When Nancy Lutz enrolled in the University of New Mexico in the mid-1950s, finding part-time employment to help cover her expenses was one of her first priorities. Having worked at the Albuquerque Public Library during high school, she hoped her cataloging skills would transfer.
They did: for most of her time at UNM, she spent 20 hours a week at Zimmerman Library in the acquisitions department, a job that not only paid the bills, but fed her love for learning.
"I alphabetized card catalogues, but when I got too chatty for the quiet library, they sent me downstairs to arrange things for microfilming," she says. She was hired on at 75 cents an hour and received two raises, bringing her hourly wage to 95 cents by the time she graduated. From the time she was a child growing up in Albuquerque, she loved books, and at Zimmerman she enjoyed discovering how a library system works.
Nancy's library job also paved the way for her first career opportunity after graduating in 1958 with a bachelor's degree in English education. At a time when jobs were hard to come by, she was hired to set up the library at the brand-new John Adams Junior High School in Albuquerque.
She and her husband, Ray Lutz, who met at UNM as members of the concert choir, went on to successful and rewarding careers in education, but Nancy never forgot the influential role her Zimmerman Library job played in her life. The Lutzes then revised their wills, remembering Zimmerman Library in a specific bequest.
"I'm a bibliophile, so books are more important to me than buildings and this gift is designated for acquisitions," says Nancy. "It's important for the library to be able to provide students in the future with the tools they will need to learn and succeed."
Ray also graduated in 1958 with a degree in mechanical engineering; they were married that same year. They both went on to earn master's and doctorate degrees. Ray has an M.B.A. from UNM and a Ph.D. in industrial engineering from Iowa State University. He was teaching at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces when Nancy enrolled in an experimental program in reading there. She had earned a master's degree in English Literature at UNM and followed it up with a Ph.D. from NMSU. Her dissertation looked at the listening skills of second-graders before they became proficient readers and she concluded that a student couldn't be a good reader if he or she wasn't a good listener.
After five years in Norman, Okla., where Ray served on the faculty of the industrial engineering program at the University of Oklahoma, they moved to Dallas in 1973, and both were involved in turning the Southwest Center for Advanced Studies into the University of Texas at Dallas, transitioning the graduate research lab into a branch of the state's premier university system.
While Ray stayed with the university for the next 27 years, Nancy returned to tutoring, which she had done earlier in her career. She preferred helping students on an informal, individual basis.
"Nancy was able to take kids who were flunking out and get them to be active learners," says Ray. "They were able to turn themselves around from always being failures to being successful, and going on to college."
In 2000, the Lutzes retired and moved to Cerrillos, NM, where they had owned property for years. It's not surprising to find the walls of three rooms of their home lined with books, all alphabetized of course, and arranged by category. Even Nancy's spices are lined up in alphabetical order.
With their generous gift, Nancy and Ray are now members of the UNM Foundation's New Horizons Society, which recognizes all donors who leave a planned gift to the University. Society members are invited to special events on campus.
The Lutzes are excited to be back among the mesas and arroyos of New Mexico and look forward to reconnecting with their alma mater.
"We've been very fortunate and both of us think it is important to give back," says Ray. "We think this gift is an appropriate way to say thank you and allow others to have the same opportunities we did."