Murray State University administration, friends, and supporters of the institution celebrated a naming ceremony event on Thursday, October 21 with the dedication of the Rudolph Equine Education Center on the University’s West Farm.

MURRAY, Ky. — Murray State University administration, friends, and supporters of the institution celebrated a naming ceremony event on Thursday, October 21 with the dedication of the Rudolph Equine Education Center on the University’s West Farm.

The re-naming of the Equine Instructional Facility was part of Murray State’s events and celebrations associated with Homecoming 2021 and recognized an integral family who has been part of the University’s history for many years to support the institution, the University’s Hutson School of Agriculture and countless students.

The equine program is one of the signature programs at Murray State, with the Rudolph Equine Education Center housing all of the equine faculty and classrooms while serving as the headquarters of the nationally-acclaimed equine program. 

Dr. Jim Rudolph is a graduate of Murray State Agriculture and was recruited back to his alma mater where he began the equine program in 1973. For 35 years, he served as a faculty member in Equine Science, including four years as the first Director of the School of Agriculture. In addition, Rudolph started the beloved Racer One tradition at Murray State under the direction of then-President Dr. Constantine W. Curris in 1976. Rudolph also served one term as Faculty Regent. He retired from the University in 2004. Rudolph’s passion for the equine program and its students was evident throughout his entire career and continues today.

Rudolph authored and worked tirelessly with State Senator Joe Wright to develop legislation establishing the Kentucky Equine Trust Fund through the State Legislature. Rudolph also was instrumental in securing $1.5 million in funding to build the Equine Instructional Facility and the classroom addition. Since 2000, Murray State has received state funding annually to support the equine program.

Dean of Agriculture Dr. Tony Brannon began the naming ceremony by saying, “It is only fitting that this facility be named after the founder of the program and one who has contributed so much towards it…in time, service, and funding. It is the right thing, in the right way and at the right time. We thank Jim and Holly for their service and thank the University administration including President Jackson, Provost Todd, Director of Development Tina Bernot, Hutson School of Agriculture Director of Development Abby Hensley, and the Murray State Board of Regents for their help and support in recognizing them with this honor.” 

Murray State President Dr. Bob Jackson introduced guests in attendance and spoke of Jim’s service and contributions to Murray State, the equine education program, and the equine industry, sharing, “It is important to rename the building to preserve the history and honor the man who made it possible.”

Pictured from left to right are: Back Row – Racer One jockey and Murray State student Emily Helmick with Racer One; Dr. Shea Porr, Department Head of the Animal and Equine Science program. Front Row – Dr. Jim Rudolph and Murray State University Hutson School of Agriculture Dean Dr. Tony Brannon.

Featured speakers at the event included Starlight Racing owner and recipient of the 2014 Murray State Distinguished Alumnus Award, Jack Wolf; Kentucky Venues CEO/President and recipient of the 2016 Murray State Distinguished Alumnus Award, David Beck; and former long time State Senator Joe Wright from Breckenridge County, who each spoke of the significant work of Rudolph to advance the equine program at Murray State and the equine industry in Kentucky. Beck pointed out that Rudolph was instrumental in starting the Quarter Horse Show at the North American International Livestock Exhibition in Louisville and, as superintendent of the show, led it to become one of the top five shows in America. 

Murray State’s Alpha Gamma Rho (AGR) fraternity alumnus Terry McKinney was joined by the current brothers of Alpha Gamma Rho to present Rudolph with a framed, numbered, and signed print of the original AGR house and praised him for his former work as member and advisor. 

The ceremony also included recognition of Jim’s wife, Dr. Holly Rudolph, a long-time faculty member in the Accounting Department. Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Tim Todd, formerly the Dean of the Arthur J. Bauernfeind College of Business, introduced the former College of Business representatives in attendance and applauded Holly for her years of service. Todd remarked, “A former pastor once said that people go where they are prepared for and cared for…and no one at Murray State prepared for or cared for students better than her.”

The Rudolph’s have established an endowment with the Murray State University Foundation, Inc. and have given generously to support the James A. and Holly R. Rudolph Fund for Excellence.

“I have had the opportunity to work with Dr. Jim Rudolph for many years. Jim served here for over 35 years as a Distinguished Professor, Director of the School of Agriculture and Faculty Regent,” Murray State President Dr. Bob Jackson said. “He left a lasting mark on the Hutson School of Agriculture and Murray State University. This facility naming is a fitting and well-deserved tribute.” 

After the program, new signage was unveiled by Jackson and Dr. Shea Porr, Department Head of the Animal and Equine Science program, who made remarks and invited all guests to an Equitation/Equine showcase demonstration including University and Rudolph-donated horses inside the arena. 

Brannon summarized the program by stating, “Murray State Agriculture has been fortunate to have a group of foundational faculty members in the past, including Dr. Rudolph, that were worthy of having buildings named after them. Truly, Murray State Agriculture has a proud past to uphold but an even brighter future to mold. This Rudolph Equine Education Center will be instrumental in that exciting future.”

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