STEPHENVILLE, Texas—Tarleton State University’s Rodeo Hall of Fame celebrated the induction of five new members during its seventh annual steak dinner and auction Saturday, Nov. 12, in Stephenville.
Inductees forming this year’s class of Rodeo Hall of Famers are Debbie Garrison, Levi Garcia, Kurt Kiehne, Ronnie Ray and Richard “Tooter” Waites.
Each honoree was presented with a bronze Rodeo Hall of Fame medallion by Tarleton President F. Dominic Dottavio and head rodeo coach Mark Eakin.
Held at City Hall at City Limits, the annual steak dinner and live and silent auctions benefits Tarleton Rodeo Program’s scholarship fund. This year’s auctions garnered approximately $13,000.
About this year’s Rodeo Hall of Fame inductees:
Garrison participated in the Tarleton Rodeo Association, was a Texan cheerleader and earned a bachelor’s degree in marketing and management from the university. In 1979, she was chosen as Miss Rodeo Texas and then crowned Miss Rodeo America. She is a past National Finals Average Champion in Women’s Team Roping and has been instrumental in the planning, fundraising and development of the Rodeo Teaching and Activities Facility at Tarleton. A loyal supporter of the purple and white, Garrison has served on the board of directors for the Tarleton Foundation Inc. and is a long-time member of the Tarleton Alumni Association.
A national champion team roper in 2000, Garcia joined Tarleton rodeo coach Bob Doty after a successful run at Vernon Junior College. Growing up in a small New Mexico town, Garcia earned a scholarship to Vernon Junior College, where he caught the eye of Doty. He graduated from Tarleton with a business management degree before turning pro and ultimately winning the 2006 Turquoise Circuit team roping title with partner Russell Sullivan. Currently living in Seguin, Texas, with wife Amy and kids Levi Jr. and Harper, Garcia works for the San Antonio Division of EOG Resources.
Kiehne, a Tarleton student from 1998 to 2001 after transferring from New Mexico Junior College, earned a bachelor’s degree in communications. Competing in calf roping and team roping, he qualified all four years of his college career for the College National Finals Rodeo (CNFR) in both events. In 2000, Kiehne with his partner Levi Garcia won the team roping average. Additionally, Kiehne placed fourth in the calf roping and finished second in the all-around. Kiehne, a sales representative for Animal Health International, now lives in Canyon, Texas, with wife Regina and their 4-year-old son, Kole.
The first official head coach of the Tarleton rodeo team, Ray served in that capacity from 1982 to 1989. Under Ray’s leadership, Tarleton sent multiple teams to the CNFR and individual national championships were won. With the help of then school President Dr. Barry B. Thompson, Ray recruited and built the team to more than 100 student-athletes. Ray’s hard work and dedication formed the foundation for the rodeo program’s success that carries on today.
Richard “Tooter” Waites
Waites competed on the Tarleton rodeo team—calf roping and steer wrestling—from 1969-1973, qualifying in both events for the CNFR. He was the first person to qualify for the CNFR and the National Finals Rodeo in the same year. Waites went on to have a career training and showing horses in the American Quarter Horse Association. He is a member of the Texas Rodeo Cowboy Hall of Fame and Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame. Now residing in Burleson, Texas, he trains roping horses and spends time with his grandchildren.
Tarleton State Rodeo: A Winning Tradition
Tarleton’s renowned rodeo program is known for having some of the toughest and most talented student competitors among National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association (NIRA) members. To celebrate their achievements during the past 68 years, the Rodeo Hall of Fame was established in 2012 to recognize some of the cowboys and cowgirls who have brought notoriety to the sport and university.
Competing for the purple and white under the motto, “A Winning Tradition,” Tarleton’s rodeo teams have won seven national championship titles, 24 individual national championships and numerous NIRA Southwest Region titles since the program was established in 1947.
In 2016-17, Tarleton boasted one of the largest collegiate rodeo teams in the nation with 128 card-holding student members.