Paul Kruse, the tallest University of New Mexico basketball recruit of all time before moving on to law school, died on Feb. 16, 2009 in his sleep after suffering from heart problems. He was 57.
Kruse arrived in New Mexico in 1970 fresh from his family's ranch in Wyoming. At 7-feet 3-inches tall, he blocked many a shot on the basketball court. Following graduation, he left the game behind and taught special education at Eisenhower Middle School for three years. During this time, he became impressed with the legal process as he witnessed it at work after a lawsuit was filed that addressed the autonomy of special education.
As a result, he enrolled in the UNM School of Law, earning his J.D. in 1981. In law school, he was elected president of the Graduate Student Association and served as an ex-officio member of the UNM Board of Regents.
Right away, he headed to Washington, D.C., where he spent seven years working in both the public and private sectors, beginning as a legislative assistant for Wyoming Sen. Malcolm Wallop. He then joined Pennzoil Co., where he was responsible for formulating and putting into practice environmental, trade and tax lobbying strategies. After six years, he returned to the public sector, becoming Associate Solicitor for Energy and Resources at the Department of the Interior.
Kruse returned to Wyoming in the mid-1990s to become a senior adviser to the governor on federal natural resources and land policy. Later he became a private land-use consultant.
"Working in the public sector has provided me the opportunity to make a difference on behalf of the American people," he said in a 2003 profile in UNM LAW. "It sounds trite, but in those positions you can influence a lot of lives. Growing up in the West, I know the tugs and pulls that surround the region's natural resources and environmental issues."
He was an active member of the Republican Party and an admitted Lincolnphile. He had a photo of President Lincoln's funeral train, had visited Civil War battlefields and owned a book that he said contained every known photo of the renowned president.
Although he gave up competitive basketball after earning his bachelor's degree, Kruse remained a Lobo fan. He occasionally attended games in the Pit and every time the Lobos played Wyoming at home, he drove to Laramie for the game, always cheering for his alma mater.