Latest News from Sul Ross April 2, 2013


by Steve Lang, News and Publications

Earnest Jones and his younger siblings have beaten the educational odds facing foster children. Now, the graduating Sul Ross State University student seeks to improve the chances for youth in the same circumstances.

Jones, Boerne, will graduate in May with a Bachelor’s degree in Communication. He is currently weighing offers from Texas State University, San Marcos, and Rutgers University, Piscataway, N.J., to pursue a Master’s degree in organizational communication.

"Rutgers is my first choice, but Texas State has an excellent program, too," he said.

"My goal is to work with corporations to establish non-profit organizations tailored to at-risk youth," said Jones. "I think big and I want to incorporate a lot of different elements – education, recreation, mentorship and volunteering – to help as many kids as possible to reach their goals and dreams."

Recent statistics indicate that only 50 percent of the nation’s foster children will graduate from high school and only three percent will attend college. Earnest and his siblings are among the minority who defied the statistics.

Younger brother Ervin, 20, is completing his associate’s degree at Northwest Vista Community College and plans to enroll at the University of Texas-San Antonio to finish a Bachelor’s degree. Sister Erica, 18, has moved to Alpine, where she is a senior at Alpine High School and taking dual credit courses at Sul Ross. She plans to enroll as a full-time student after graduation.

The Jones children were displaced and separated during Hurricane Katrina, which struck New Orleans in 2005. After being evacuated from the Superdome, Earnest, then 15, spent time at various shelters in Texas and Oklahoma and finally located his mother via the Internet. Although the entire family was eventually reunited, domestic violence resulted in the removal of Earnest and his siblings to separate foster homes in the San Antonio area.

After more than one and a half years, Earnest and his siblings were reunited at the MeadowLands in Boerne, a center that includes a charter school. Eventually, a family in the Boerne area read a newspaper story about the children and they found a new foster home.

Earnest Jones enrolled at Sul Ross after a standout high school football career. He attracted the attention of then-Lobo head coach Wayne Schroeder. He was a starting linebacker for most of his freshman season, then injured his knee midway through his sophomore year, ending his competition. At one point, he considered transferring, but in the meantime, became interested in the McNair Program.

The Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Program is designed to encourage first generation, low-income students and minority undergraduates to consider careers in college teaching as well as prepare for doctoral study. Students who participate in the program are provided with research opportunities and faculty mentors.

"Football didn’t work out and transferring didn’t feel right," he said. With encouragement from Liz Castillo, director of Student Support Services, and Mary Bennett, McNair Program director, Jones became a McNair Scholar. Dr. Esther Rumsey, professor of Communication, has guided him on his research projects.

"Earnest has a very clear vision of what he wants to do," said Rumsey. "He recognizes the benefits he has gotten from participating in various programs and he wants to give back to the community. He has worked very hard to get where he’s at."

Rumsey, who received her Ph.D. at Rutgers, praised both the Texas State and Rutgers communication programs, noting that both would be highly advantageous to Jones’ career path.

"Texas State has a national reputation for its Master’s program in organizational communication," she said. "Rutgers has formed a relationship with corporations such as Johnson and Johnson to use applied research in addressing immediate pragmatic problems."

While in the McNair Program, Jones has presented two research projects at conferences in Berkeley, Cal., Cleveland, New Orleans, and on April 3, in Kansas City. Prior to presenting, he traveled with other McNair students, and Rumsey, to a conference in Milwaukee, Wis.

"I gained confidence from watching other students and I learned that I could do it, too," he said.

His 2012 project, "Soliciting Donations and Volunteers: A Comparative Analysis of Non-Profit Youth Organizational Websites," is a fore-runner of his long-term goal.

"I want to pay it forward; to get into the corporate world, network and build these non-profit opportunities for youth," he said.

Whether his future moves him east to Texas State or to the East Coast, Jones is looking forward to the opportunity to pursue graduate work, then his career goals. He credited his McNair participation for providing necessary experience and preparation.

"I have seen the growth in myself through this opportunity," he said. "It has been an amazing experience. (McNair demands) pushed me so hard – harder than football – in creating this project, meeting deadlines and conducting research.

"This has opened so many doors for me that I want to see what I can do to help other kids who are in the same situation as I was."




Dr. Kathy Stein, director of the Academic Center for Excellence at Sul Ross State University, has been elected secretary of the College Reading and Learning Association (CRLA).

