Boots are a must if living in Texas! Much like the hundreds of choices of “stuff” on today’s shelves, there are many sizes, styles and colors of boots. Choices such as Tony Lama, Lucchese, Roper, Corral and Old Gringo are prevalent and vying for the taste of the right buyer. Styles differ from cowboy, to thigh high, to baby dolls and come in flowers, paisley, sports teams, as well as every color imaginable.
Hill College has had a long-standing history of western culture, boots and rodeo. Bringing college athletic men’s and women’s rodeo to our campus in the early 1980s brought recognition, competitive sport and sportsmanship to the area. With former student athletes such as Shane Hanchey, world champion tie-down roper, and Cleburne’s own Chad Eubank, national champion bull rider, Hill College’s rodeo team remains one of the top college rodeo teams in the nation.
With a nationally ranked rodeo team, the theme of “boots and suits” was a natural fit for Hill College’s largest fundraiser and community event ... the Boots and Suits Gala. Since the inaugural gala in 2006, the Boots and Suits Gala has raised close to $600,000 for programs and student scholarships.
Similar to the many brands, styles and choices of boots, Hill College’s programs benefitting from the event over the years range from health science programs to performing arts to welding to student life to continuing education to athletics, to name a few. Student scholarships became a Gala beneficiary in 2014, and since that time over $50,000 has been awarded to almost 200 students thanks to the generous donors in our community.
Also in 2014, the Pillar of the Community Award was created to recognize individuals who have helped build and sustain Hill and Johnson counties and supported the growth of the college.
Past recipients of the Cleburne Pillar of the Community Award include: The Walls family (2014); the Johnson County Campus ‘Founding Fathers’ (2015) including former Mayor Tom Hazlewood, Dewey James, Eddie Saylors, and W.E. Carroll; Cathy Marchel (2016); and the Marti Foundation (2017). This year we are excited to honor Mr. Howard Dudley for his impact on the community and support of Hill College over the years.
Again, just as boots come in many styles, sizes, and shapes, so do our students. Hill College serves traditional and non-traditional students, including those returning for retraining, international students, athletes, single parents, dual credit students and first generation students. One of my goals coming into this presidency was to help make higher education affordable and accessible to students in our service area.
With a considerable number of students on free or reduced lunch in our local ISDs, funds for scholarships are vital in helping students have the opportunity to go to college, pursue their dreams and earn a credential that allows them to support their families. Proceeds from the Gala directly impact our students through program enhancements, facility upgrades and scholarships.
Finally, one of my favorite things about the Boots and Suits Gala is the participation from the faculty, staff and students. The Hill College family comes together to plan, decorate, and prepare for this wonderful evening. Our students serve as waiters and waitresses and enjoy visiting with individuals from the community. Many auction items are solicited by or donated from our employees, who want to help students.
I would like to personally invite all members of the community to join us at our 13th annual Boots and Suits Gala on Friday evening, April 20, at the Cleburne Conference Center. The evening will feature a live and silent auction, hors d’oeuvres prepared by the Cleburne ISD culinary program, dinner, bar service, live music and dancing. This night of celebrating higher education and philanthropy will benefit the Hill College Testing Centers, Hill College softball and district-wide student scholarships for the coming 2018–19 academic year.
Individual tickets to the Gala are $75 per person, while tables start at $600. For more information or to purchase tickets online, please visit www.hillcollege.edu/boots.
So grab your boots and hat, and come on out to the Boots and Suits Gala on April 20, as well as the annual Hill College Rodeo at the Hill College Rodeo Grounds in Hillsboro on March 23-24. I promise you a fun time, where you will be richly blessed by students.
Pam Boehm is president of Hill College