Board of Directors

The Dude Ranch Foundation

Board of Directors

The Dude Ranch Foundation

Our Leadership

If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, you are a leader. ~ Chris Ledoux, country music singer-songwriter and hall of fame rodeo champion, (1948 – 2005)

Amanda Ferguson Esch – Chairman

Amanda comes from a long tradition of dude ranching, having been raised on the historic Eatons’ Ranch in Wolf, Wyoming. She is a passionate supporter of the dude ranching industry and was a proud recipient of the Dude Rancher’s Educational Trust Scholarship.

After living and working on the Ranch for many years, she currently lives in Cheyenne, Wyoming with her husband Luke and their children Holden and Josephine. She and her family try to make it back to the Ranch as often as possible. Amanda is a partner in the law firm of Davis & Cannon, LLP. She practices in the areas of general civil litigation, employment law, and natural resources, and deals with many other areas relevant to the dude ranching and recreational industry.

“I grew up on a dude ranch, and like a lot of kids, took that experience for granted. Now that I live in the city, I realize what an amazing experience I was able to have, playing in those wide-open spaces, making new friends every week, and riding and swimming to my heart’s content. I am passionate about sharing this experience and its heritage with as many people as possible, including my own children.”

Don McIntyre – Vice Chairman

Don loved growing up in Louisiana where there was an emphasis on faith, family and friends and where food and fun were a huge part of the culture. The only thing missing was horses, so after he graduated college, he headed west to join the staff of Elk Canyon Dude Ranch in Montana. It was there that he found his calling and took a bit of the Cajun culture West!

In 1998, Don got his dream job and began working at Wind River Christian Dude Ranch. It was in 2002, that a guest at WRR introduced him to his future bride, Sara McIntyre. With a great 15 years of marriage now under our belt and the blessing of two buckaroos, Lena, and Cason, we feel incredibly blessed that we get to serve in dude ranching as a family.

“I am honored to get the opportunity to serve on the Dude Ranch Foundation Board and I will strive to help the Foundation grow and carry on its traditions.”

Bob Foster – Secretary/Treasurer

Bob is passionate about people, the West and the hospitality industry. Raised in Colorado, he spent his summers working on his family’s dude ranch. After graduating from Wheaton College in Wheaton, IL, he served five years as a Captain in the US Army and then completed a master’s program at Cornell University in Hotel Administration.

For over 40 years, Bob put his education and leadership experience into practice as he and his wife, Karen, owned and operated Lost Valley Ranch, Sedalia, CO, managed Lone Mountain Ranch, Big Sky, MT, and consulted on Rawah Ranch, Glendevey, CO.

As a way of “giving back” Bob has served on boards as a member and officer: Colorado, Montana, and National Dude Ranch Associations; the Colorado and National Hotel and Lodging Associations; and the South Platte River protection and reclamation board.

In 1988, Bob was President of the Dude Rancher’s Association when they formed the Dude Rancher’s Educational Trust (the precursor of the Dude Ranch Foundation).

“Serving on the Dude Ranch Foundation’s Board is a natural fit since my life has been marked by a: love for learning, both formal and experiential education; a love of sharing our ranching lifestyle and it’s values; and a love for the land, it’s beauty and it’s bounty.”

Colleen Hodson – Executive Director and Authorized Agent

Having been born and raised in Alaska, I have always loved the outdoors and all it has to offer. I moved to Cody, Wyoming as a young adult and fell head over heels in love with the western way of life. I was the Executive Director of the Dude Ranchers Association for 18 plus years. That allowed me the privilege of visiting over 140 ranches and experiencing some of the most majestic places and people in the Western United States and Canada.

Lucia Hatfield - Board Member

In 1983 I graduated from USC Law Center and began practicing law as a civil litigator. Became partner in the Law Firm of Nordstrom, Steele , Blythe and Jefferson ( subsequently, Nordstrom, Steele, Nicollete and Blythe). Throughout my career as a litigator, I handled complex cases throughout the United States.