Stein will officially join the board at the end of the fall conference in Boston, Mass. CRLA is a group of student©oriented professionals active in the fields of reading, learning assistance, developmental education, tutoring, and mentoring at the college/adult level.

For more information, contact Stein, (432) 837-8770 or




by Steve Lang, News and Publications

Three Alpine High School products have provided plenty of punch to the Sul Ross State University baseball and softball lineups this season.

Freshman Ely Gallego filled a void at first base after transferring from Cisco Junior College at the end of fall semester. He batted nearly .400 over a recent stretch as the Lobo baseball team rallied from a 1-10 start to win nine of their next 13 games.

Freshman Christina Graham and sophomore Jessica Castellano, a Howard College transfer, lead the Lady Lobos in hits, runs scored, runs batted in and stolen bases as coach Sandra Chambers’ softball team has more than doubled last year’s win total, with an 8-18 record overall.

"Division III is a different game than 2A (high school) baseball, but Ely has the strength, size and work ethic to play at this level," said Sul Ross coach Bobby Mesker. "When this spot opened at first base, it seemed to be a good fit for him. He is making huge strides and learning to drive the ball the other way. He is also really solid defensively, moving over from third base, where he played in high school."

Gallego played a large role in a three-game sweep at Southwestern University (March 16-17), rapping seven hits, including four doubles, in 12 at-bats, driving in 12 runs. He was named American Southwest Conference West Division Hitter of the Week and was also named to the NCAA DIII Team of the Week.

The following week, he doubled home a run, then scored himself as the Lobos edged Concordia-Austin 2-0 in ASC action. Overall, he is batting .238 and is tied for the team lead with 22 RBI.

Gallego, who transferred to Sul Ross after one semester at Cisco, is happy to be home.

"They (Cisco) planned to redshirt me and I wanted to play. I was contacted by Coach Mesker, who was looking for someone at first base, and I have really enjoyed my decision to come back," he said.

Adjusting to college pitching has been a major challenge, Gallego said.

"This is a little different than high school. Pitchers throw a lot of off-speed and have the ability to locate their pitches. I’m learning to adjust to hit the ball the other way, and I am really learning to hit the curve ball."

The chance to play more games at historic Kokernot Field has also been an incentive for Gallego’s homecoming.

"It feels good to be around Kokernot and to play under the lights. This field is a whole lot different than any other park I have played in," he said.

He praised the team chemistry as being instrumental in the team’s recent surge.

"We started out two and 10 and most teams would have coasted, but guys like Dakota Dill and Brian Laima are great leaders and have kept us together....As a new person fitting in, they (team) took to me really well and I am having fun."

Graham and Castellano, who have been softball teammates since their pre-teen years, reunited this season as Lady Lobos. While Castellano was playing at Howard College in 2012, Graham and her AHS teammates reached the finals of the state 2A softball tournament.

During Sul Ross’ first home series March 22-23, leftfielder Graham and shortstop Castellano supplied timely hits in the Saturday doubleheader win over Schreiner University. Graham rapped a two-run single and Castellano had two hits and scored a run in a 4-2 opening game win. In the 7-0 nightcap victory, Graham singled home another run and scored twice, while Castellano tripled, singled and scored.

Graham contributed two runs batted in during a 5-1 Lady Lobo win over the University of Mary Hardin

Hardin-Baylor last Friday (March 29). Castellano added six hits and scored a run in the series.

Overall, Graham is hitting .329 with three homers and 14 runs batted in, while Castellano, at .320, has a homer and seven RBI. They are tied for the team lead in hits (24 each) and have scored 14 and 13 runs, respectively. They have combined to steal 13 bases in 16 attempts.

"Their hitting is some of the best we have by far," said Chambers. "They have both hit home runs. In addition, both have good gloves. Jessica’s fielding is as good as we’re going to get and with (second baseman) Amanda (Garza), our middle infield is solid.

"Our team chemistry is the best we’ve had," she said. "We have worked hard at coming together and being a team, and Jessica and Christina have really contributed. Having more hometown players can be a key to more success with our program."

Castellano, who called her year at Howard College "a learning experience," transferred to Sul Ross "because I knew I would get a chance to play here.

"I would also get a chance to play two sports (she is also a member of the volleyball team), but softball is my bread and butter," she said.

She added that she enjoyed Sul Ross, including smaller classes sizes.

