STEPHENVILLE — Dennis G. Hunewell, director of Tarleton State University’s esteemed Military Band for more than two decades, left a powerful legacy that is still felt today.
The sale of 1,166 acres of his ranch just southwest of Stephenville will funda $5.4 million endowment for band scholarships, instruments and uniforms. The sale was approved by The Texas A&M System Board of Regents in November and finalized in January.
“This is a game changer for us,” said Dr. David Robinson, Tarleton Director of Bands. “Our vision for our band program is to grow in size and prominence, and we are excited that the university shares this vision. This new funding will allow us to be more competitive in recruiting as we grow our program into the NCAA Division I model.”
Born in 1876 in Elk, Kan., Hunewell was Tarleton’s second band director, serving from 1920 until 1942. In 1929 with the onset of the Great Depression, finances threatened the band’s future, but Hunewell worked with the Department of Military Science to obtain a complete set of 28 instruments from the U.S. War Department.
Constantly touring with the band, Hunewell visited small towns and almost every county in Texas. His charges played at Tarleton Day at the 1922 State Fair, for a live radio broadcast over WBAP in 1924, and at the inauguration of Texas Gov. Miriam A. Ferguson in 1933.
Following his retirement, Hunewell purchased almost 1,200 acres and lived on it until his death in 1959.
He gifted the ranch to the university in his will, stipulating that proceeds from its sale benefit band students. Over the last decade, yearly revenue from leasing the property dipped below $25,000. The new endowment will generate about $250,000 annually.
“We are extremely grateful to Dennis Hunewell for leaving a legacy that will make a profound difference in the lives of young musicians for decades to come,” said Tarleton President James Hurley. “Creation of the Hunewell Endowment enables us to continue his unwavering support for one of the most distinguished band programs in the nation.”
Over the years, Tarleton band members have continued Hunewell’s traveling precedent. They played at the 2014 McDonald’s Thanksgiving Parade in Chicago and as an exhibition band in the Texas State Band Championships in 2015.
The Jazz Ensemble has performed in Italy, and the Wind Ensemble at Carnegie Hall and at the Texas Music Educators Association convention.
In December 2019, The Sound and The Fury marching band played at the Pearl Harbor Memorial Parade in Hawaii.
Part of the College of Liberal and Fine Arts, Tarleton’s band program features 150-plus members performing on stages and in athletic arenas across the country.
“We are so appreciative of Hunewell’s gift and for the vision of President Hurley, Dr. Eric Morrow (COLFA Dean) and our Department Head, Vicky Johnson,” said Dr. Gary Westbrook, Director of Athletic Bands. “This vision provides the support for the band program’s current and future growth. We could not be more excited.”
Tarleton kept the portion of Hunewell Ranch that is home to its observatory. The third largest in the state, the observatory houses one of the few fully robotic telescopes in the world.