Friday, November 27, 2009
Joan Hecker, Miss Rodeo North Dakota, represented the state at the Miss Rodeo America pageant in Las Vegas on this day in 1962. Hecker, of Belfield, had won not only the Miss Rodeo pageant that year, but also the state barrel racing championship.
She and her horse, “Speedy,” were not newcomers to the North Dakota Rodeo Association, but seasoned veterans. They had already won the North Dakota State High School Rodeo Association barrel racing title, and had two previous state barrel racing championships in 1959 and 1961. In 1960, she was named the National American Collegiate Rodeo Association’s “Cowgirl of the Nation,” competing in clover-leaf barrel racing and goat tying. She was the national clover-leaf barrel racing champion, and took the bronze for goat tying.
Hecker began attending Dickinson State Teacher’s College, now Dickinson State University, in 1958, eventually earning her master’s degree in elementary education and administration. While in college, Hecker was active in the rodeo club, and named the college’s Outstanding Elementary Student Teacher of the Year. She taught for thirty years and married Armin Lennick before retiring in 2006, remaining active in rodeo and pageants throughout her career. She served as director and president of the Miss Rodeo North Dakota Pageant Association, as well as working as a judge and presenter with the Miss Indian American Pageant, the Miss North Dakota USA Pageant, and the Miss North Dakota Teen USA Pageant.
More recently, Hecker was inducted into the Dickinson State University’s Arena of Academic Excellence in 2007. The award honors those who “…were members of the rodeo team and achieved academic distinction.” She continues to be active as a volunteer and member of the North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame organization.
Dakota Datebook written by Jayme L. Job