Bull rider Layne Ward won the NIRA’s Southwest Region in 2015 competing in just five rodeos – half of a college rodeo season. This year, […]
Written by: Michele Toberer< Back to Articles
Jim Mathis of Wheatland, Wyoming traveled many miles chasing the USTRC jackpot circuit for nearly 17 years. Jim had worked the rope in ranch work for many years, but after watching his younger brother, Scott competing as a team roper, he took some instruction from him and started entering himself. He was at a point in his career with WyoTech that he had the income to support his newfound hobby and spent much of his free time between 1985 and 2002 entering jackpots up and down the roads. In 2002, Jim fulfilled a lifelong dream of becoming a rancher, so his travels slowed down due to focusing his time on his new venture. He still has a rope horse and enjoys occasionally roping with his brother. “Scott has had a big impact on my life, he’s a pastor in North Platte, we’re both Christians and so we compare notes all the time.” Jim and his wife Mary, now own two Wyoming ranches where they operate a cow/calf operation. They live on the lower elevation Wheatland ranch where they keep cattle through the winter after trailing them down on a 3-day cattle drive each fall from their historic Kite Ranch near Rock River, Wyoming. In April they truck the cattle back up to the over-7000’ elevation ranch to calve and enjoy the milder summer and fall. Jim and Mary enjoy spending time with their children; daughter Jodi Hill, and sons JD and Justin Mathis, as well as their 9 grandchildren.
Jim’s love for agriculture, and being a cowboy started early, and he stepped into the lifestyle as quickly as possible when his father, Pastor Don Mathis relocated his family to take on a new church in La Grange, Wyoming. Jim still appreciates the support and encouragement of his father, who at 91 is still preaching at convalescent homes. When Jim was just 14, he moved in with Gene and Dot Smith, living and working on their farm and ranch for 3 years, and all the while he was learning many farming and ranching skills. “Even today, I think of things Gene taught me, from setting flood irrigation dams to packing wheel bearings, he made such a huge impact on my life.” At 17, Jim was driving combines and semi-trucks, harvesting wheat fields, following the crops from Texas to the north as they were ready for harvest. His life story has been filled with WyoTech from the age of 18, when he first attended the school. Thinking he wanted to own his own fleet of semi-trucks to haul grain and cattle one day, he graduated from a 6-month program at WyoTech so that he could manage and mechanic on his own trucks in his future; however, an inspiring WyoTech instructor, Marlowe Jones, opened a new vision for his life. “Marlowe was so inspirational and funny, and I wanted to be just like him, so at 19, I begged my way into a teaching position at WyoTech.” This move led to not only working with Marlowe for over 25 years, but also to many opportunities for Jim during the 26 years he spent there. WyoTech was founded in 1966, with the goal of providing a concentrated training program to prepare their students to fill the need for technicians in the automotive and diesel industry; however, after several ownership changes over the years, the once thriving school was recently on the verge of being closed. Jim Mathis was the man that many looked to as the answer while employees of the school fought to find a solution to keep the doors open. Jim had the experience and knowledge to take control of the school from the many positions he had held in nearly every capacity and management level that there was before leaving the school in 2002. His newest position, as owner of WyoTech, began on July 2, 2018. This was all made possible because of the support of the community and Wyoming Legislature making a $5-million loan available to Jim and his small investor group, to help complete the purchase.
Jim Mathis has a passion for WyoTech and the education it has provided to over 50,000 graduates in the industry over the years. Because of his background in rural farming communities, he wants to share the news about WyoTech with other farming and ranching families. “As I take over at WyoTech, we will start focusing our marketing to reach rural communities rather than large metropolitan areas. WyoTech has changed the lives of many of our former students and we can offer a career path to many young ranch kids in rural America.” WyoTech offers fully accredited programs, that prepare the students for successful careers. “Part of our claim to fame is that we offer a short program, so for those serious about wanting to get into a career quickly, can be in and out in 9 months because they will be immersed in their education, attending classes for 8-hours-and-20-minutes each day. That’s more training, and clock and credit hours than most junior colleges offer.” WyoTech offers diplomas in diesel, automotive, or collision repair technology and associate degrees in business management. WyoTech is approved to offer federal financial aid to those that qualify. The school also has housing for approximately 650 students on campus. Employers appreciate that the students leaving WyoTech are prepared for the real work world, and the graduates are often sought after by companies such as Caterpillar, GM, Ford, and Cummins dealerships. Half of WyoTech’s instructors are alumni and have believed in the program so much that they returned to teach after enjoying successful careers in the industry. For many involved in rodeo, trucks and hauling rigs are a part of everyday life, and even if not looking for a career change, there are many skills to be obtained and much knowledge to be gained from courses at WyoTech. “Part of the reason I love WyoTech is that we truly have a great opportunity to give the students confidence and professionalism, teaching them timeliness, and about having positive attitudes that can help relay into a great professional career. We have really changed lives over the years.” Life often comes full circle, and for Jim Mathis, stepping in to ensure the future success of WyoTech, it certainly has.