• by Paul Slocumb and Travis Hendryx •
Distinguished Sul Ross State University alumni Eddie Sandoval, John Robert and Betty Hicks Prude, Liliana Esparza, and Elizabeth Will-Bates will be honored at the annual Athletics Hall of Honor & Distinguished Alumni Banquet on Saturday, March 30 in the Pete P. Gallego Center. Outstanding SRSU supporters Bake Turner and Rick Kelly will also be recognized for their contributions to Sul Ross with the Slingin’ Sammy Baugh Award. The event begins with a 6:00 p.m. reception to be followed by dinner at 7:00 and the awards program at 7:45.
2019 Athletics Hall of Honor inductees include Sidney Hooper (men’s basketball), Charles Bunch (football), Gregg Slape (men’s basketball/baseball), the 1986-87 TIAA Champion women’s basketball team, and outstanding SRSU supporters Randy and Sherry Jackson.
Below are brief highlights of the 2019 Distinguished Alumni, Slingin’ Sammy Baugh Award honorees, and Athletic Hall of Honor inductees:
Eddie Sandoval is a three-time Sul Ross graduate who holds both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in industrial technology as well as a master’s degree in educational counseling.
After teaching and coaching for five years in San Antonio, Sandoval spent nearly 40 years at Tarrant County College in Fort Worth, retiring in 2011 as head of counseling.
Alongside his education and counseling careers, Sandoval, who has ancestors in the Mescalero and Chiricahua Apache tribes of Geronimo, has become well known as a Native American preservationist and historian. He also became a Sun Dancer at Pine Ridge, South Dakota in the early 1990s, a distinction enabling him to carry out numerous ceremonies and blessings.
For his decades of work advocating for the people of Tribal Nations and representing and preserving Native American heritage, Sandoval was inducted into the Texas Trail of Fame on May 14, 2018. The Trail of Fame honor comes with a bronze marker inlaid at the historic Fort Worth Stockyards.
The Eddie Sandoval Industrial Technology Excellence Fund, created in 2018 with an endowment from Margie Reynolds of Granbury, assists Sul Ross students through scholarships, graduate assistantships, research project funding, equipment, and supplies.
“Eddie is a unique individual who Sul Ross should be proud to recognize,” says SRSU alumnus Sharon Henderson. “When I think of Eddie, I hear him saying, ‘How can I help?’”
John Robert and Betty Hicks Prude
John Robert and Betty Hicks Prude have become legendary figures in the field of Far West Texas hospitality. Representing the third generation of Prude ranchers, John Robert (BS, MS, and MA Sul Ross degrees) and Betty (BA Sul Ross degree) helped introduce the concept of ranch tourism to Jeff Davis County nearly seventy years ago. Holding their first “camp” for a group of 18 boys in 1951, the couple worked as head counselor, camp administrator, and chief cook. When summer ended, they returned to their full-time jobs as teachers, but found themselves back at camp the following summer with a growing enrollment. In 1955, the pair invited girls to join the fun, and the Prude Ranch Summer Camp for Boys and Girls was born.
Over the following decades, numerous new buildings and other improvements were made to the Ranch to accommodate campers from around the country and around the world. And now, a fourth and fifth generation of Prudes extend their family’s famous hospitality year round.
In 2010, John Robert passed away at the age of 82, leaving a legacy of both business success and public service—including 35 years as County Commissioner. He was also the recipient of numerous awards such as the Texas Environmental Education Partnership Award, Fort Davis Chamber of Commerce Citizen of the Decade Award, the Texas Department of Transportation‘s Gene Phillips Hospitality Award, the Texas Tourism Governor’s Award, and the Texas Travel Industry Association Lifetime Achievement Award.
“No one did more to promote the Far West Texas area than John Robert and Betty Prude,” says Larry Francell, former director of the Museum of the Big Bend. “He travelled continuously to steer tourism towards the Last Frontier, and the great lady who stood beside him made the operation run smoothly.”
Liliana Esparza earned a bachelor’s degree in mass communications from Sul Ross and a master’s degree in secondary education from Stephen F. Austin State University. As principal of St. Patrick Cathedral School, she is currently the longest tenured of 12 principals working for El Paso Catholic Schools. Esparza is the school district’s lead principal, guiding diocesan-wide projects while ensuring a level of academic excellence which constantly surpasses expectations.
