A Tribute to Janine Elder



On Sunday, March 7, Eastern New Mexico University staff member and longtime Portales resident Janine Elder passed away.


Elder, 67, was the administrative assistant in the Human Resources Department at ENMU, starting in 2011. Elder and her husband Dr. Donald (Doc) Elder have lived in Portales since 1995, when he accepted a position at ENMU. She was deeply involved in the ENMU community and even one of the recipients of the Spirit of Eastern Award in 2020, the highest honor for ENMU employees. She is survived by her husband Doc, to whom she has been married since 1974, and her two sons, Cam and Brian.


Elder grew up in Carrol, Iowa, and later met her husband Doc while attending the University of Northern Iowa. She spent several years teaching the 5th and 6th grades in Vinton, Iowa. After the birth of her first son, she worked for the public library until she and her husband relocated to San Diego for his graduate program, where she worked at the Science and Engineering Library at the University of California – San Diego.


Later she and her family relocated to Redlands California, where she took a position as the assistant director of Redlands Day Nursery for 6 years until her husband Doc accepted a position that brought them to ENMU.


After relocating to Portales for her husband’s job, before she began her career at ENMU, Elder worked at the Roosevelt County Chamber of Commerce as the assistant director; she later served as director of the Youth Opportunities Program. Outside of work, she was a congregant of Trinity Episcopal Church, where she was also the church’s treasurer; she also worked with the ENMU Women program, Altrusa, the Roosevelt County Little League and other charities and organizations.


All of Elder’s collogues and friends described her with great fondness. “She was a wonderfully welcoming, and friendly, and kind person,” ENMU Chancellor Dr. Patrice Caldwell said. She also described Elder as the first face of Eastern, where she met all new incoming faculty members in the Human Resources Department.


Caldwell also described the Elders as a team, and that she thinks of them sitting on the sidelines of a game where Janine was loyally writing down the statistics and her husband calling the game. She also added that it was clear they could work hand in glove with one another.


“Her sons were also, of course, terribly important to her,” Caldwell pointed out; adding that her son, Brian, was very noticeable on campus when he was a student at ENMU, because of his red hair that looked like his mother’s.


Caldwell also felt that “Janine represented an Eastern family,” because of her family’s involvement on campus and in the ENMU community. Caldwell also described Elder as having all of the aspects of an exemplary employee because of everything that she did for the people she worked with.


Elder’s supervisor in Human Resources, Benito Gonzales, said she greeted everyone with a smile, and she showed interest in them as well. He also described her as “a ray of sunshine” and always optimistic. Gonzales thought Elder would want the community to remember her by serving others, because she dedicated her own life to others.


Gonzales said that he will remember the different little things she did, like how thankful she always was and her kindness when offering his son books when he would deliver things to her while she worked at home during the pandemic. He noted that she would be dearly missed in their office, at ENMU, and in the Portales community.


Dr. Jamie Laurenz, Vice President of Academic Affairs, first met Elder when he was interviewing for a job at ENMU. He saw her as “the face of human resources,” and remembered her for how warm she was during their first meeting. He added that the friendliness he felt during his visit to the school is what convinced him to take the job.


Nicole Trujillo, a former student employee in the Human Resources Department, described her as selfless and said she was always doing things for everyone else. Trujillo said she will remember Elder for how much she cared for everyone else, and how she genuinely enjoyed having conversations and learning about other people.


Elder’s family is asking, instead of flowers, that contributions be made to the ENMU Women Lovers for Learning Scholarship Program. More information can be found on the ENMU Women’s Facebook page.

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