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McCleerys Say Goodbye to Careers but Not Educating

McCleerys Say Goodbye to Careers but Not Educating photo 7/26/2016 4:29:44 p.m. - Hobbs, NM.  

[Story from Hobbs News Sun July 22, 2016 by Dorothy Fowler]

Steve McCleery has just stepped down from his post as president at New Mexico Junior College. Linda McCleerry has just retired from teaching at a local elementary school. Neither of them will be giving up working with children just because they've retired from a formal school setting.

If they stay in this area, they'll find volunteer work with kids somewhere and if they move to Lubbock, which they plan to do when they sell their house, they'll be working with kids at the Lubbock Children's home.

"We love Lea County and the people here," Steve said. "But we need a fresh start and we really want to work with the kids at the home."

But for the moment, they are trying to get adjusted to a routine that doesn't require them to be up at the crack of dawn to get either to the office or a classroom.

"This seems somewhat strange to me," Steve said. "I have 44 years of educational experience. You get to get up every morning and have a positive influence on students or at least you hope you do. I've always loved to get up early." Not having a place where his presence and guidance are required is a new experience for Steve.

"I've always been a planner and always been working on making the plan work and right now I don't have a plan," Steve said.

That's not so for Linda. Before she became a teacher, she made clothing and craft items on her sewing machine. Now, she's thinking of getting a bigger, more versatile machine and going back to her old pursuits.

"I love all kinds of needlework," she said. "And I want to spend time just enjoying the grandkids and being able to get up and go to their events."

Steve, always passionate about NMJC, said he knows the college will continue educating the students who come to it.

"The college changes lives. I've seen it make a tremendous difference for people. It affords opportunities that they might not have without it. I know it will be held to that mission by the board and by the public," Steve said. "The great thing about a junior college is the diversity in age of the students who come. Having a 17 year old in the same class with someone who is 40 or older gives the class the advantage of hearing view points from people with different experiences."

Groundbreaking for projects that began under Steve's leadership should occur soon, he said.

I think they'll break ground for the health and wellness center will be sometime in August. I know it's been somewhat controversial, but communities need to invest in themselves. If you don't invest in yourself, you don't leave anything for children and grandchildren to come back to. We have a responsibility to make those investments for the future," Steve said.

People who work in oil and gas in the future will want to do more than do what their fathers did, go to work, come home exhausted, go to bed and get up and go to work again. When they catch on about things like the wellness center and the equestrian center, they'll want to come here to live," he said.

The planned equestrian center will have 1,800 seats and an arena that can serve for almost any event that involves horses, Steve said.

"It will be a superb engine for economic development," he said.

Steve was lavish in his praise for the new president, Kelvin Sharp.

"They couldn't have chosen anyone any better suited to be president of the college," he said.

He was also lavish in his praise of the people who dreamed about establishing a college, the people who have worked hard over the last 50 years to see that it succeeded and the people who are now working on plans for the future. "The success of the college is the result of the work of many people," he said. "There's not just one person who is responsible. It's been a collective effort of everybody in Lea County."

Dorothy N. Fowler can be reached at 575-391-5446 or

[Photo 1: KIMBERLY RYAN/NEWS-SUN Linda and Steve McCleery listen to several speakers Thursday evening at the Lea County Event Center. during Steve's retirement reception as president of New Mexico Junior College.]

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