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Cal Poly rodeo program receives $1 million endowment

Cal Poly’s 76th annual rodeo was held in April.
Cal Poly’s 76th annual rodeo was held in April. jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

Cal Poly’s rodeo team has received some bucks.

The program that celebrated the 76th annual Poly Royal Rodeo in April has welcomed a $1 million endowment to benefit the team in perpetuity.

Mark and Jessie Milano provided the gift, the largest ever for the program.

The donation increases the program’s scholarship offerings to $80,000 in 2016-17, a jump from the $16,000 in scholarships awarded in 2015-16.

$80,000 amount in scholarship money that will be provided for Cal Poly rodeo team members in 2016-2017

“The Milanos’ gift has taken our program from offering just a few students some financial assistance to offering several students a significant level of support,” said rodeo coach Ben Londo.

Milano is a cattle rancher and retired oil industry executive, according to Cal Poly officials.

“I feel humbled to even be in the presence of these athletes,” Milano said in a statement. “Rodeo life is not all glory — it is a culmination of hard work, dedication, and getting your hands dirty. To take on all of those responsibilities on top of a demanding scholastic program is just incredible.”

The Milano Family Rodeo Scholarship will be awarded to Cal Poly rodeo students based on several criteria: Leadership, academic performance, athletic contribution, financial need, teamwork and camaraderie all will be considered.

“We see the Cal Poly Rodeo program preparing students for healthy, productive lives,” Milano said in a statement. “We wanted to support that by helping worthy students who might otherwise not be able to attend.”

Under Londo’s guidance, the rodeo program has grown from 24 students to 64 students in three years.

The Milanos’ gift has taken our program from offering just a few students some financial assistance to offering several students a significant level of support.

Ben Londo, Cal Poly Rodeo Coach

This June, the team will compete in the College National Finals Rodeo in Casper, Wyo.

The women’s team won first place in the regional in Las Vegas, where agriculture communications sophomore Katie Rice of Clements won the reserve all-around champion title for the West Coast Region, which means she placed second overall at the competition. She’ll compete in goat tying and breakaway roping.

Londo, who is in his third year of coaching the Cal Poly rodeo team, was also named Coach of the Year for the West Coast Region.

Other students competing in the national event include: Colton Farquer of Oakdale in tie-down roping; Cate Hirschy of San Luis Obispo in breakaway roping; Kayla Nichol of Cottonwood in barrel racing; Meghann McNulty of Santa Maria in barrel racing; and Wade Brown of San Luis Obispo in bareback riding.

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