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WIU judging team members dedicate artwork to the memory of their coach and mentor, Bruce Engnell.

February 8, 2016

4 Min Read

A new image, or series of images, now hangs at the Western Illinois University Livestock Center. Among photos of those at WIU who have received the Hoof'n Horn Club's Distinguished Service Award is a "Leatherneck Legend" collage in tribute to Bruce A. Engnell, a man who served the WIU School of Agriculture's students and Intercollegiate Livestock Judging Team members for almost 45 years.


Engnell, who came to Western in 1967, passed away late last fall. The artwork "In the Ring" was commissioned from artist C.J. Brown by members of the 1998-99 WIU Livestock Judging Team. It was officially presented and hung in the Livestock Center in late January, with a few members of the '98-99 team, members of the current WIU Livestock Judging Team, School of Ag faculty and staff, members of the WIU community and Engnell's wife, Victoria, all present.

The collage was placed on a wall adjacent to Engnell's Hoof'n Horn Distinguished Service Award portrait, and features some of the aspects Engnell most loved about his long career at Western. The artwork features the phrase "Leatherneck Legend" to represent Engnell's favorite saying, "It's a great day to be a Leatherneck.” It also includes images of all the livestock species he worked with and helped students work with over the years. The artwork displays the logo of Engnell's favorite livestock judging show, the National Western.

The plaque on the frame reads, "In Loving Memory of our Coach and Friend Bruce Engnell, 1998-99 WIU Livestock Judging Team."

Members of the team present at the event included Andy Mench, Brett Beyers, Scott Davis, Jared Frueh, Keith Ryan and Joe Driscoll. Those not present include Stephen Robb, Mark Householter and Dawn (DeSmith) Driscoll.

Frueh spoke of Engnell's impact on his own time at Western, but more importantly, Engnell's steadfast and important influence on Western students and Livestock Judging Team members for the duration of his long career at WIU.

"When bad things happen, it is tragic, but it does bring people together. It has certainly brought us back together, after almost 20 years, as a team," Frueh said. "Looking back over the years, one of the reasons I think all of us came to Western was because of Bruce Engnell.

“When people ask me, 'Why did you go to Western?' I say, 'it was because Bruce called me and asked me to come.' Something as simple as that can make such impact on your life. Every livestock kid that walked through WIU needs to know the legacy of Bruce Engnell. This is why we commissioned this piece. He was the kindest person, who had humility and character that were just second to none. He taught us a lot about life and helped shape us into who we are today."

During the tribute, Victoria Engnell not only thanked the members of the 1998-99 WIU Livestock Judging Team for the artwork, but she also provided a brief history of her late husband's contributions to Western, listed all of the other Livestock Judging Team's coaches since the inception of the team in 1964 and identified the teams (by year) for which Engnell served as the primary coach - 34 teams in all.

"This building was like a second home to Bruce. It's nice to see all of the WIU Hoof'n Horn service award members recognized," Victoria noted during her brief remarks to those present.

When asked about what the artwork memorial gesture means to her and her family, Victoria talked of her late husband's quiet integrity and of the many, many WIU students' lives he touched as coach.

"The respect, the tributes and the testimonials given on behalf of Bruce truly tell the history of Bruce Engnell at WIU. Like our youngest son, Ty, said, 'You had to be out of school for about five years before you really realized what Dad gave us,'" she noted.

"What it means to me is that all of Bruce's time and effort, which he unselfishly gave in abundance, was appreciated. It's a comfort that people remember him so well, and I am very pleased with what the members of this 1998-99 team put together for this artwork, which serves as a permanent tribute to Bruce."

Victoria also noted that both of their sons, Tim and Ty, were on the WIU Livestock Judging Team during their time as students at Western.

"Tim was on the 1986 team and Ty was on the 1991 team. That was an honor," she said.

Andy Baker, School of Ag Director, added, "It was truly an honor and privilege to be a part of this tribute to Mr. Bruce Engnell. This event certainly showcases the impact that Bruce had on his students and judging teams for six decades.

"I appreciate the efforts of our alumni to come forward and honor this great man. Our alumni are the core of this academic unit and represent this fine institution every day through their professionalism, support, drive and achievements. It is truly a great day to be a Leatherneck!"

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