war. Thousands of letters were compiled into a book and published in 2008. (Photo courtesy NMSU Library Special Collections)
Black and white building with students
Jett Hall in the 1960s.
Color photo of building with trees and shrubs
Jett Hall in 2020.

About Daniel Boone Jett

After completing his Bachelor’s at the University of Illinois in 1917 and Master’s at the University of Wyoming in 1931, Daniel Boone Jett was hired as a civil engineering professor at New Mexico College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts.

Students nicknamed him “Dad Jett,” as a demonstration of their fondness for him. Jett was promoted to department head in 1933 before becoming dean of the College of Engineering from 1938-1947. During World War II, Jett became a personal pen pal with hundreds of his former students serving in the war.

He compiled class newsletters and saved the letters of more than 1,000 Aggies serving as soldiers or nurses for more than five years. As a World War I veteran himself, Jett understood what it was like to be young, homesick and fighting in a war.

Jett letters published

In his letters, Jett encouraged his students with plans to return home to school when the war ended. His correspondence was intended to lift morale of the Aggies at war. Thousands of letters were eventually compiled into a book, “The Whole Damned World: New Mexico Aggies at War: 1941-1945: World War II Correspondence of Dean Daniel B. Jett” by university archivist Martha Shipman Andrews.

Andrews found over 5,000 letters among Jett’s papers in 2005. Not even his family knew he had worked so hard to keep soldiers connected to home. The book was published by the NMSU Library in collaboration with Rio Grande Books in 2008.

Jett made a lasting impact on the university and his students. After stepping down as dean in 1947, Jett returned to teaching and served as head of civil engineering until his retirement in 1956.

Architectural history

Jett Hall, located on the south side of the Horseshoe, was built in two stages. In 1955, Wolgamood & Millington, architects from Santa Fe, drew up the plans for the building.
In addition to Jett Hall, Wolgamood designed Breland Hall and the Chemistry Building. His designs reflected the trend toward Regional Modernism by incorporating styling such as large glass curtain walls at the main entries with touches of “Spanish Renaissance Revival” styling such as red tile roofing that mirrored the work of previous architects Trost and Percey McGhee.

The first wing of the facility was completed in 1956. The cost of construction for the first phase of Jett Hall was $370,710. This included the northwestern portion of the building from the main entrance to the west and the annex. Construction of the northeast, east, and west additions was completed ten years later. In 1965, the second phase of construction for the northeast, east, and west additions began.

Additions and renovations

Jett Hall has undergone several renovations and improvements in its nearly 64-year history. Its most significant renovation was in 2015 funded by the 2014 General Obligation Bond. The renovations cost more than $17 million.

A complete rebuild of utilities along with modernized research labs was added during the renovation of Jett Hall. The building houses many of the university’s research labs, which were redesigned with the flexibility for researchers to better share spaces. The labs easily can be converted to meet the needs of researcher’s with different needs.



NMSU History Archives