"It’s a good school. I like it a lot. I’m never tired of Alpine, ever."

Graham has enjoyed both the Sul Ross atmosphere and the team chemistry.

"It’s (Sul Ross) not too big. It’s a good place to start off if you’re not ready for college," she said.

Graham said adjusting to new teammates was a major change, "but a big thing now is our chemistry."

Both have adjusted well to a higher level of competition.

"In the outfield, I’ve got to be ready all the time. More people can hit well," Graham said.

"There is a lot more talent at all of the positions," Castellano added. "What I love about softball is that it is intense, full of quick movement. You have to be on your toes."

Team unity will be a determining factor on success, Castellano said.

"We’re growing on each other. Everybody has the goal of going to a conference tournament."




Dr. Avinash Rangra pursued – and realized – his American dream. Even in retirement, he intends to be active in helping others achieve theirs.

Rangra, professor of Chemistry at Sul Ross State University, will retire in August 2013 after 46 years. He will remain active as a business owner, through involvement in numerous service organizations and at present, as Mayor of Alpine.

"I have had opportunities come my way courtesy of lot of good folks like Dr. Barton Warnock," he said. "I had considered teaching a few more years, but I think there are lot of exciting challenges out there in public service that I need to explore."

A native of Hariana, Panjab, India, Rangra earned a B.Sc(Hon’s) in 1959 and M.Sc.(Hon’s) in 1960 in Chemistry from Panjab University. He spent two years at Hindu National College, Hariana, as a lecturer in Chemistry. He emigrated to the U.S. in 1962 to attend Oklahoma State University, Stillwater. He received his Ph.D. in May 1967 and joined the Sul Ross faculty in September.

In addition to teaching chemistry, he once taught remedial mathematics and a course in electricity for Industrial Technology Department. He developed a two semester Forensic Chemistry program for Criminal Justice students in the 1970s. He also developed the analytical technique to test drugs such as marijuana etc at the microscopic level.

He once accepted a challenge to participate in Faculty-Student Rodeo. It is another story that his ride only lasted eight-tenths of one second. "It was fun, a little scary though," he laughed. Rangra worked with NBC in the eighties on the Marfa Lights episode of the "Unsolved Mysteries" TV series.

Rangra’s research interests focused on studying the inner characteristics of organ-specific hair as a diagnostic tool.

He served as International Student Adviser and Radiation Safety Officer for a number of years and was active in the Permian Basin Section of the American Chemical Society, twice serving as chair. Rangra has served as a Chair of the Faculty Senate in the mid seventies, has Chaired quite a few University Councils and Committees. Rangra served as a Chair of the Faculty affairs Council for a number of years.

During his tenure, Rangra has served under six presidents: Norman McNeil, Hugh Meredith, C.R. Richardson, Jack Humphries, R. Vic Morgan and Ricardo Maestas.

"As a professor, I have enjoyed all 46 years at Sul Ross," he said. "Every semester has been an exciting and a new experience. It is important to treat every single student at the individual level to optimize their potential to the fullest extent. It is also important to continue learning with the students we teach."

He is proud of the university, faculty and students.

"I believe we have been successful as a university: we have seen countless students graduate who went on to have highly successful professional careers in virtually every field. We, each and every one of us who have come to teach at Sul Ross, are here not because we could not find employment elsewhere, but because we saw opportunities here. Each one of us at Sul Ross has the potential to shape the future as do our counterparts elsewhere at so called ‘elite’ institutions of higher learning.

"Sul Ross serves a very important role in higher education and is vital to this area," he said. "Sul Ross is a window to the future, the great unknown which otherwise would remain unexplored by our kids in this vast West Texas expanse, and along the border. I will continue to work to keep Sul Ross relevant for generations to come."

In addition to his university service, Rangra has been active in a number of community organizations, including the Alpine Lions, Masonic Lodge, Jaycees and Chamber of Commerce. He served three terms as a city

council member and was elected Mayor in 2012. He served as District Governor of Lions International, 2T-3, and was presented with the Outstanding District Governor award by Lions International President, Dr. Jean Behar.

Rangra, his wife, Anju, and son, Amit, are also active in the Alpine business community. The family has owned and operated Rangra Theatres and Anju’s Fine Jewelry for over 30 years. They have been avid supporters of both Alpine High and Sul Ross, funding a field house at Buck Stadium and establishing a chemistry scholarship endowment at Sul Ross.

