• February 19, 2019

GOOD NEWS: Sul Ross to honor distinguished alumni and supporters - Odessa American: Good News

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GOOD NEWS: Sul Ross to honor distinguished alumni and supporters

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Posted: Wednesday, February 6, 2019 5:30 am

ALPINE 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 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 p.m. reception to be followed by dinner at 7 and the awards program at 7:45 p.m.

The 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.

More information on these HOH inductees can be found at srlobos.com by clicking on the Hall of Honor menu tab.

Below are brief highlights of the 2019 Distinguished Alumni and Slingin’ Sammy Baugh Award honorees:


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 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.”


Elizabeth Will-Bates, a native of Alpine and daughter of two Sul Ross faculty members, 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.


Bake Turner, Alpine native (and, coincidentally, a Texas Tech alumnus), 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.


Rick Kelly, known for his generosity to Lobo Land, is 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.

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