Museum Studies students are honoring a few of UTEP’s lesser-known “heroes.”
An exhibit created in conjunction with UTEP’s Centennial Celebration looks at UTEP’s identity, success and achievements in a nontraditional way.
Professor Kerry Doyle, lecturer and director of the Stanlee and Gerald Rubin Center for the Visual Arts, along with eight students from her Exhibition II in Museum Studies class, hosted a reception to install the exhibit on the third floor of the University Library on April 29. Joining Doyle and her class for the “Hidden Heroes: Behind the Scenes Stories From Across the UTEP Campus” unveiling were the ‘heroes’ being honored in the exhibit.
The purpose of the project was to identify voices and faces ‘behind the scenes’ of day-to-day life at UTEP. It honored the people who work to preserve history, beautify the campus, who provide places for students to safely work and learn, and who mentor and prepare students for the future. Students chose the honorees based on the many ways they each go above and beyond their job descriptions.
“These students did an excellent job choosing people who exemplify Centennial values,” Doyle said. “They chose people who every day live out the identity of UTEP. They all have hidden talents that enrich their work here at this University and in turn enrich our lives. What kind of people make UTEP great? These kinds of people do.”
One of the honorees was the news and public affairs director of UTEP’s on-campus radio station, KTEP-FM (88.5), Louie Saenz.
“This is very humbling and such an honor,” said Saenz, who also works as a lecturer in the Department of Communication. “I would go out of my way to do anything for these students – some of them grow up very disadvantaged, but look at them now; some of them are doctoral students and I am so proud of them.”
The feeling was mutual from one of Saenz’s former students in attendance at the ceremony. Gabby Morales, a 2012 UTEP graduate now studying for her master’s in communication, said, “He goes above and beyond, and everything a professor should be – he is. He pushed us to outperform ourselves and is an all-around amazing mentor.”
Another honoree, Heinrich Niederleig, a custodian with the UTEP Facilities Services department, was thrilled with the honor. Niederleig, a native of Poland who speaks three languages, came to UTEP in 2009 and began working at UTEP while also teaching tennis and working as a professional photographer.
“I feel like this means the students must respect me and what I do in some way – just as I respect them,” he said. “This means they think I do a good job and it’s an honor.”
Niederleig also shared some of his own fond memories from his work time in the Fox Fine Arts Center. For example, he often would work there while vocal and choir students practiced German songs. He offered his advice on German language pronunciation, which they gladly accepted, he said.
Exhibition II student Laura Fernandez, who is pursuing her bachelor’s degree in multidisciplinary studies, chose Heritage House volunteer William F. Quinn as her hidden hero.
“I love history and read it for fun,” Fernandez said. “That’s why I chose Willie – he’s amazing. Anyone who visits the Heritage House will hear, ‘Talk to Willie; he knows everything!’”
Quinn, a 1952 graduate and self-described “Miner for life” who also sits on the Heritage House Commission, is a favorite of everyone who visits the Heritage House, a quaint museum in a white bungalow on the corner of Kerbey Avenue and Randolph Drive.
At the ceremony to open the exhibit, Doyle handed Quinn a pair of scissors and asked, “Will our most distinguished Miner do the honor of cutting the ribbon?” Quinn replied, “You mean the oldest,” drawing laughter from the surrounding crowd.
“I was surprised more than anything,” Quinn said, describing his reaction to being honored. “We just do what we love to do – keeps us out of the bars! But I do feel so appreciated, especially when it comes from the students.”
Another hidden hero and UTEP Police officer, Emmery “Mac” McCleary, said he was shocked to be honored.
“This is one of the greatest feelings – to be recognized by these students that I care so much about,” he said.
Joining the event with her full support and Miner pride was UTEP President Diana Natalicio, who came to congratulate the honorees and view the exhibit.
“This is exemplary work,” President Natalicio said. “Each hero is extremely deserving of this honor.”
An exciting component of the “Hidden Heroes” project is the Facebook page students have established so other students can post about their own heroes across campus. The Facebook page can be found at: https://www.facebook.com/UTEPHiddenHeroes.
Doyle’s Exhibition I class from this spring along with the fall Exhibition I class taught by Dan Carey-Whelan are in the process of co-producing a sister project to Hidden Heroes that will focus on objects across the UTEP campus that exemplify the Centennial spirit. It will be installed in the Centennial Museum on Sept. 23.
The “Hidden Heroes” exhibit will be available for viewing until May 17.
William F. Quinn, Heritage House volunteer
Juan Antonio Sandoval, UTEP librarian and art collector
Heinrich Niederleig, UTEP Facilities Services custodian
John White, Chihuahuan Desert Gardens curator
Charles Gaunce, law Librarian and lecturer
Louis Saenz, Director of News and Public Affairs for KTEP-FM and lecturer
Emmery “Mac” McCleary Jr., UTEP Police Officer
Ofelia Aguilar Dominguez, director of Union Services
Published on Thursday, 16 May 2013 13:55 at http://newsuc.utep.edu/index.php/news-latest/1009-students-recognize-a-few-of-utep-s-hidden-heroes
Sandy Hicks writes for UTEP's Office of University Communications.