He called his community involvement "a way of saying thanks" for the opportunities he was afforded.

"When you are part of a community, it is important to build, not destroy; and when problems arise, fix them. Don’t whine."




A showcase of student art will be on display through Friday, April 12 at the Main Gallery, Francois Fine Arts Building on the Sul Ross State University campus.

A student reception and awards ceremony will be held Thursday, April 4, 5-6:15 p.m. at the Gallery. Winners will be announced at 5:45 p.m. There is no admission and the public is invited.

Each year, the Sul Ross Art Program awards students who are juried into the show with first, second and third place cash prize awards and two honorable mention awards. In addition, a People’s Choice award is selected by a vote of the student body.




Nearly 250 prospective students and their family members are registered to attend the second annual Sully Showcase on Saturday, April 6 at Sul Ross State Univeristy.

Sully Showcase will feature campus tours, visits with faculty and staff and information on admission, financial aid, housing and academic and extra-curricular opportunities.

Registration begins at 9:30 a.m. in the Pete P. Gallego Center, with a 10 a.m. opening ceremony. An open house will be held from 10:30 a.m.-noon. Sul Ross academic departments, student and service organizations and clubs will have information tables available.

Lunch will be served from noon-1:30 p.m., followed by campus tours. A closing ceremony will be held at 2:30 p.m., followed by an open house at the Turner Range Animal Science Center, from 3:15-4:15 p.m.

Following Sully Showcase, visitors are encouraged to explore the Big Bend Region and sample local cuisine at the Viva Big Bend Food Festival. For a preview of the festival, visit Tickets may be purchased online.

To register for Sully Showcase, visit or call 1-888-722-7778 (SRSU) for more information.




In the summer of 1987, when Dr. Ray Kessler arrived on the Sul Ross State Univesity campus, the community was still buzzing about how the legislature finally decided not to close the university. Everyone was enthusiastic about, and proud of, Sul Ross.

Kessler, who will retire at the end of Summer Session I 2013, brought experience in the criminal justice system as both as a trial judge’s law clerk and prosecutor in Pennsylvania, and as a defense attorney in Texas. He had also worked in a juvenile delinquency program. After military service, he earned a Master’s degree in Sociology from the University of Texas-El Paso, and a Juris Doctor degree from Temple University.

He previously taught at El Paso Community College, Arkansas State University, Rockhurst College and the University of Memphis. Kessler decided to stay at Sul Ross because of its emphasis on teaching and the obvious importance of the university to this isolated, sparsely populated part of Texas.

Kessler is a life-member of the American Society of Criminology and the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences. Over the years Kessler has co-authored two books, joined two U.S. Supreme Court briefs and has published numerous articles and book reviews. He was the prime mover behind adding an M.S. degree in Criminal Justice and taught the first graduate class. He also taught the first on-line graduate and undergraduate courses. He served as Acting Director of the Sul Ross Law Enforcement Academy and taught both basic and advanced law courses for cadets and area law enforcement personnel.

He has served has served as Department Chair and has taught over 50 different graduate and undergraduate classes. In recent years, he has taught four graduate classes some semesters. Kessler has served as Chair of the Sul Ross Faculty Assembly and as the President of the local chapter of the Texas Faculty Association. Overall, he is probably best known for his mastery of the subjects he teaches and his high academic standards.

Kessler’s main areas of interest are the U.S. Supreme Court, Criminal Procedure, legal liabilities and immunities, the Second and Fourth Amendments and gun control.

He was one of the first faculty members to start a blog. His blog on crime law and justice has a loyal following and he plans to continue it during retirement. Kessler’s hobbies include reading, shooting and jeeping. He is a member of the Big Bend Sportsmen’s Club and has been an occasional volunteer for the Alpine Food Bank and Meals on Wheels.

His only son Vincent is a senior drilling rig supervisor for Exxon-Mobil.

Kessler and his wife, Lin, plan to retire in the Denver, Colo. area.

"I would like to thank all the students who made my time here very worthwhile," he said.




Engines donated to Industrial Technology program

Sul Ross State University Industrial Technology instructors Roy Smith (left) and Scott Wassermann examine new Briggs and Stratton engines donated for instruction. Ten engines, with a total value of $4,500, were donated to Sul Ross by the Briggs and Stratton Co. Wassermann obtained the engines while attending a recent agricultural education conference at Texas State University, San Marcos. (Photo by Steve Lang)