Working ranch east of Canyon gifted to WT

By Chip Chandler 

West Texas A&M University’s land holdings are expanding with the addition of a new working ranch to be used in training students.

As part of the rollout of the historic One West comprehensive fundraising campaign, WT officials announced Friday the planned gift of the Gerdsen Family Centennial Ranch to the WTAMU Foundation. The 1,772-acre ranch is located near the WTAMU Nance Ranch, approximately seven miles east of Canyon, expanding WT’s footprint in that area to more than 4,000 acres.

“This generous land legacy bequest to the WTAMU Foundation, made possible through the wise stewardship of previous generations of the Gerdsen family since 1908, will be an invaluable educational asset for the faculty, staff and students of the Paul Engler College of Agriculture and Natural Sciences, and particularly our Department of Agricultural Sciences,” said Dr. Todd Rasberry, WT vice president for philanthropy and external relations.

The bequest is being coordinated through the Foundation and its Land Legacy Program.

“The Gerdsen Family Centennial Ranch will provide an irreplaceable location for hands-on training in agricultural technologies, practical ranch land management, plant science research and emerging technologies,” said Dr. Kevin Pond, dean of the Engler College of Agriculture and Natural Sciences.

The One West campaign, which will raise $125 million for WT in the next five years, will fuel the vision set out for the University in WT 125: From the Panhandle to the World. Among the key principles of the long-term plan is to address challenges in this region, the agricultural heart of the country.

“Our students will benefit immensely from an educational standpoint to have hands-on training and research opportunities made available from this legacy gift,” said Dr. Lance Kieth, head of WT’s Department of Agricultural Sciences. “It’s the perfect complement to the Nance Ranch, which has been a crucial part of our facilities and curriculum for 40 years.”

The Nance Ranch consists of 2,393 acres including the headquarters. Given to WT in 1971, it is used as a working laboratory for WT’s animal science program as well as the Semi-Arid Agricultural Sstems Institute and the plant and soil science prorgram, providing numerous research and teaching opportunities for faculty and students.

“WT’s stewardship of the Nance Ranch was a crucial factor in our decision to leave our beloved family homestead to the University,” Phyllis Gerdsen said. “We saw how much students benefitted from the hands-on opportunities the Nance Ranch makes available, and we realized that our family legacy could also have long-lasting effects on students and, indeed, the future of this region.”

The Gerdsen ranch has been given to the WTAMU Foundation through the estates of siblings Phyllis Gerdsen, Rosemary Gerdsen Prichard and her late husband Stanley, and the late Hank Gerdsen.

Fredrick and Fredia Gerdsen settled in the United States after visiting the Texas Panhandle on their honeymoon, sailing to America from their home in Germany. After living in Nebraska for several years, the Gerdsens arrived in Canyon in 1908, where men and women alike walked behind mules to break out some of the grasslands into plowed lands for crops.

Their grandchildren, Phyllis, Rosemary and Hank, were born on the ranch to Herbert and Alice Gerdsen.

Before his death in September 2020, Hank Gerdsen came up with the initial idea of the bequest.

“When we first met, he told me, ‘This land has been good to us, and it should be treasured and kept together,’” said Lesly Bosch Annen, WT’s assistant vice president for leadership gifts and development. “Over the last year of working with his sisters, it is clear that they all have a love of the land, as have their forebearers, and they are all committed to providing WT students the opportunity to learn from and care for this land.”

The ranch will be leased by the University and used for its new educational purposes beginning immediately. At the time of the last Gerdsen sibling’s death, the ranch officially will be gifted to the WTAMU Foundation. The sisters also established the Gerdsen Family Centennial Ranch Endowment through their wills to support maintenance and improvement of the ranch.

In addition to the original 1,408 acres of the Gerdsen Ranch, it now includes 364 adjoining acres purchased by the Prichards in 2011 from the Rogge family, also longtime Canyon ranchers.

Rosemary Prichard also established, in memory of her late husband, the Stanley Ray Prichard and Rosemary Gerdsen Prichard Scholarship for WT students planning to be veterinarians. The first awards were given this fall to Brooke Parker, a senior animal science major from Canyon, and Brayden Danielsen, a junior animal science major from Pueblo, Colo.

“My husband and I worked and sacrificed to purchase the Rogge property because we both loved the land so much,” Rosemary Prichard said. “It only seemed fitting, because our family has always relied on our livestock, that we find a way to assist students from our area further their studies and hopefully become veterinarians who will serve rural regions like ours.”

A valuation of the property is currently underway.

The Land Legacy Advisory Council and the WTAMU Foundation provide oversight of gifts of land and other real property; facilitate its proper management; maintain good stewardship of gifts; are spokespersons for the program; and help WT fulfill its mission. Accepting and managing gifts of real property is in keeping with the values of the WTAMU Foundation for the benefit of the University.

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