Western New Mexico University alumnus, former regent and honorary degree holder, David Darling, Ed.D., who passed away at age 89 on Monday, January 14, will be laid to rest next week.
“Dr. Darling impacted the campus in so many ways through his various roles as Mustang athlete, Student Body President, Blue Key Honor Society member, alumnus, and regent,” WNMU President Dr. Joseph Shepard said. “He gave new meaning to the mantra ‘dream big’ when he brought a nationally popular big band group to campus; when he coordinated the original painting of the ‘W’ tradition; and when he returned to us as a member of our governing board.”
Darling’s memorial service will be in the WNMU Besse-Forward Global Resource Center Auditorium at 9:30 a.m. on Monday, January 21. Mustang football players and cross-country athletes will be Darling’s pallbearers, representing offensive linemen and track runners from Darling’s days as a student athlete. Following the service, he will be buried at Fort Bayard National Cemetery. The family invites those who knew and admired Darling to join them at the memorial service, Fort Bayard and lunch at 600 Kachina Circle.
Darling attended what was then New Mexico State Teachers College, earning a bachelor’s in elementary education in 1953 and a master’s in education from WNMU in 1955. In 1994, he was inducted into the School of Education Hall of Fame, his daughter Mary (also an educator) nominating him to be the first honoree. Fifty years after first enrolling as a freshman, Darling began serving on the WNMU Board of Regents, proving himself an effectual chairperson and advocate for the university over his six-year term. In May 2005, the then WNMU regents awarded Darling the Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters.
Darling’s life led him from his hometown of Deming to Texas and then Wisconsin and finally back to New Mexico.
As a freshman at New Mexico State Teachers College in 1947, Darling had a small football scholarship and ran track for the Mustangs, but after a few weeks, he discovered he could not afford tuition and room and board. “He dropped out,” Darling’s son David “Brum” Darling said. “Football coach Ray Brancheau, tracked him down and offered him a part time job as his secretary, promising to introduce him to a construction company active on campus. Coach Brancheau saw Dad’s potential and brought him back to campus. The entire Western community made sure Dad stayed.”
During his tenure at WNMU, Darling led the team of undergrads who reconfigured the “T” on a mountain north of town into a “W” when New Mexico State Teachers College became Western New Mexico University. He was the Mustangs’ quarterback on offense and halfback on defense. In track, he ran the quarter mile and anchored the one-mile relay team. He lettered in both sports.
As the student government president, Darling brought Woody Herman to campus. “Woody Herman was one of the most popular musicians of the time,” Darling’s son Tony Darling said. “Nobody thought Dad would pull it off. Nowadays, it would be like Beyoncé performing in Silver City. Somehow, someway, Dad made it happen.”
Darling took time off school to serve in the U.S. Army from December 1951 through December 1953, marrying Silver City native Mary Ryan during a weekend leave in 1952. Their first child, Ann Darling, was born during David’s post-graduate studies at WNMU.
Darling’s career in education began in southern New Mexico’s Gadsden School District. The family spent summers in Austin, Texas, where he earned his Ed.D. in Educational Administration in 1964 and where their fifth and final child, John, was born. Until 1967, they lived in Madison, Wisconsin, for Darling’s job as assistant professor of education at the University of Wisconsin. Then, Darling served at the University of New Mexico for 25 years, retiring as an emeritus professor of education who’d spent eight years as the department chair and nine years as Dean of the College of Education.
His articles on mathematics education, curriculum and curriculum theory, and computers in the educational process have been published in The New Mexico School Review, The NEA Journal, Educational Leadership and the Reading Teacher. Darling also co-authored two elementary school mathematics textbooks for the Charles Merrill Publishing Company.
“My education at Western, my early experiences as a teacher, and my personal tendencies led me to internalize the following simple rules: Put the needs of each student first. Always act with integrity. Be fair. Treat all people with respect. Reach out to those left out,” Darling said before his death.