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Legacy Award honors generations of Mead family
As perhaps it should be, the Legacy Award this year is about generations.
It's about former Governor and U.S. Senator Cliff Hansen and his wife, Martha, and their late daughter Mary Mead and her former husband Peter Mead and their children, Brad Mead, Matt Mead, and Muffy Mead-Ferro.
It's also about anyone who steps into the Cliff and Martha Hansen Livestock Teaching Arena and the Mary Mead Education Wing.
The family legacy will carry on with future recipients of the new Mary Mead Scholarship for Women in Agriculture to be awarded to women majoring in any of the agriculture degrees in the college.
Muffy is happy about the scholarship, but she says she realizes it's just one part of the vast array of things offered by the College of Agriculture.
"There are many, many ways to have exciting and productive careers in agriculture that will enable people to make a large contribution to the world," she says. "Just to be part of the college and UW and part of that effort to help people achieve their goals in agriculture is really gratifying."
Says Matt, "Agriculture and the University of Wyoming have meant so much in my life it is very humbling to be given an award from an institution I already feel a great debt of gratitude."
Matt, U.S. attorney for Wyoming who works in Cheyenne, drives by the teaching arena whenever he goes to his ranch in Albany County. "I have to admit my heart swells with pride knowing a facility that provides so much to so many has the names of my grandparents and Mom on the building," he says.
Muffy, who lives in Salt Lake City,Utah, is the author of two books and a Wyoming landowner, and Brad manages the family ranch near Jackson and has his own law firm in Jackson.
Cliff Hansen crystallized the value of education to Brad early. Brad recalls a day more than 30 years ago when his grandfather talked about his father and life in general while the two hauled cattle.
"He said you can have lots of acres or a nice horse or a pickup, but there is nothing you have that can't be taken away, except an education," Brad remembers. "That was what his dad told him, and that sticks firmly in my mind. Education is the one thing you can obtain for yourself and can never lose. I think that's one reason we are pretty excited about the scholarship. My brother, sister, and I believe the scholarship is appropriate. My mom, too, was a school teacher for awhile. Education is one of the things my family thought was pretty important, and UW, too."
Mary Gullikson of Loveland, Colorado, was a sorority sister with Mary. She traveled to Jackson to meet the family in 1956. The two were in each other's weddings and were lifelong friends.
"Those kids have turned out so well," Gullikson says. "Each one of them is smart and responsible. That whole family is so down-to-earth, and they get that from their grandparents, too. They are ever-so-friendly and natural."
Peter says he is honored the Mead family is receiving the Legacy Award, "especially in view of how many fine ranching families there are in Wyoming. We feel especially privileged to be selected from that group," he notes.
Peter grew up in Vermont and was skiing in Wyoming when he began taking pack trips into the Tetons and Gros Ventre River Valley for a dude ranch. Muffy says her mother joked what first attracted her to him was the saddle in the back of his car and the skis on top.
"Within one year of them getting married, Granddad decided to enter politics and the ranch management fell to my mom and dad," Muffy says. "It was amazing the way my father rose to the occasion. The ranch flourished under him. He plunged full speed ahead into a life I don't think he had planned on. It was an adventure."
Mary and Peter would later divorce, but Peter still helps Brad and others in ranch matters. Peter attributes his ranching success to "not anything more than a love of ranching, hard work, and the support of family."
All three siblings have ranches or land that will become a ranch. Muffy is turning land she purchased in Wyoming from crop land to cattle pasture. "It's been a slow process but a wonderful adventure for me and for my kids," she says. "They think Wyoming is the greatest place in the world."
She remembers that living on the land gives freedom and independence, but there is a flipside, too. "Responsibility. There is a sense of stewardship for the land and the animals on it. In a sense, maybe I'm trying to recreate my own childhood, but my childhood was great," she says.
Matt never left Wyoming, noting all his best opportunities were right here.
The same holds true today. "I have great love for our state," he says. "The land certainly is wonderful, but it is the Wyoming people and the Wyoming spirit that make our state the best place to live."
He says a person sometimes returns to his or her roots. "This is particularly true when it is those roots that gave each of us the ultimate childhood, providing fun certainly, but, perhaps more importantly, lessons of life," he notes. "I want to provide the ranching experience to my kids and, frankly, I want it for myself and my wife. Many of my family's best days are when we can get away and spend time together working on the ranch."
Brad didn't stay in Wyoming after graduating from law school. He and his wife, Kate, moved to Phoenix, Arizona, where he practiced law for almost eight years. They returned to raise their children in Wyoming. "We wanted them to be in Wyoming schools, which are some of the best in the world," he says. "We wanted them to be around their extended family and, as they got old enough, to appreciate their surroundings to be rural instead of urban."
He wouldn't prefer quitting one of his professions for the other, such as dropping the ranch and concentrating on his law firm. "Because we love ranching and want our two children to have the opportunity to continue to make a living in agriculture in Wyoming," he says. "Agriculture is one of the few areas of human endeavor that gives an individual a chance every day to be a problem solver, an innovator, a technician, an inventor, a business man, a doctor and do all that outside in the company of their family."
They say a spirit of independence and self-determination was instilled in them by their parents and grandparents; characteristics they want to pass along to their children.
"An independent thinker is not an easy thing to be," notes Muffy. "It's much easier to follow the herd and do what everybody else does. My mother was never that way. She wanted us to make up our own minds about things. She felt bottomless responsibility for the ranch and the cattle. She was never going to blame the weather, the cattle market, or employees for the way things turned out."
Matt says his mother provided the best example of what his family taught him. During her run for governor, she asked him to operate the ranch. She didn't give much instruction, but "she did tell me something that has come to mean a great deal to me as I continue to reflect on the way she led her life," he says.
She told him when gathering cattle a person has to ride the outside fence line, the longest loop. The ride is harder and longer than anyone else's, but it is the only way to make sure an animal is not left behind.
"It is what your grandfather did, what your father did, and it is what we expect from you," she told her son.
"Her comment is very symbolic to me," Matt says. "It is a reminder that in every area of our lives, in order to do our best, we must go where it may be difficult and even perhaps dangerous, but this is the only way to make certain we don't miss out or lose what we care about."
The instruction will stay with him forever, he says, "Because riding the 'longest loop' is what Mary did in every aspect and every day of her life, and it is what she was doing on the day she died."