LAS CRUCES – Since the age of 5, Jan Morehead has had a deep love for dance, especially ballet and ballroom dance. That love has developed into a strong support of dance programs, especially the program at New Mexico State University.
To recognize that love and support for dance and education, Jan’s husband, former College of Education Dean Michael Morehead, and their family made a gift to the college to have one of the new dance studios at Rentfrow Hall named after Jan Morehead, unbeknownst to her until this spring. Michael Morehead said it was the only time he’s been able to surprise his wife during their 34 years of marriage.
“It has been so humbling. This is a big honor,” said Jan as she stood on the studio’s shiny wood dance floor.
The recognition was not only in honor of Jan and her commitment to education and the NMSU dance program, it was done to help support the program and its students, some of whom have won national awards and recognition.
Jan said dance has always held a special place in her heart. Combined with her extensive career in elementary and early childhood education, Jan has supported the NMSU dance program for several years, going as far as participating in the annual “Look Who’s Dancing!” competition and fundraiser and winning the Entertainment award with her partner, Zachary Pohl.
“It’s wonderful to know we’re able to provide opportunities to future dance students,” Jan said. “Going to school is tough and every little penny helps. I want to continue to be involved with the program for as long as I can, and I will get to know every student and they’ll get to know me. I can’t say enough good things about the NMSU dance program.”
Michael said that because of his wife’s strong and lasting support of the program, he and their family wanted to recognize her contributions and commitment to not just dance, but to education as well.
“The family felt that recognizing Jan in this way would be a very appropriate way to say thank you for all that she has done for our family and for education,” Michael said.
The couple also supports students in the College of Education through the Michael and Jan Morehead Endowed Scholarship.
Alexis Puente, who is majoring in education but is pursuing a minor in dance, is the first dance student to receive the scholarship and is appreciative of their support.
“I’m very thankful to them for noticing my hard work,” Puente said. “It has helped me grow as a person and broaden my horizons. In talking to Jan, she has helped me realize that I have to keep pushing.”
Ruby Marquez, a dance major and president of the NMSU DanceSport Club, said the new dance studios at Rentfrow Hall, including the Jan Morehead Dance Studio, helps student dancers better prepare for performances and competitions.
“We’re able to move around more freely and feel like this is our home,” Marquez said. “It also shows us how much support we have. It’s wonderful to hear how people help and give, and with this studio being named for Jan, it reminds us of what’s out there for us. The support of the faculty and staff at NMSU is awesome.”
Adriana M. Chávez writes for New Mexico State University Communications and can be reached at 575-646-1957, firstname.lastname@example.org.