Richard Watkins never had to worry about silencing his cellular phone before entering his business classes at Nicholls State University. Such technology was much too expensive and cumbersome for students to take to class in the late 1970s.
Today, cellular phones are in the pockets of virtually every Nicholls student, faculty and staff member. Watkins is trying to make sure the same opportunities are available for citizens in rural Arizona and New Mexico.
Watkins co-owns CELLULARONE, a cellular phone company in the Four Corners region that covers more than 35,000 square miles and serves more than 75,000 customers.
“We have been extremely successful in rural America and have found ways to serve areas that could not or would not be served by traditional wire line companies,” Watkins says. “Our operation now covers the Navajo Nation, Hopi Tribe, White Mountain Apache Tribe and the Zuni Pueblo.”
In addition to phone service, CELLULARONE also delivers residential and commercial Internet access to customers through its own private backhaul network.
Watkins said the intimate academic setting at Nicholls allowed him to develop a social life and have easy access to instructors, deans and resources.
“Nicholls gave me the confidence that I used later in my business life to understand that the business basics taught at Yale, Harvard and ‘Harvard on the Bayou’ are the same,” Watkins says. “A Nicholls graduate will be able to sit in the boardroom at the ‘big boys meetings’ and do just fine, as I have been fortunate to do.”