By Larry Stalcup Contributing Editor

Steer ropers posted excellent times, despite dealing with some mighty ornery cattle.

With many of the world’s best ropers tethering more than $760,000 in total payout, the 2023 Spicer Gripp Memorial Roping saw tie-down, steer and team roping that rivaled the biggest roping events from coast to coast.

The result was wide-open competition among cowboys and their mounts, and huge support from dozens of spectacular sponsors. They helped The Gripp, as it’s known in its hometown of Hereford, Texas, continue to boost scholarships for students seeking to study agriculture at West Texas (WT) A&M University in Canyon.

Sponsorships and entry fees enabled the memorial event to provide WT with a check for $100,000 for use in its college of agriculture. “The event is important to our agriculture program,” said Kevin Pond, Ph.D., dean of WT Paul Engler College of Agriculture and Natural Sciences. “The roping event is put on for people to come and enjoy themselves, and for our students to participate by helping put it on.”

Cody Chandler of Chandler Insurance, left, and Zane Tisdale of Micro Technologies, right, College of Agriculture and Natural Sciences, second from left, and Lance Keith, associate dean, with a hefty check for $100,000 for the WT’s Spicer Gripp Memorial Scholarship Fund.

The roping is named after Spicer Gripp, who died in the early 1990s. He was a Hereford resident who loved helping kids. Whether it was for 4-H, FFA or getting a college education, he wanted kids to succeed. Friends of Spicer got together to start the memorial roping in 1994, and the Spicer Gripp Memorial Event Center made its debut in 2001.

The Spicer Gripp Memorial Youth Foundation administers proceeds from the roping event, as well as gifts from family and friends of Spicer Gripp. WT’s Spicer Gripp Memorial Scholarship Fund makes scholarships available for students pursuing a degree in agriculture sciences or participating on the WT Rodeo Team.

Many Hereford and Panhandle area people are WT alumni and are involved as sponsors and volunteers to the annual event. Prior to accepting the $100,000 check, Pond told CALF News how important The Gripp was to the university.

“The 2022 event also provided $100,000 for the WT Spicer Gripp Endowment Fund for Scholarships. The Paul F. and Virginia J. Engler Foundation matches these funds,” he said. “Essentially that means $200,000 [per year] going into the Spicer Gripp foundation. That generates essentially two $5,000 scholarships or four $2,500 scholarships that will go on forever.”

Since 2016, WT has made a dramatic investment in its college of agriculture. The result has been the attraction of more ag students from across the country. “We will have record enrollment again this year. We will have over 1,100 students in agriculture. They include students from all over the Panhandle, Texas, the states around us and all over the nation. WT is a destination spot for many.”

WT’s research into livestock production, processing and marketing is admired across the nation. Its meat lab is second to none. Plant science studies and research also benefit farmers across the High Plains and elsewhere. A wealth of prominent professors help WT provide the knowledge needed by students.

Ed Montona, popular Texas troubador and member of the Amarillo Coors Cowboy Club, entertain before the Spicer Gripp awards reception.

“We have always been known for a tremendous base of professors,” Pond said. “With federal and state funding, we have been able to hire new faculty. With new funding this year, we’ve been able to hire even more faculty to meet the demand we have.”

The WT Research Feedlot has been instrumental in providing valuable information for the massive regional cattle feeding area – which finishes more than 28 percent of the nation’s fed cattle, with plans to grow.

“We are going to be expanding and building a new research feedyard that will have large pens to conduct research to benefit what’s going on around Hereford and other feeding centers,” Pond said. “This will allow us to do research that is responsive to the industry and to train students in more modern facilities.”

The WT pre-veterinary program is also benefitting the High Plains and other regions. “We’re in the perfect area to train pre-vet students, especially if they are interested in large animals,” Pond added. “We [the Amarillo-Panhandle area] have two vet schools. One is the WT VERO [Veterinary, Education, Research & Outreach] program, where you can do two years of your Texas A&M University vet program.

“The area also has the Texas Tech University vet school, and I’m proud to say we have more students from WT attending the Texas Tech vet school than Texas Tech does. Our partnership with Spicer Gripp is great. We’re proud to be a part of it.”

Spicer Gripp was loved by many who appreciated his spirit of helping young people. The spirit continues nearly 30 years since his death. This year, the Spicer Gripp Memorial Roping was inducted into the Texas Rodeo Hall of Fame, signifying the event’s importance to the Texas and national rodeo scene.

For more information, visit https://www.spicergripp.com.