Latest News from Sul Ross June 27, 2014


    by Steve Lang, News and Publications

    At the beginning of her second century, Helen Stewart Estes’ bucket list contains some unchecked items, including the possibility of sky-diving.
    “I want them to be sure there’s a soft spot (for landing),” she laughed. “Who knows what’s in store?”
    In the meantime, Mrs. Estes, who turned 100 on June 16, plans a trip to Georgia and another to Alpine, where she will serve as grand marshal of the 2014 Sul Ross State University Homecoming parade Nov. 15.
    Mrs. Estes, Midland, a 1940 Sul Ross graduate, spent nearly 60 years in education. She taught in a number of country schools near Midland, later at Midland Junior High (John M. Cowden), as well as Greenwood, Van Horn, Pyote and Pecos, and also was a substitute at Mineral Wells, where her husband, Jim, was stationed during World War II. She retired permanently in 1997 at the age of 83 after her husband suffered a stroke. They were married 57 years until his death.
    Full-time retirement offered more time for travel and associated adventures. In her 90s, Mrs. Estes has enjoyed motorcycle and hot air balloon rides, as well as landing on an Alaskan glacier via helicopter.
    “I keep two bags packed; one for winter and one for summer,” she said. “I still like to travel and there are still so many places to go and people to meet.”
    Born in Barstow on June 16, 1914, she moved with her parents and older sister Lillian and younger siblings Woodrow Wilson (Bud) and Anna Tennie to Midland in 1919. After graduating from Midland High School in 1932, Estes got her start in education by conducting the school census for Midland County country schools – by horseback.
    As told to her niece, Leila K. Stewart, in her book, “As I Remember,” Mrs. Estes recalled:
    “In 1933, during the Depression, I was taking the school census....We couldn’t just send the forms home. We had to go to the home and see....I went horseback. I had to go back into the ranch and farming areas to each house and get the names of the children.”
    In 1934, she was awarded a scholarship by the county 4-H association to attend Sul Ross State Teachers College.
    “I found out on Saturday (that I was awarded the scholarship) that school started on Monday,” she said. “At that time, I didn’t have my two bags packed.”
    Neighbors drove her from Midland to Alpine, where she began a six-year process of taking college courses in the summers and teaching in country schools from September through May. She graduated from Sul Ross in August 1940.
    During her time in Alpine, she worked as a dormitory matron, and did babysitting, cleaning and cooking for faculty members. She was also active in athletics, participating in archery, basketball and rifle shooting.
    She acknowledged that she was a better marksman with a rifle than a bow.
    “I was not the best archer in the county,” she laughed. “One afternoon, I pulled the string on the bow, let the arrow go and it went all the way to the President’s house. A young college boy was working in the flower garden there and I almost hit the bull’s-eye when he stooped over.
    “He thought I had done it on purpose. Far from it; I didn’t even know I could shoot that far.”
    Leila Stewart attested to her aunt’s accuracy with a small-caliber rifle, including lighting wooden matches stuck in fence wire without breaking the matchsticks.
    “That can’t be authenticated,” Mrs. Estes smiled, “but it did happen.”
    She married Jim Estes in 1940, about a year after meeting him at a dance held in the Sul Ross gymnasium.
    “I told him (when they started dating), ‘I’m not interested in marriage.’ He said, ‘I’m not either.’ We got along fine until we both decided we were ready.”
    After receiving her Bachelor’s degree, “I got my other degree; my MRS,” she laughed.
    During their marriage, the couple moved a number of times due to Jim’s interests in ranching, livestock, farming and some commercial businesses. She continued to teach at each stop.
    She taught at all levels, but especially enjoyed teaching junior high mathematics.
    “I enjoyed every place I taught,” she said, and added that her long career “speaks well for Sul Ross” and the education she received.
    Even in retirement, Mrs. Estes was virtually a full-time substitute in Greenwood for over 20 years. Her niece mentioned that teachers were reluctant to take a day off until they were assured that Estes was signed up to substitute.
    When her husband suffered a stroke (she was 83), “I said, ‘don’t call me anymore.’ My husband was not well, so my best place was at home.”
    Mrs. Estes and her husband had traveled with a travel trailer prior to his death, but “I didn’t feel up to hooking up the trailer” after he died.
    “I felt blue for awhile, and then I thought, ‘I can’t do this.’ There were too many places to see,” she said. “I decided to (pin) back my ears and go alone.”
    Travel spots would include New England to view the fall colors; a 34-day bus trip through Alaska, and tours of Europe that included visiting the historic Blarney Castle in Ireland. With the assistance of a young couple on the tour, she managed to navigate the many steps to the top of the castle and the historic stone, but stopped short of kissing the monument.
    According to a passage in “As I Remember,” she said, “I got a good look at people who were kissing the Blarney Stone and not one time did I see anybody disinfecting that stone! At that point and knowing that people had been kissing that stone for over 600 years, I was not interested....Besides that I wasn’t an acrobat that could lay on my back and bend backwards to get under the stone.”
    While noting that the Blarney Stone is a symbol of eloquence and persuasiveness, “I figured that I was already gifted enough...and have never been accused of being at a loss of words, but that was an interesting trip.”
    And as far as she is concerned, her journeys will continue.
    “I’ve had a wonderful life and it’s going to be a lot more,” she said, then received an unexpected request.
    “Will you come (to Sul Ross) and be our grand marshal for the Homecoming parade?” asked Karen Brown, director of the Office of Alumni Affairs.
    After a pause of delighted astonishment, Mrs. Estes gave a resounding reply.

