Cotton Rosser, owner of Flying U Rodeo Company and 1952 honorary doctorat of science animal husbandry graduate, is one of nine alumni honored by the Cal Poly Alumni Association for Mustang Family Weekend. One alumnus is honored by each college, with another honoree from the athletic program, another receiving a distinguished service award and the ninth receiving the Sandra Gardebring Ogren Leaders Award, named after Cal Poly’s 1998 Vice President for Advancement.
Rosser went to Cal Poly at a time when Cal Poly Pomona was still a satellite campus; the university was known as a college and the college was not co-educational. A lot has changed since then, but not the core principles of The Mustang Way.
When he went through school, Rosser said that he was not the best student. In fact, it took him an additional two years to graduate with his honorary bachelor of science. But what he learned most, he learned by doing.
As a professional rodeo cowboy, Rosser worked his way through college, laying claim to the title of “The College Cowboy,” an anomaly lying between the distinct classes of professional cowboys and college-educated people unheard of in those days.
After a ranch injury in 1956 gave both his legs compound fractures and made him unable to compete in rodeos, Rosser bought the Flying U Rodeo Company, now the oldest continuing rodeo livestock company in the United States. He remains the owner of the company, and produces more than 50 rodeos a year.
Inducted into the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame in 1995, Rosser is described as the P.T. Barnum of professional rodeo, and won the all-around title at the 1951 Grand National Rodeo in San Francisco.
“I would not be successful in the business I am in if it were not for Cal Poly,” he said.
Rosser supported Cal Poly for the past 40 years. In addition, he built up a legacy among his family. His daughter graduated two years ago with a master’s degree, and also became the ninth Rosser to go to Cal Poly.
Despite his involvement in the Cal Poly family, Rosser was humbly confused when he was called by the Alumni Association, thinking they had called the wrong person.
Though Rosser wishes that a lot of his Cal Poly classmates were still alive, he emphasized that it was a “great, great honor to be selected.”
He also applauded Cal Poly President Armstrong for keeping the agriculture program alive, and by keeping the Learn by Doing motto thriving on campus.
“I love Cal Poly,” Rosser said.
Other honored alumni include Wendy Ornelas, Professor of Architecture at Kansas State University; Scott Cooper, Chief Financial Officer of Allegro Ophthalmics, LLC; Karen Bartleson, President-elect of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers; Jim Kouf, Screenwriter/Producer/Director of Kouf-Bigelow Productions; Nohemy Ornelas, Associate Superintendent and Vice President of Students at Allan Hancock College; James Newkirk, owner of Newkirk Enterprises; Charles E. Bell Jr., San Diego Deputy City Attorney and John A. Ronca Jr., owner of John A. Ronca, Jr. Law Corporation.