For more than 40 years, Leroy “Shafe” Shafer ’67 and his trademark western hat (with a cattleman’s crease) were representative of the entire Houston Rodeo experience—part country, part rock ‘n’ roll and 100 percent Texan.
Shafe, who retired in 2014 from his position as chief operating officer of the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo, was instrumental in growing the event into the largest livestock show and rodeo in the world and the largest fair, event or festival in North America. He began working for the organization in 1973 as assistant manager for public relations while the show was struggling to grow into the Astrodome after leaving its old home in the Sam Houston Coliseum. Through the course of his tenure, he helped to transform the show into a multiweek entertainment destination that attracts millions of visitors each year.
One of the keys to that growth was bringing in bigger musical acts that were more in tune with the interests of a wide range of audiences—the hottest names in country, rock and pop music. Under his early tenure, he watched a concert lineup of iconic country stars like Merle Haggard and Johnny Cash grow to include mainstream pop acts like Tony Orlando & Dawn, the Jackson 5 and Sonny & Cher.
Aside from his role in researching, analyzing and securing entertainment, vastly improving presentations and promoting ticket sales, Shafe was intimately involved with the rodeo’s scholarship program, a major supporter of Texas youth. The rodeo awarded its first scholarship in 1957 and has since provided nearly 17,000 scholarships of more than $200 million to Texas students. Currently, more than 2,200 students are on rodeo scholarships, attending more than 80 different Texas colleges and universities.
“History, culture and education are all integral parts of the Houston Livestock Show, as well as values held in high esteem at Texas A&M,” Shafe said. “Nancy and I feel that both organizations provide a huge impact on the state of Texas.”
To that end, the Shafers established a planned gift through the Texas A&M Foundation that will benefit a multitude of areas at Texas A&M University.