Mary Haskins, First Lady of El Paso

By on March 7, 2014

Don Haskins, the legendary UTEP Basketball coach, is an icon on the UTEP campus.  Nicknamed “The Bear”, for his gruff sideline manner, he was head coach at the University from 1961 to 1999.  He led the Miners to victory 719 times during his career, ranks 19th among all-time Division I men’s basketball head coaches, and is a member of the Hall of Fame.  However, he was not alone:  his wife, Mary, has her own place in the history of UTEP.

dhresizedMary Gorman grew up in Oklahoma.  She studied business at Oklahoma A&M, now Oklahoma State University.  It is there that she met and married Don Haskins.  Introduced as freshmen, they began dating as sophomores, and were married in 1951. For the next ten years the dynamic couple travelled around New Mexico and Texas, taking teaching and coaching jobs in Artesia, Benjamin, Hedley, and Dumas.  Along the way they had four children, all boys.  When Don got the call from Texas Western College to come and coach the Miners Basketball team, they piled their family into their station wagon and came to El Paso.

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Pulling up to their new home in Miner’s Hall Mary recalls being met by team member Nolan Richardson, who helped them move into the dorm.  Richardson played collegiately for Haskins for two years before embarking on his own impressive coaching career.  The Haskins set up house in the dorm in a one-bedroom apartment and became the “den-parents” to the athletes living there.  They were with them twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, watching out for the young men, “standing guard, and make sure everyone behaved.”  The family never had a lonely day and they fit in quite well with the athletes living in Miner’s Hall.  “The big boys were really nice to my little guys.”

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The Haskins family lived on campus for two years, but Mary remembers that she didn’t really want to leave it; she loved living in the dorm and being involved with the athletes on a daily basis, eating with them and traveling with them.  When they moved out of Miner’s Hall she resolved to remain in touch with the players.  “They were our guys, they were wonderful young men.”  She worked alongside her husband as a guide and motivator.  She became a mentor to students who went on to become accomplished young men with distinguished careers of their own.  Along with Coach Haskins, she helped to put UTEP and El Paso on the map.

Mrs. Haskins talking about Mr. Haskins,  El Paso and 1966 Championship Game

Mrs. Haskins talking about Mr. Haskins, El Paso and 1966 Championship Game

Mary has also established her own thirty year business career  in the travel industry at Sun Travel. Now retired, she dedicates her time to charity and civic organizations, especially to Hospice El Paso.  She still supports UTEP basketball, is a member of the Heritage Commission and attends Osher Life Long Learning Classes, some of which are held in Miner’s Hall.  This year, Mary Haskins was selected to receive the 2014 First Lady of El Paso Award from the Beta Sigma Phi sorority.  Committee chairman Louise Gelstorpe asserts that the lady is a hero to many in El Paso and she has “well represented the university and this city on numerous occasions.”  Beta Sigma Phi held their annual luncheon in February in honor of this amazing woman who is an integral part of UTEP and El Paso.

Interview with Mary Haskins–gloryroad.utep.edu/bear

Interview with Mary Haskins-KTEP, El Paso Prime Time

TWV Miners UTEP—ia.utep.edu

Program, First Lady Luncheon Honoring Mary Haskins

Mary Haskins to be honored by Beta Sigma Phi sorority

By Maria Cortes Gonzalez/El Paso Times

Photo provided by the Special Collections Department of the UTEP Library, VisualLightbox.com, and Gloryroad.utep.edu

Posted in: History