Honorary Degrees

Honorary Degrees

Cotton Rosser
  • Cotton Rosser
Cotton Rosser

King of Rodeo

California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo

The name Cotton Rosser is synonymous with rodeo, and the "King of Rodeo" is proud that Cal Poly is where his career was launched.

Mr. Rosser chose Cal Poly in order to study animal science and compete on the rodeo team. At the inaugural Intercollegiate Rodeo Finals in 1949, he placed second in the All Around and won the All Around and National Saddle Bronc Riding championships the following year. Mr. Rosser served as team captain, inspiring the team to new heights, literally and figuratively. As a licensed pilot, he flew the team to rodeo competitions across the country. As a determined and colorful competitor, Mr. Rosser quickly led Cal Poly's rodeo team to the forefront of intercollegiate rodeo competition, launching a winning tradition that would garner 41 national championships.

After completing his studies in 1952, Mr. Rosser seemed destined for a promising professional rodeo career, until he broke both of his legs in a ranch accident, ending his competitive days but not dimming his passion for rodeo. In 1955, he purchased the Flying U Rodeo Company and began producing rodeos and making his mark on the industry.

Today the Flying U Rodeo Company is headquartered in Marysville, California. With the help of his wife, Karin, Mr. Rosser serves as President and CEO. He is dedicated to continually enhancing the company by improving his livestock breeding programs and keeping the entertainment aspect of rodeo colorful and fresh. His opening ceremonies are known for patriotic flag presentations, pyrotechnics and innovative mechanical props. He was instrumental in bringing high school rodeo to California, and he has been a longtime Cal Poly Rodeo Booster and Cal Poly Alumni Association supporter.

Mr. Rosser is celebrated for his contributions to the rodeo and agriculture industries, receiving numerous awards from prestigious organizations. He has been inducted into several rodeo halls of fame and western museums. All five of Mr. Rosser's children have taken part in the family business, and four children have followed in his footsteps as Cal Poly graduates. In addition, two of his six grandchildren are Cal Poly alumni and his youngest daughter is a current graduate student.

In recognition of Cotton Rosser's enthusiasm for Cal Poly and the Cal Poly Rodeo, and for his contributions to preserving and enhancing the tradition of rodeo in the western United States, the Board of Trustees of the California State University and California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo are proud to confer upon Cotton Rosser the honorary degree of Doctor of Science.