Dennis Hunewell’s legacy continues to inspire

Band endowment to fuel student success

Band director, Dennis Hunewell, continues to leave an impact on Tarleton State University, even decades after his death. His memory has had many influences on the university’s band program and its students involved. Hunewell’s legacy has recently provided $5.4 million for Tarleton’s band to be used in the form of scholarships, uniforms, and instruments.

Dennis Hunewell was born and raised in Kansas where he went to Bethany College as a music major. After school, Hunewell took on various teaching jobs before going back to school to further his music education. He eventually ended up in El Campo, Texas where he became a private music instructor and assistant director of their military band.

In 1920, Hunewell started his new job at Tarleton State University, where he is said to have built Tarleton’s distinguished military band from the ground up. He faced many hardships during the beginning of his career at Tarleton, including financial difficulties brought on by the great depression. Despite these hardships, Hunewell found a way to make due with what they had and find outside resources to build the program.

After his retirement, Hunewell lived on his 1,200 acre ranch just outside of Stephenville where he raised Hereford cattle until his death in 1959. In his will, he left his ranch to Tarleton in hopes that its revenue would benefit Tarleton State University band students and memorialize him and his wife. 

The sale of Hunewell’s ranch was finalized in January of this year. This decision was ultimately made due to the recent transition of Tarleton to an NCAA Division 1 school and the significant decrease of yearly revenue generated by the ranch. 

This decision has been the most recent chapter of history for the Hunewell Ranch, the first since President Dennis P. McCabe stated that Hunewell Ranch would be a permanent part of Tarleton State University in 1995 after much controversy about rumors that Barry B. Thompson had considered selling the ranch as surplus.

Four acres of the ranch remains in Tarleton’s name in memory of the Hunewells. This portion of land is home to Hunewell’s observatory, which is the third largest in the state, and contains a fully robotic telescope.

Hunewell’s legacy has not only had an outstanding impact on Tarleton’s band, but on many other aspects of the university. Hunewell’s ranch has been used to expand the agriculture department and events, for the Corps to practice exercises, and the use of the observatory for astronomy and research. 

Endowment of the ranch will allow the band to become more competitive in recruitment as they grow their size and their program. The sale of the ranch is just one of the ways that Dennis Hunewell continues to leave a lasting impact on Tarleton State University.