Donor Story

From the Ground Up

Engineering Alumnus Constructs Lasting Legacy Across UNM, New Mexico

By Hilary Mayall Jetty

Posted December 16, 2014

 (In honor of Bob Stamm’s recent passing we would like to share this story about his philanthropy, generosity, and leadership which originally appeared on pages 8 and 9 in the UNM Foundation’s 2012-2013 Annual Report of Giving.)

Bob Stamm at the dedication of Stamm Commons at the University of New Mexico School of Engineering.

Bob Stamm speaks during the dedication of the Robert J. Stamm Commons in the Centennial Engineering Center, UNM School of Engineering, in 2008. PHOTO: UNM School of Engineering

Growing up near Albuquerque’s Old Town gave Robert J. (Bob) Stamm (BSCE ’42) a unique perspective on a town poised to become a city. There wasn’t much development east of the University of New Mexico campus, which was merely a small cluster of buildings near the corner of Central and University Avenues.

“I’ve never lived anywhere besides Albuquerque,” Stamm said. And for more than nine decades he’s never lived very far from UNM, literally or figuratively.

Stamm’s grandparents came to Albuquerque with the railroad, establishing businesses in lumber and wholesale produce. His father, a pioneering balloonist, managed the earliest state fairs. Stamm was encouraged to develop his athletic abilities; he excelled at track, tennis and skiing.

During summer breaks from Albuquerque High he worked for his older brother, an engineer and builder. His high school sweetheart, Florrie Bradbury, happened to be the daughter of a noted contractor. Stamm was closer than he imagined to the center of Albuquerque’s imminent expansion.

Enrolling at UNM about the time Central Avenue became part of Route 66, Stamm pursued a degree in civil engineering. “There were usually less than ten students in each class,” he recalled, “and none of them were women.”

Stamm joined the Lobo ski and tennis teams, and served as president of Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity. After graduation, he and Florrie married—a union that lasted until her death more than 60 years later. Their two children, Robert Brad Stamm (MD ’77) and Susan Stamm Evans (BFA ’76), are also UNM alumni.

Stamm went on to study naval architecture at U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD., and then served aboard a repair ship during World War II. Returning home, he joined his father-in-law’s construction business as a laborer in 1946.

Helping UNM to Grow

Postwar enrollment at UNM was booming, and the work of master architect John Gaw Meem was prominent in many campus buildings. “When we remodeled Mesa Vista Hall from a dorm into administrative offices,” Stamm recalled, “we found the quality of the woodwork to be very impressive.”

He rose through the ranks at Bradbury and became a partner in 1958, adding his name to the business. “The first job I managed completely by myself, from estimating to bid to building, was the UNM Alumni Chapel,” he remarked. “That really meant something to me.”

Over the next two decades, Bradbury Stamm erected more than a dozen UNM buildings in addition to its other projects in the larger community. Stamm’s involvement with his alma mater grew as well. When the School of Engineering (SOE) needed critical funding, he discovered a gift for bringing projects and capital together in new ways.

“I always wanted to support campaigns,” Stamm said, “but never desired to lead them.” Yet when presented with leadership opportunities, he accepted. “I’ve served on more boards than I can remember,” he laughed.

In 1979 he sold Bradbury Stamm to longtime friends and associates Jim and Ellen King, remaining on the board as chairman emeritus. He and Jim were involved in the first rounds of fund raising for UNM’s Presidential Scholarship Program (PSP).

Stamm assumed a leadership role in UNM’s 1989 Centennial Campaign. “You know, there are times when people just need to quit talking about it, and donate,” he said with a smile.

Achievements and Accolades

The UNM Alumni Association honored Stamm with its James F. Zimmerman Award, and he received the Distinguished Engineering Alumnus Award from the SOE. In 1999, Bob officially retired from business, but not from his personal priorities.

He served as chair for New Mexico’s Commission on Higher Education, and was instrumental in lobbying the legislature to commit funds to institutions of higher education across the state through SB-14, the Endowment for University Excellence.

Stamm helped raise funds for the School of Architecture’s George Pearl Hall, and chaired a capital campaign for the SOE’s Centennial Engineering Center. The Kings honored Stamm’s legacy by funding the center’s undergraduate student commons in his name.

“Bob has been a great friend of UNM Engineering, dedicated to helping us train generations of talented students who contribute to economic growth in our state,” noted SOE Dean Catalin Roman. “He generously accepted every opportunity to extend his personal support to the school and promote it within the construction industry.”

In 2009, Stamm received an Honorary Doctor of Engineering degree from UNM, and he and Mary Herring were married in his beloved Alumni Chapel. They are members of the Tom L. Popejoy and New Horizons Societies, and still support the PSP.

There is hardly a department at UNM that hasn’t been touched by Bob Stamm’s philanthropy. Leadership New Mexico recently honored him with a Distinguished Leadership Award for “improving the quality of life for New Mexico citizens and future generations”—a theme that has resonated throughout his lifelong dedication to education, and to building community.

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