    Enrollment during Sul Ross State University’s first summer session showed a slight increase over last year’s totals.
    More impressively, enrollment projections as of Monday (June 23) for Fall 2014 classes indicate a marked rise.
    Total enrollment during Summer I totaled 719 students, five more than last year and 36 or 5.3 percent more than the 2012 total of 683. Semester credit hours numbered 3,247, up 1.1 percent from 2013 and 2.7 percent from 2012.
    Students presently registered for Fall semester 2014 classes rose 22 percent from comparative 2013 figures and 48 percent from two years ago. As of June 23, 862 students were registered, compared to 705 last year and 584 in 2012. Enrollment of first-time freshmen jumped 70 percent over last year.
    “The 70 percent increase in first-time freshmen is a very significant number and one that I anticipate will continue to go up as we approach the start of Fall semester,” said Denise Groves, Vice President for Enrollment Management.
    Groves added that the retention rate of 2013 freshmen rose seven percent – to a total of 80 percent – over the 73 percent average of the past five years.
    “Increasing freshman numbers is integral to both recruitment and retention success,” said Groves. “These numbers indicate that efforts continue to be headed in the right direction.”
    Sul Ross State University faculty members Carol Fairlie (Art); Dr. Sharon Hileman (English) and Dr. Jeanne Qvarnstrom (Education) will make a presentation at the 2014 Literacies for All Summer Institute, held by the National Council for Teachers of English.   
    They will present “Engaging Students in Personal Expression” at the conference, scheduled July 18 in Pasadena, Cal. Conference theme is “Making Meaning: Teaching and Learning Together.”
    Fairlie, Hileman and Qvarnstrom based their presentation on research in establishing university-community partnerships. They will describe how they supported the Alpine Lions Club’s 2013- 2014 Essay and Art Contest for secondary students in the Alpine Independent School District.
    Travel to the conference was approved by the Sul Ross Faculty Teaching Council. The faculty members plan to use their experiences to enhance their own classes and to further develop the collaboration among the Alpine Lions Club, AISD, and Sul Ross as they plan for the second annual Lions Club Art and Essay Competition for 2014-2015.
    For more information, contact Qvarnstrom, (432) 837-8395 or

    Sul Ross State University will be closed Friday, July 4 in observance of Independence Day.
    Offices will re-open and classes will resume at 8 a.m. Monday, July 7.

    A great line up of adult education workshops and Speaker Series are on tap for fall 2014 at  Museum of the Big Bend at Sul Ross State University.
    Adult education offerings include scrapbook construction, jewelry making and painting. Speaker series topics range from Civil War history to aerial views of the Big Bend to a discussion of noted artists Tom Lea and J. Frank Dobie.
    Adult education offerings include: 2nd Saturday Scrapbook Workshop, September through December with Robbie McDaniel; two one-day jewelry courses by Anne Van Loon, featuring feature a three-piece set and a custom watch and watchband; a three-day Pastel I class taught by Lindy Cook Severns, scheduled Oct. 3-5; a one-day Beginning Scratchboard class led by Tim Roberts, Nov. 14-15; and monthly 2nd Sunday Paint –N-Go classes conducted by Sul Ross Art professor Carol Fairlie.  
    All classes and workshops will be conducted in the museum’s Womack Education Center. For more information, fee and registration deadlines, visit the museum website at or call Noemi Acosta, (432) 837-8143.
    The fall speaker series kicks off Thursday, Sept. 4 with a reception, presentation and book signing by Director’s Advisory Council (DAC) member Marty Davis, co-author of Parole, Pardon, Pass and Amnesty Documents of the Civil War in the Womack Education Center.
    On Saturday, Sept. 20, 10 a.m. a roundtable discussion, Marfa Flights: Aerial Views Big Bend Country will be held in the Morgan University Center. Participants include: author Paul V. Chaplo; pilot Roger Amis;  Larry Francell, DAC member and historian; John Morlock, National Park Service superintendent of Fort Davis National Historic Site; and Dr. Kevin Urbanczyk, Sul Ross Geology professor and director of the Rio Grande Research Center.
    On Thursday, Oct. 16, Steve Davis, curator of the Witliff Collections, Texas State University, San Marcos, will address The Brave Bulls Collide: Tom Lea and J. Frank Dobie, as part of the museum’s celebration of Tom Lea Month. A reception will begin at 5:30 p.m. in the Womack Education Center, followed by Davis’ talk at 6.
    All speaker series events are free and open to the public. For more information, visit the website at or call Mary Bones, (432)837-8734.

