When I came to Houston, all I knew about the Rodeo was that it meant hats, boots, food and fun. I was thrilled to buy my first pair of Texas boots, hat and, of course, a rhinestone-studded belt. I was all set to party at my UH Night at the Rodeo reception when a petite woman with commanding voice called out, “You don’t mind eating later, do you? I need you right here for a photo with our Rodeo Scholars.” The voice was so authoritative, yet so full of affection, that I knew I had no choice but to follow her. Soon, I was on my 25th photo and still hadn’t even taken my first bite. I saw this woman commanding everyone with the same ease as she did me and I saw everyone following her with the same helplessness as I did.
Her instructions were almost mother-like. “You, with the red hat in the back, come forward.” “You, Jennifer, better be smiling at the camera.” “You sir, I cannot see you, which means that the camera cannot see you either.” No one protested against her commands and no one minded her authority. With her blind passion, she personified the real spirit of the Rodeo. She was our own Nancy Clarke.
In that one evening, I learned from Nancy that Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo is not just about hats, boots, food and fun, but it is also about students, their future and their dreams. Thanks in great part to Nancy’s stewardship, the Rodeo has donated over $13 million to help nearly 1,300 University of Houston students graduate.. Each one of these graduates has stories that are enough to bring tears to anyone’s eyes…full of inspiration and hope. I know that programs like Rodeo Scholars become successful only if there is someone special to nurture them. For the University of Houston, Nancy is that very special person. She is our Rodeo Queen.
I wanted to find a photo of Nancy in my 500-plus photo file, called “Rodeo,” but failed to find a single one. That tells you something about Nancy…a person who is not in it for herself, but for the cause. Nancy and all those who are stewarding relationships for a cause , thank you. You help make this a better place!
Enjoy these photos from the Rodeo.