“As administrators, we are gifted with the opportunity to assist faculty and staff in shaping the minds and lives of children,” says Esparza. “We must emphasize the intellectual, moral, physical, and social development of each individual student in a safe, positive, and supportive environment. We also have the unique opportunity to educate and empower the generations of future administrators who will follow us.”
With professionalism and effective teaching strategies, Esparza has spent more than two decades as a role model for students, particularly young girls, interested in pursuing leadership roles and careers in education. She is a constant advocate for higher education and promotes Sul Ross as an ideal university for her students’ further education.
In the community, Esparza is praised for a leadership approach built on dedication to the craft of education. Through the spiritual, intellectual, and physical development of her students, Esparza is known for preparing self-confident young people who are ready to succeed in a complex world.
“My parents and educators throughout my life instilled in me the importance of being a lifelong learner, and I want to be able to instill in others the same values,” she says. “Furthermore, I strongly adhere to the belief that knowledge helps to empower. And, in return for my blessings, I want to help empower others through education.”
A native of Alpine and daughter of two Sul Ross faculty members, Elizabeth Will-Bates was perhaps destined to become a Lobo, an educator, and a Distinguished Young Alumnus. She demonstrated her passion for education early by following up her Sul Ross bachelor’s degree in communication with two Texas teacher certifications and a teaching post at Pecos High School.
She went on to work as a research assistant and graduate instructor at Texas Tech while earning her master’s degree and PhD in mass communications. Will-Bates is currently an assistant professor at Baylor University where her courses focus on media and public relations.
“My favorite part about teaching is seeing the progress students make throughout the semester,” she says. ”I also enjoy hearing from former students who are excelling in the workforce.”
In addition to being published in Journalism and Mass Communication Educator and Public Relations Review, Will-Bates has delivered presentations at nine conferences. She has also been honored as a Distinguished Professor by Baylor’s Mortar Board.
Another Alpine native (and, coincidentally, a Texas Tech alumnus), Bake Turner is being honored with the Slingin’ Sammy Baugh Award for Outstanding Service to Sul Ross. Known nationally for playing wide receiver on the victorious New York Jets Super Bowl III team, locally Turner is known as a successful DFW-area home builder, accomplished musical performer, and Sul Ross booster.
When Sammy Baugh created a golf tournament to raise scholarship funds for Sul Ross, Turner brought in his NFL friends and celebrities to play. Turner has also performed his country & western singing and guitar picking many times for Sul Ross students and staff—all for free. He even played for the Texas State University System Board of Regents at their 2017 board meeting in Alpine.
“It was obvious several of the Regents had followed his career and were somewhat starstruck in his presence,” said Butch Worley, retired Sul Ross vice president for external affairs.
Another Alpine resident known for his generosity to Lobo Land is Rick Kelly, owner of Alpine Auto Rental. For years, Kelly has given the Athletics Department discounted van rates for team travel—discounted to the extent that driving his vans cost Sul Ross less than driving University-owned vans.
In 2014, Kelly ensured the success of a raffle benefitting the SRSU Century Club by not only convincing the Big Bend Shooting Foundation to sponsor the raffle, but also by selling a large portion of the tickets. The raffle raised $6,000 for Sul Ross.
Kelly has also organized the local business community to provide special team meals for Sul Ross athletes who practice and play during the holiday breaks.
“During my time at Sul Ross, no one volunteered more time and energy in support of the University than Rick,” said Worley.
Sidney Hooper is the all-time leader in career points at Sul Ross since the Lobos joined the NCAA ranks in 1996. A two-time American Southwest Conference West Division First Team All-Conference honoree, Hooper was twice selected as an ASC All-Conference selection and was twice voted to the D3Hoops All-South Region Team.
He was also named D3Hoops All-South Region Player of the Year and was chosen as a D3Hoops Third Team All-American. During the 2003-04 season, Hooper led the ASC in scoring averaging 22.1 points per game.
He was a two-time team captain, named twice as the team’s Most Valuable Player and Offensive Player of the Year.
Hooper lettered four seasons with the Lobos and was a member of the 2003-04 ASC Champion and Sweet 16 team. He was also a member of three ASC West Division Title teams.
Hooper earned his degree from Sul Ross in 2006, majoring in kinesiology with a minor in criminal justice.
He currently works as a sales associate for BSN in Frisco, Texas.
