Since 1919

The Prairie News

Since 1919

The Prairie News

Since 1919

The Prairie News

WT Ag Department Plans Blow-Out Weekend to Celebrate Donors and Record Number of Scholarship Winners


CANYON, Texas — More than 300 West Texas A&M University agriculture students will receive a record amount in academic scholarships during a celebratory weekend Sept. 8 and 9.

In addition, four generous donors and a significant WT alumnus also will be honored, and the Department of Agricultural Sciences will celebrate its 23rd annual Ag Day.

Activities begin Sept. 8 with the department’s scholarship and awards reception in the Piehl-Schaeffer Pavilion at the Agricultural Sciences Complex on WT’s Canyon campus.

The reception is prelude to the Ag Day festivities, which will begin at 11 a.m. Sept. 9 in the Bain Event Center, also at the complex.

Up first: the awards reception, at which 306 ag students will receive more than $500,000 in scholarships for the academic year.

“Our goal has been to award 30 percent of our student body with scholarships,” said Dr. Lance Kieth, associate dean of external relations and recruiting for the Paul Engler College of Agriculture and Natural Sciences. “Under the leadership of the Board of Ag Advisers, the Ag Development Association and the WTAMU Foundation, funds were raised and matched to double the amount of scholarships we have offered over the past five years.”

The reception also will pay tribute to this year’s First Choice Award recipients and Graduate of Distinction.

First Choice Award recipients include:

  • Rosemary Gerdsen Prichard and Phyllis Gerdsen, sisters who jointly made the planned gift of the Gerdsen Family Centennial Ranch to the University in 2021. The 1,772-acre ranch is located near the WTAMU Nance Ranch, approximately seven miles east of Canyon, expanding WT’s footprint in that area to more than 4,000 acres. 
  • Cindy Gruner, who donated 23 acres of irrigated farmland to the WT Land Legacy Program, expanding WT’s land holdings and providing teaching and research space for students and faculty. 
  • Bob Phipps, a retired Castro County farmer and longtime collaborator of Texas A&M AgriLife Extension and Research, who has made a planned gift to fund WT students working as full-time extension interns in Randall County. Phipps also gave a collection of John Deere tractor models valued at $32,000 to the Department of Agricultural Sciences, now on permanent display in the Piehl-Schaeffer Pavilion. 

“The First Choice Award recipients have given more than just monetary donations,” Kieth said. “They have given tangible items that will be used by the department to educate students, conduct research and help preserve the history of agriculture on the High Plains.” 

Bob Gruner, a 1972 WT graduate and brother of Cindy Gruner, was recognized as a Graduate of Distinction, commemorating his career working for Texas State Soil & Water Conservation Board as a program specialist for 35 years. 

“Bob has been a loyal and distinguished alumnus for many years,” said Dr. David Lust, professor and head of the Department of Agriculture. “He has been a 4-H leader, an outstanding farmer and simply a good man. Bob’s dedicated and distinguished career focused on water conservation and soil health, and his leadership has had significant impact on our entire Panhandle region. The Gruner family is also well known for their support of education. We are proud to honor Bob Gruner as the 2023 Graduate of Distinction.” 

The event is free, but reservations are requested. Contact Paighton Gouldy at 806-651-2550 or email [email protected].  

Ag supporters then are expected to turn out in force the following day for Ag Day, the major fundraiser for WT’s Ag Development Association. 

The WT Alumni Association will serve coffee and kolaches at 10 a.m. while the student-led Ag Ambassadors organization will provide tours of the ag complex. Lunch begins at 11 a.m. 

The twin highlights of the day are live and silent auctions featuring a significant collection of cruises, exclusive hunting trips, seed and other ag-related items. 

Funds raised at Ag Day support recruitment efforts for the ag department, including scholarships, travel and merchandise. 

In the past 20-plus years, ADA has raised $1,780,000 for the department. Enrollment has risen from a few hundred students to more than 1,100.  

“Ag Day and ADA’s auction proceeds have been and will continue to be the catalyst for enrollment growth,” Kieth said. “These funds are used for student recruitment, and every penny is spent every year. This model has produced an outstanding return on our donors’ investments in our program.” 

ADA currently is the largest department-affiliated chapter for WT’s Alumni Association. 

WT’s efforts to recruit, retain and reward exceptional students is a centerpiece of the University’s long-range plan, WT 125: From the Panhandle to the World

That plan is fueled by the historic, $125 million One West comprehensive fundraising campaign. To date, the campaign — which publicly launched in September 2021— has raised more than $125 million and will continue through 2025. 

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