Before his recent retirement, Mikel Lemons made a lasting impression on the community at Odessa College.
Lemons taught subjects like agriculture science, horsemanship and occupational safety health technology at the college, making connections with various students and professors since he took over his position as agriculture department head in the early 2000s.
Some of the students that benefitted the most from Lemons’ teachings were members of the Odessa College rodeo team who went on to blossom in their careers.
“He’s kind of a jack of all trades and a master of a bunch of them,” former Odessa College rodeo coach Jim Watkins said. “Besides being good in agriculture, he’s a tremendous welder and builder, and so on and so forth.”
Before Lemons took over his position at the school, he was already lending a helping hand as Watkins prepared everything for the beginning stages of the rodeo program.
Education was something Lemons always prioritized from an early age.
He graduated from Sul Ross State University with a Bachelor’s degree in Industrial Technology and later went back to school to get his Master’s in Agriculture Education.
Lemons went on to secure a doctorate in Business Management from Colorado Technical University.
The professor’s journey into teaching began at the high school level, where he worked from 1975 to 1979.
Lemons ultimately stepped away from education to pursue his own business endeavors, starting a construction business called TWC and operating it for 30 years.
He returned to education in the late 90s when Odessa College reached out for help to start up its agriculture department.
One of the things Lemons always remembered when he went on his business venture was the advice of his mother, which included how he would always be a teacher no matter what he worked in.
Working with college students from different states and countries has been a rewarding experience for Lemons.
“It was good to help the rodeo kids, I had students from Mexico, some from Australia and a lot of them from Canada,” Lemons said. “Of course, the rest of them were all over the United States, everything from Virginia on.
“When it comes to a career, when you’ve got students all over the world, it’s really kind of cool.”
Lemons considers it a blessing that he’s maintained a connection with his former students through social media, getting to keep track of the successes they have achieved after passing through his program.
Along with students, Lemons has also kept up a strong bond with Watkins for most of their lives.
Their strong connection includes being former rodeo members at Sul Ross.
The pair stays in touch consistently and they have plans of going back down to Alpine for a rodeo exes reunion on July 15.
“Besides staying in touch here locally, we also make that trip down to Alpine and keep up with the old rodeo exes,” Lemons said.
Lemons was always willing to help Watkins and his rodeo program at Odessa College, putting in time to work on the school’s ranch facilities and helping things flow smoothly for its annual rodeo.
“He was always there helping at our rodeo, he was the out gate man every year that I put on a rodeo while he was working there,” Watkins said. “He’s just a tremendous teacher and tremendous guy.”
After putting in 20 years at the college, Lemons decided that it was time for him to step away at the age of 69.
He originally made a commitment to himself that he would give the program 20 years and see how things went from there.
Lemons is hoping for big things in the future from the rodeo and agriculture programs at Odessa College, giving as much support as he can from the outside.
“I’ll still be involved with the rodeo program, we’ll go to banquets and support them as best we can,” Lemons said. “That’s one of the things that we’ve always tried to do.
“My hope is, because of the culture we live in out in West Texas, that we’ll have more and more people’s support in the equine science, agriculture and rodeo programs.”
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