Charles Bunch had a stellar football career at Sul Ross, lettering four seasons with the Lobos.
A Second Team NAIA All-American and a member of the 1996 ASC Championship Team, Bunch earned the ASC Defensive Player of the Year in 1996.
Bunch was also a 1996 ASC First Team All-Conference Defensive Back and was named an All-Conference Punter in 1996 and 1997.
Following his playing career, Bunch served as defensive coordinator at Pecos High School and helped lead the Eagles to three bi-district championships in 1999, 2000, and 2001.
From Pecos, Bunch moved on to San Angelo as a defensive coordinator at Central High School. During his stay at Central, he was part of an area championship in 2006 and a 2007 bi-district title team.
He then served as head football coach at Gorman High School and guided the team to a 2010 bi-district championship.
Bunch moved to James Madison High School in San Antonio as defensive secondary coach and helped lead the team to a 2013 state semi-final appearance.
He then became defensive coordinator at New Braunfels High School and earned a bi-district title in 2016.
He is currently defensive coordinator, assistant baseball coach, and sixth grade physical education, social studies, and special education teacher for the Sonora Independent School District.
Bunch earned his bachelor’s degree in kinesiology from Sul Ross in 1998 and earned his Texas teacher certification one year later.
Gregg Slape was a two-sport athlete and lettered four seasons in basketball and baseball at Sul Ross.
Slape was a two-time All-Lone Star Conference selection in basketball in 1967 and 1968.
Following his basketball and baseball playing career with the Lobos, Slape signed a contract with the Cincinnati Reds in June 1968.
He played one season for Single-A affiliate Sioux Falls (South Dakota) and two seasons each with Double-A and Triple-A affiliates Asheville (North Carolina) and Indianapolis (Indiana).
Slape earned his bachelor’s degree in marketing from Sul Ross in 1968 and works for Self-Employee Benefits Specialists, Inc.
1986-87 TIAA Champion Women’s Basketball Team
The 1986-87 Lady Lobos finished with the best record of any Sul Ross women’s basketball team at 20-4.
Following a Texas Intercollegiate Athletic Association (TIAA) title, the Sul Ross women advanced to the second round of the NAIA National Playoffs and fell to No. 1 Wayland Baptist University.
The Lady Lobos defeated NCAA Division I U.T. El Paso and a number of Division II programs including Angelo State, Western New Mexico, New Mexico Highlands, Lubbock Christian University, and the University of the Incarnate Word.
Their four losses came at the hands of NCAA Division II programs.
In addition to an undefeated TIAA record that season, the Lady Lobos posted a 4-0 sweep over conference powerhouse Tarleton State and won the outright league championship. The Tarleton State Lady Texans had won or shared ten consecutive conference titles before falling to the 1986-87 Lady Lobo team.
Team members were:
Vicki Vidana Gonzales – Van Horn – Conference MVP
Kay Thompson Hufstedler – Ozona – All-TIAA
Dana Souter Pannell – Alpine – All-TIAA
Paula Brown Coffman – Andrews
Leslie Martin Storer – Andrews – All-TIAA
Misela Luevano Torres – Sanderson – All-TIAA
Rachel Holloway Roberts – Decator
Ida Estrada – El Paso
Juana Garcia – El Paso
Tracie Fore – Waco
Head Coach: Dr. Chet Sample
Asst. Coach: Elizabeth Busic Hanks
Randy and Sherry Jackson
Randy and Sherry Jackson have been long-time supporters of Sul Ross State University Athletics.
The Jacksons have attended 79 of the last 80 football games, as well as many out-of-town basketball games and track meets, since moving to Alpine. While attending these events, Randy has also assisted in the sports information department as a stand-in photographer and organized several tailgates for former student-athletes and alumni.
In conjunction with former Sul Ross football players, the Jacksons raised funds to purchase game jerseys for the team in 2009. They have further fundraised for various sports programs’ uniforms and equipment at Sul Ross, and spearheaded efforts to send football seniors to various post season all-star games. Randy and Sherry have also purchased several Sul Ross banners for athletic events to replace worn out signs.
This past year, the Jacksons led fundraising efforts to purchase rings for the 2017-18 ASC Champion men’s basketball team.
The Jacksons’ newsletter From the Hill, begun in 2007, is distributed to Baby Boomers and other interested individuals and covers current events at Sul Ross.