Throughout the decades, I have been active in and sat on the Boards of organizations such as The Junior League of Los Angeles, The Rotary Club, The Consumer Attorneys of Los Angeles, Grupo Los Madrugadores, Los Cabos Humane Society and Los Cabos Women’s Wellness Foundation among many others.

My father’s family owned a ranch in Colombia and raised Paso Finos. In 2006 the Rawah Ranch was purchased by the Hatfield Family. My husband Ron and I feel that we are lucky to be stewards of this beautiful ranch. We strive for authenticity in the experiences that our guests enjoy. I understand the importance of the Dude Ranch way of life and the need to preserve it for future generations.

Education and access to education has always been one of the pillars in my life and I have focused many efforts in that direction. The work of the DRF ties in nicely with this pillar.

Jerry Helmicki - Board Member

After climbing the corporate ladder and having a successful career in the business world, at age forty-three Jerry was burned up. It was time for a change and time to look for a more satisfying and rewarding lifestyle. He was always interested and fascinated with the west, and after visiting several dude ranches both Cheri his wife decided that the multi-dimensional aspects of “dude ranching” offered the lifestyle and environment they both wanted and were looking for. In 1995, they purchased the Bar Lazy J Guest Ranch in Colorado. That year required giving up a successful career, selling all their worldly possessions, cashing in all their retirement investments and leaving the area he was born and raised in. While they had no background in ranching, they were able to apply their previous skills and experiences to build up their dude ranch operation.

“Twenty some years later I can honestly say I never looked back nor had an ounce of regret. I consider it an honor and privilege to serve on this board and to participate in supporting and promoting the mission of the Dude Ranch Foundation.”

Dave Leishman - Board Member

Dave’s first trip to a Dude Ranch in Montana was an attempt to escape the rigors and chaos of the office and stave off corporate burn out. He came to Montana with his two young daughters, Meghan (age 9) and Emily (age 7). Both girls had only about a month’s worth of horseback lessons under their belts and he had even less.

It turned out to be a vacation for the ages as one of those life-changing, priority-altering experiences many people wait a lifetime for. It was a whole package – the riding, the western way of life, the rodeos, the work, and the people – a true total experience. Dave and the girls drew closer on each subsequent trip to Montana, and it was an adventure that they shared year after year. He was hooked.

So much so that after the next five annual trips, the former world-class skier and outdoorsman decided that a yearly excursion to Montana just was not enough anymore. Dave wanted a ranch of his own, a place where he could help people live the same experience, he did on his first visit. Dave and his very forgiving and flexible wife Jan purchased a ranch in Whitefish Montana and along with their three daughters Meghan, Emily and Haley turned it into the Bar W Guest Ranch which they held for 17 years before selling to the current ownership.

Dave has Served on the Dude Ranch Association Board, the Montana Dude Ranch Association Board and was past President of the Montana Dude Ranch Association.

“I consider it a real honor to serve on this board with these distinguished Board members promoting the mission of the Dude Ranch Foundation and preserving the Dude Ranch western way of life for all to have access to enjoy.”

Dan Schneider – Board Member

Dan Schneider, the former President/CEO of The Schneider Group, Inc. which merged with Leavitt Group in 2013 and has been active in developing many industry programs. The single largest specialization is an insurance program for medical device product liability insurance. The Program called ProTek has over 1000 companies insured nationwide. In addition, he has been involved in structuring insurance coverages and risk management in the Guest Ranch industry since 1998.

In November of 2019 Dan joined NFP and added his specialties to NFPs National Program Division. After more than 45 years in the industry, he has extensive experience in insurance production and marketing management. While an alum of The University of Arizona he also as attended several insurance company’s schools, including Fireman’s Fund, Hartford and Federated, as well as continuing education classes in Agency Management, Sales Management, Commercial Property Casualty and Risk Management.

Dan also played Professional Baseball from 1962 to 1971. He started with the Milwaukee Brave, then the Atlanta Braves and the Houston Astros.

