By Mike Linn
In his heyday, Jimmy Joe Robinson was a consummate coach on the hardwood, a strategist of the local high school basketball circuit.
A coaching record of 528-213 and four state championships lend support to his ability to inspire teams in gymnasiums laced with the aroma of sweat and popcorn.
Now retired, the Eastern New Mexico University alumnus and former Greyhound basketball player is one of five people ENMU will honor at the Friends of Eastern Annual Homecoming breakfast Saturday morning.
The others are Federal Judge Robert Brack of Las Cruces, Albert Smith of Gallup, Gov. Bill Richardson and Gov. Juan Nekai Babauta of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, located 250 miles north of Guam.
“The award recipients this year are people of integrity, and honor and very deserving to represent Eastern New Mexico University,” ENMU Alumni coordinator Janice Cowen said.
Robinson, who will receive a Distinguished Service Award from the university, was inducted into the New Mexico Coaches Hall of Honor in 1995.
Stationed in a federal court in Las Cruces, fellow ENMU alumnus Brack wears a robe to work every day and presides over some of the most serious criminal cases in the state.
A former trial lawyer and district court judge in Clovis and Portales for six years, Brack is the chairman of the Communities for Christ organization.
Brack will receive ENMU’s Outstanding Alumni Award just months after he was appointed to the federal judge position by President George W. Bush.
Richardson, the only honoree who did not attend ENMU, will receive the Honorary Lifetime Alumni Award for his pledge to improve education in New Mexico.
Smith grew up on the Navajo Reservation south of Gallup and along with 400 other Navajos served his country as a code talker during World War II. A 1954 graduate of ENMU, Smith now devotes much of his time to travel and speaking about his experiences.
The Outstanding Alumni Award he receives on Saturday will be one of many he has earned over the years. He also made a cameo appearance in the movie Windtalkers, based on the true story of the Navajo Code Talkers.
ENMU officials say Babauta is one of the school’s finest examples of international students. The governor and native of the North Mariana Islands — which is sandwiched between the Philippine Sea and Pacific Ocean — moved to America when he was in high school and spent three years working on a dairy farm in Vermont.
Babauta, who will along with Robinson will receive the Distinguished Service Award, graduated ENMU in 1976 with degrees in American history and political science.