    “Into the Woods,” the 2014 Theatre of the Big Bend production, has received high notes of praise from audiences following opening performances.
    The Tony Award-winning musical by James Lapine and Stephen Sondheim opened June 20 at the Kokernot Outdoor Theatre on Alpine’s Loop Road. Weekend performances continue through Sunday, July 6, beginning at 8:15 p.m. (There will be no performance on Friday, July 4.)
    “Audiences have been very receptive thus far,” said director Gregory Schwab. “The show has been praised for its very clever lyrics and language, which contain a lot of witty nuances and puns.”
    Schwab also praised the orchestra, directed by Lana Potts, which contains four string players for the first time, including a cellist.
    “The orchestra has supported a cast of really strong voices,” Schwab said. “The orchestra adds a different and very pleasant dimension to summer theatre, and Lana has done an incredible job with the group.”
    For ticket information, go to or call (432) 837-8218. Tickets are $10 for general admission and $8 for seniors and children. Children dressing as fairy tale characters will receive $2 off their ticket prices, and will be entered in a costume contest.
    For more information, follow on social media websites: Facebook:; on Twitter @TheatreBigBend; on Instagram: theatreofthebigbend; and on our tumblr blog:

“Into the Woods” concludes July 6

The Theatre of the Big Bend’s production of “Into the Woods,” James Lapine and Stephen Sondheim, will have its final performances Saturday-Sunday, July 5-6. Show time is 8:15 p.m. at the Kokernot Outdoor Theatre, on Alpine’s Loop Road. This celebrated musical takes popular fairytale characters and delivers a fractured version of “Happily Ever After.” (Cast photo by Cheryl Zinsmeyer)

    Lloyd Dragoo, director of the Sul Ross State University Law Enforcement Academy (LEA) since November 2011, has resigned to accept a similar position at Lone Star College, Houston.
    Former LEA director Corky Sandel has been appointed to replace Dragoo through the completion of the present academy, which ends Thursday, July 3.
    Dr. Larry Guerrero, Dean of the College of Professional Studies, said the academy is presently being restructured. Applications are being accepted for the next 18-week academy. The academy is scheduled to begin Aug. 4, pending the number of applications received.
    For more information, contact Lizet Holguin, (432) 837-8614 or

    The Borderlands Research Institute (BRI) for Natural Resource Management at Sul Ross State University was recently awarded $255,000 to establish the John B. Poindexter Endowed Fund for Desert Quail Research.
     Dennis Murphree and Roswell “Sandy” Vaughan, Poindexter’s longtime friends, organized the covert fundraising effort over the course of several months.  The fundraising effort culminated on May 29 at a luncheon at the Coronado Club in Houston, where Vaughan and Murphree presented Dr. Louis Harveson, BRI director, with the $255,000 check.
      “Over 70 of John’s friends chose to honor him in this way. I have been completely overwhelmed by the generosity and love that John’s friends displayed on his behalf,” Harveson said.
      “I am honored to have John’s name on the new endowment, as John has been a wonderful friend to the Borderlands Research Institute since its inception,” said Harveson. “Not only did we vet the concept of the Institute with John before we launched our conservation program, but when the Institute was first formed, I knew I had to have John serve on our Board.  John’s was one of the first invitations we extended and has served admirably on the Board since inception.”
      The endowment will be managed by the Sul Ross State University Foundation in perpetuity and proceeds will benefit the Desert Quail Research Program of the BRI.  The endowment has since surpassed $250,000 in gifts and pledges.
       Poindexter is a third-generation Texan and a military veteran who lives in Houston and the Big Bend region of West Texas. He holds a Ph.D. in Economic and Finance from New York University, and was a highly decorated officer in the U.S. Army. He is currently the Chairman of the Board and CEO of J.B. Poindexter & Co., Inc., a member of the Advisory Board of the Borderlands Research Institute and a member of the Director's Advisory Council of the Museum of the Big Bend.
       Poindexter is most at home at his historic Cibolo Creek Ranch, which is used by cultural, academic, business and civic organizations for meetings and other functions. He actively restored the ranch and has written a book describing its history and the life of the region’s principal pioneer, in “The Cibolo Creek Ranch” (1990). He is also the author of other works on historical, military, genealogical and economic subjects.
      The Borderlands Research Institute was created in 2007 at Sul Ross State University, in Alpine.  The Institute researches wildlife and range resources of the Big Bend and provides the results to landowners so that they may more effectively manage their properties.
      For more information, contact Harveson, (432) 837-8225 or

Poindexter endowment for Sul Ross BRI

Friends of John B. Poindexter have raised over $250,000 to establish an Endowment for Desert Quail Research at the Borderlands Research Institute at Sul Ross State University. (From left) Nelson Puett (of Nelson Puett Foundation), Roswell Vaughan, Poindexter, and Dennis Murphee are pictured during the check presentation, made May 29 at the Coronado Club in Houston during a luncheon in Poindexter’s honor. (Photo Courtesy Louis Harveson)