“For the past 23 years I have enjoyed working with the Dude Ranchers’ Association in a myriad of ways. The members represent the best our country has to offer not only in terms of hospitality and genuine outdoor experiences but also in conservation and preservation. I am privileged to have had the opportunity.”

Janice Schoonover – Board Member

Janice was born and raised on the ranch that guests know as Western Pleasure Guest Ranch. Her family roots have grown deep in the Gold Creek Valley, with six generations from her mother’s side and five generations from her father’s side calling the Gold Creek Valley their homes.

Janice married her high school sweetheart, Roley Schoonover, in 1982. After a few years away for college the couple returned to Northern Idaho and added guest ranching to the family ranch in 1991. Their two children Danielle and Isaac grew up on the guest ranch. Both have married and live and work at the ranch, along with two grandchildren Emily, Gabe and Zeke.

Carolyn Stimmel – Board Member

Dude Ranching found Carolyn over fifty plus years ago as a young guest, at the Elbow Ranch in Kelly WY. From there she has been involved in her families’ property, the Red Rock Ranch also located in Kelly. She has worked many aspects of the business, as an employee, manager and recently owner.

Having been exposed to Dude Ranching since her early childhood she feels it has helped form strong bonds, traditions and loyalties for her and her family in the industry.

From the time of her first visit to a dude ranch to present day, she continues to find life’s lessons are to be had. Working, growing, and connecting with her parents, siblings and now her own young family has been an awesome experience. Seeing her four son’s desires to walk in the same footsteps as she did has been extremely rewarding.

Harley and Carolyn are incredibly grateful that their family wants to continue developing and maintaining Red Rock as a premier guest ranch.
“Joining The Foundation and aligning with the mission of preserving the history of Dude Ranching brings immense joy to me. It is an honor to work alongside these dedicated members on the Foundation that have deep ties, traditions and loyalties to the Dude Ranching Industry.”

Russell True – Board Member

Russell True owner and operator of White Stallion Ranch which was homesteaded in 1936 as a cattle ranch in Tucson, Arizona. His parents, Allen and Cynthia True purchased the ranch in 1965. White Stallion is currently operated by the third generation of the True family. Russell and his wife Laura also own Tombstone Monument Ranch in Tombstone and Rancho de la Osa in Sasabe.

Russell is the author of Dude Ranching in Arizona, and Dude Ranching in Wyoming, he was inducted into the Arizona Tourism Hall of Fame along with receiving the prestigious award of person of the year by Family Travel Association in 2019.

Russell was co-founder and president of the Arizona Dude Ranch Association and two-time president of the Dude Ranchers’ Association.

“As you can see dude ranching has been a part of my life since day one. I am proud to be a board member of the Dude Ranch Foundation to help with the continuation of protecting and preserving the western way of life my family, my self and western enthusiasts everywhere hold so dear.”

Steven True - Board Member

I was born and raised on the White Stallion Ranch in Tucson, Arizona. I am part of the third generation of my family to live and work at the White Stallion. As a result, a love of dude ranching was instilled in me at an early age. I spent my childhood growing up on the ranch, causing mischief and making friends with all the visiting children.

After graduating from the Cornell School of Hotel Administration in 2011, I worked at a ranch in Montana to gain valuable outside experience. I returned to the White Stallion in 2013, met my wife, and I’m happy to be back working with my family. I cherish the opportunity to make people’s dream vacations come true and I’m excited to help the Dude Ranch Foundation in protecting and preserving the heritage of this great industry.

Doug Van Berkum – Board Member

My wife Linda and I have been dude ranching with our son David and his wife Jane for thirty years. We have all been involved with the DRA and the CDGRA in board activities during this time. Jane has been president of the CDGRA and David has been president of the DRA.
Prior to dude ranching I was involved as an educator and fund-raiser in higher education.

We have totally enjoyed building a ranch and the relationships we have formed through ranching and in the state and national organizations.

I am delighted to be back involved with the Dude Ranch Foundation as a director emeritus.