Dr. H. Ralph Stucky, first director of the New Mexico Water Resources Research Institute, passed away on March 9, 1999 at the age of 94. Dr. Stucky chaired the first Annual New Mexico Water Conference in 1956 and continued to serve as chairman through 1971. At the 40th Annual Water Conference in 1996, he was honored for “a lifetime of unselfish devotion to the causes of water research and development.”
What was it that made Ralph Stucky such an unusual man that he would be remembered at a memorial service at his church, at the Good Samaritan Village, at the Las Cruces Rotary Club, and by his colleagues around the West in water-resources management? One reason was that Ralph Stucky was a natural leader who could get people from different poles to work together, and to accomplish his as well as their goals. Folks who worked with Ralph always thought they were doing what they wanted to do, but in the end, the results also clearly reflected his vision. Another reason he got things done was that he just never gave up. Some who knew him well say he was just stubborn, ’cause Stucky always stuck.’
Ralph Stucky was an agricultural economist who came to New Mexico State University in the early 1950s and soon became concerned with the management and use of the limited water supply available in the arid Southwest. He wrote over 70 papers on the economics of water use, and he taught his professional views to two generations of kids from New Mexico farm families.
Although Ralph was an able administrator, that was not his major contribution to agriculture – it was the annual Water Conference. Ralph called the first water conference in 1956 and it was a success! This past fall the WRRI held its 43rd annual meeting and, like those Dr. Stucky chaired, it was a success.
The topics of these annual conferences run from water law to agricultural use to people’s needs, and from there to watersheds and saline water. Sounds fine, but what made the sessions so successful? It was the people whom Ralph got together: Steve Reynolds, the State Engineer; Dennis Harris of the Farm Bureau; W.H. Gary, a farmer from Hatch and a member of the Interstate Stream Commission; Delmar Roberts from Anthony and a member of the Board of Regents; Claud Tharp a cotton leader; Bill Hale of the U.S. Geological Survey; Roland Fife of the Bureau of Reclamation; Fred Moxey of the Oil & Gas Association; Robert Clark from UNM’s Law School; Roger Corbett and Gerald Thomas, presidents of NMSU; Governor Jack Campbell; and all sorts of other folks from all sides of the fence.
Somehow Ralph could bring together these people to listen to each other and to talk about something they would normally fight about – water! Ralph Stucky made his greatest contribution to agriculture, not through his research, but through his ability to get people to work together, and of course, because of his stick-to-itiveness, or was it stucky-to-itiveness?
In early 1978, shortly after Tom Bahr became Director of the New Mexico WRRI, Dr. Stucky stopped by the WRRI and gave Tom a draft of a manuscript he was working on which documented the early history of the WRRI. A long conversation followed in which the past, present and future of the Institute was discussed. It was evident that Ralph Stucky had a clear sense of New Mexico’s water future, the problems New Mexico would face and how research could help solve water problems.
By examining the speeches Ralph Stucky gave in the 1950s and 60s, it is very clear that he was truly a man of vision. For example, nearly 50 years ago he sensed the need for municipalities along the Rio Grande to begin considering the use of river water for urban use in order to conserve valuable groundwater resources. That vision has become reality for the City of El Paso and the two largest New Mexico cities on the Rio Grande, Albuquerque and Las Cruces, in that these cities are now developing plans for municipal use of river water.
Dr. Stucky was preceded in death by his wife of 67 years, Frances, and is survived by his daughter Creta Ann Stucky McGuire and family, and son John Thomas Stucky and family.