Writer: Kay Ledbetter, 806-677-5608, firstname.lastname@example.org
SAN ANTONIO – Leroy “Shafe” Shafer was honored with the Reuben Brigham Award by the Association for Communication Excellence, ACE, at the organization’s international conference June 26 in San Antonio.
Shafer, Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo chief operating officer emeritus, gave his best advice to the communicators attending the conference, discussing how to stay relevant and how his career experience and his background in audience/demographic analysis made the show a success that continues today.
“Your job as communicators has never been more important than it is today,” Shafer said. “You have to be an integral part of the decision-making process that is taking place in agriculture. We must continue to change our product and presentation to meet the needs of a changing demographic.”
He told the group he was familiar with their organization, as he presented his master’s thesis at their 1969 meeting in Chicago, and it was his work at the Extension Information Office that convinced him he liked the world of communications and he changed his major at Texas A&M to agriculture communications.
“It’s an honor now to circle back and receive this award in the name of a man who died 3 years after I was born and to follow all the important people who were previous award winners,” Shafer said.
The Reuben Brigham Award is given to a communicator who has made a major contribution in the field of agriculture, natural resources or life and human sciences at the regional, national or international level.
Shafer’s innovative vision shaped the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, or HLSR, for more than 40 years, said Elizabeth Gregory-North, ACE president.
A champion for the agriculture industry and youth of Texas, his expertise in event and entertainment production, communications technology, marketing and audience analysis helped the HLSR become the biggest livestock exhibition in the world, she continued.
This year was a record-breaker for the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo: 2.5 million visitors and more than $27 million committed to youth scholarships.
The Reuben Brigham Award is offered in memory of Reuben Brigham, an Extension editor and 4-H club president who joined the Federal Extension Service in 1917 to develop an editorial and visual aids service for Extension editors.
Brigham organized the American Association of Agricultural College Editors, the original name of ACE, and had many national roles with Extension, U.S. Department of Agriculture, 4-H and land-grant college associations in support of agricultural communications professionals. Brigham died in 1946 while attending a meeting of the National 4-H Congress.
During Shafer’s tenure, the HLSR became an internationally recognized entertainment and sports venue, with state-of-the-art presentation technology, an in-house advertising and marketing agency and a radio and television production facility.
In 2014, HLSR established the Leroy Shafer Scholarship, presented each year to a student at Texas A&M University majoring in agricultural communications and journalism. Hundreds of Texas A&M students have participated over the years in the media, publicity and audio-visual student intern program conducted during the livestock show and rodeo.
Shafer retired in 2014 and was named chief operating officer emeritus. He also serves as a consultant and advisor in the livestock show and rodeo industry.
In 2015, Shafer was named an Outstanding Alumnus of Texas A&M’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. He has been awarded Texas A&M’s Agricultural Leadership, Education and Communications (ALEC) Department Alumni Excellence Award and is a member of the university’s Former Journalism Student Association Hall of Honor. He serves on the ALEC Development Advisory Board and is vice chairman and a member of the executive committee of the Texas A&M University Press Advancement Board.
Shafer earned his bachelor’s degree in agricultural journalism from Texas A&M and a master’s degree in technical journalism and mass communications from Iowa State University where he became a member of Gamma Sigma Delta, the agriculture honor society.