Band photographer ensures support for years to come
By Marisa Larson
At every football game, photographers line the field trying to get the perfect shot of K-State athletes in action. One man, Leon “Red” Skelton, made it his mission to document the efforts of another team on the field — the Pride of Wildcat Land, K-State’s marching band. For 15 years, Skelton shot nearly 500 pictures a game of the band and cheerleaders, giving the photos to band director Frank Tracz to distribute to the students. Now Skelton is helping the students in another way — scholarships.
He recently established the Red and Elaine Skelton Marching Band Student Staff Scholarship to give financial aid to students who serve as managers or staff for the K-State Marching Band. The scholarship is funded through a bequest in his will.
“There is one important aspect that differentiates this scholarship from others created to benefit the marching band — this one benefits the “muscle” team, the group that packs, moves and arranges equipment,” explained Gordon Dowell, gift planning officer for the KSU Foundation. “They work hard to help the band look and sound great, but don’t get the recognition or crowd admiration that the on-field musicians receive. Having known Red for years, the scholarship’s eligibility criteria reflect his work ethic and dedication to ‘the product.’”
This scholarship is in addition to another scholarship program Skelton helped establish some five years ago with band director Tracz. The Marching Pride Scholars program awards scholarships to third and fourth year members of the band.
“We get a better band because we get students who are steady, who aren’t going to quit,” said Skelton. “Those kids work awfully hard. Some work outside jobs to pay for college, and they were giving a lot to K-State. After getting to know the kids over the years, they deserved something for their loyalty and hard work and for themselves.”
Through this program, Tracz awards a $500 scholarship to all third and fourth year members of the band, and the number of recipients goes up every year. In 2014, nearly 150 scholarships were awarded, helping students stay in the band longer.