On hand for the presentation are, from left, Justin Browning, rodeo coach, Jacquelyn Gregory, sophomore from Lamar, Mo., women's rodeo team member, Robert Noland, McNeese President Philip C. Williams, Dr. Chip LeMieux, head of the Harold and Pearl Dripps Department of Agricultural Sciences, and Jason Thomas, senior from Benton, Ark., men's rodeo team member.
Lake Charles businessman Robert Noland has given $724,500 to McNeese State University to establish six endowed rodeo scholarships through the McNeese Foundation. The endowed scholarships - named the Robert Noland Rodeo Scholarships #1-6 - will be awarded beginning this fall.
McNeese has the only college rodeo team in the state and is part of the Harold and Pearl Dripps Department of Agricultural Sciences. Rodeo has been a part of the university since 1947 when the first rodeo team was formed and has had a rich tradition of winning for over six decades. The tradition began in the 1950s with the McNeese men's rodeo team winning three consecutive national championships from 1957 to 1959 and has also included 12 men's and women's national individual rodeo championships and two reserve championships from 1958-2011.
Ten rodeo team members have qualified for the 64th College National Finals Rodeo June 10-16 in Casper, Wyo. Jason Thomas, senior from Benton, Ark., is the reigning national individual champion in steer wrestling and has qualified again to defend his title.
"This generous donation is not only great for our rodeo program, but also for our department and university," said Dr. Chip LeMieux, head of the Dripps Agricultural Sciences Department.
Rodeo coach Justin Browning agreed. "These scholarships will allow us to continue to recruit the best students for our program and carry on our winning rodeo tradition."
Over the years, Noland has generously supported McNeese athletics as well as provided academic student scholarships and endowed funds for faculty development.
Noland attended McNeese and majored in agricultural sciences and business. He is a member of the McNeese Athletics Hall of Honor, past president of the McNeese Quarterback Club and an honorary member of the McNeese Petrochem Athletic Association. He recently received an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from the university for his years of support.
Noland currently serves as president and director of Bennett Oil Company and president, chief executive officer and director of American Sulphur & Oil Company of Louisiana, including the following subsidiary and affiliated companies: Powell Timber Company; Land Management & Realty Services LLC; W.G. Ragley Lumber Company; and RN Entertainment Company.