EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a story I did for the Fort Hays State University Alumni Association to be published in an upcoming edition of FHSU Magazine.
The weather was plenty frightful April 15, the scheduled opening day of the Fort Hays State University Rodeo.
The high winds – you know the wind has some power behind it when western Kansans say so – combined with snow made for miserable conditions at Doug Phillips Arena, so the officials and FHSU rodeo coach Bronc Rumford made the call to postpone competition a day, jamming three days of rodeo into two.
But there was no delay in the celebration of the rodeo club’s alumni association, which conducted a reunion of former club members. The association also created and fully funded the Doc Garry Brower Endowed Scholarship – a touching recognition to the longtime rodeo coach – thanks in large part to a giving nature.
“God bless the Alumni Association for providing that glue, the interaction and the vehicle to make it happen,” said Steven Knowles, one of the organizers of the reunion weekend. “It was a great beginning for us to be able to get all those groups together so we can get this club together for the betterment of the team.
“Brower was the catalyst for all this to happen. We wanted to do something nice for him so we could tell him what he’s done for all us over the years.”
The reunion brought together various generations of rodeo club members. Those from the ’70s could share stories with those from the ’90s with the hope of building the future of the rodeo program. It was fascinating to see the present team mingle with alumni. It might have been more fascinating to see more than $6,500 raised for the scholarship in just a few minutes.
During the social banquet on the afternoon of April 16, Knowles reached out to the alumni with hopes of raising the $10,000 fund in three years – he noted that $3,500 had already been raised. That’s when university president Dr. Edward Hammond took the stage and showed us all how to raise money: He would write a $5,000 check if the alumni group could raise just $1,500 more in seven days.
Donations were being called out all across the room, and within moments the endowment had been established.
“When I got there and first saw the numbers that we’d already raised more than $3,000, it was a welcome surprise,” Knowles said. “This was supposed to just be the kickoff. We couldn’t have scripted it better. It was an awesome surprise, but it shows a lot for Brower, too. I think it shows how much he’s contributed to that rodeo team.”
The reunion not only raised money for the rodeo program, it also established a hunger to keep the process going. Knowles said there are plans to have a barbecue every year during the rodeo and that a big reunion likely will take place every five years.
“We’ve always wanted to do this, and with the new tools at our availability, we can make this team one of the strongest in our history,” Knowles said. “I think all of this will make recruiting better, which is exactly what we want to develop.”