WT meat science program recieves $5 million in gifts


By Chip Chandler

Two major gifts to West Texas A&M University totaling $5 million will help ensure the continued excellence of the University’s meat science program.

Dr. Gordon W. Davis, a Lubbock businessman and former educator, has pledged $3.75 million to fund two chairs in the Paul Engler College of Agriculture and Natural Sciences. An additional $1.25 million has been pledged by Caviness Beef Packers for one of those chairs.

Dr. Loni Lucherk will be the first female professor in the Engler College of Agriculture and Natural Sciences to be named as a chair — the Gordon W. Davis Chair in Meat Judging. Dr. Ty Lawrence will be the Caviness Davis Distinguished Chair in Meat Science.

“The geographical location of WT is in the center of the raising of livestock and the production of high-quality, wholesome food,” said Dr. Kevin Pond, dean of the Engler College of Agriculture and Natural Sciences. “The meat science program at WT is blessed with outstanding faculty and students, strong industry support and world-class facilities. Recognizing two faculty members with endowed chairs helps ensure continued excellence and a steady supply of well-trained graduates to meet the needs of the meat industry.”

Funds for endowed chairs allow WT to reward scholarly excellence and encourage research while enhancing program growth and development, key goals of the University’s long-range plan, WT 125: From the Panhandle to the World. That plan is fueled by the historic, $125 million One West comprehensive fundraising campaign.

With the Davis and Caviness gifts, about $85 million has been raised thus far in the One West campaign.

“The Department of Agricultural Sciences is so blessed to have people like Gordon Davis, Terry Caviness and their families support our meat science program,” said Dr. Lance Kieth, associate dean of the Engler College of Agriculture and Natural Sciences and head of the Department of Agricultural Sciences. “The establishment of these chairs are an investment in our faculty and in turn an investment in our students and the industry. I have no doubt that Dr. Lawrence and Dr. Lucherk will produce a great return on these investments, but the beauty of a chair is it will produce a return for the generation to come.”

The economic impact of the US meat industry cannot be overstated, Pond said. The meat industry is the largest agricultural segment in the country, employing more than 6 million workers. It plays a vital role in feeding the nation, with the sale of meat and poultry generating more than $1.2 trillion annually.

The Panhandle is the heart of meat production in the nation, a key reason behind WT’s partnership with The Texas A&M College of Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences in the 2+2 program. The new Veterinary Education, Research, and Outreach facility at WT serves as a regional veterinary teaching center that creates a gateway to the CVMBS for students interested in pursuing veterinary medicine from the Texas Panhandle and West Texas, while also facilitating collaborative, multidisciplinary research among scientists from across the region.

The Caviness family donated $2 million in 2018 to name the state-of-the-art Caviness Meat Science and Innovation Center inside WT’s Agricultural Sciences Complex, a $48 million facility that also houses the three-story Happy State Bank Academic and Research Building, the Piehl-Schaeffer Pavilion and the Bain Event Center, a multi-purpose area with spectator seating for up to 500 people.

In addition to meat processing, the center also is home to research impacting livestock and meat industries. The Davis Chair in Meat Judging — funded by $1.875 million in gifts and pledges from Davis — will highlight innovative research and increase capacity for sustainability and profitability, Pond said.

Lucherk joined WT in January 2020. She earned a bachelor in animal science — meat business from Texas Tech University in 2012 and a master’s and a doctorate in 2014 and 2019, respectively, also from Texas Tech.

At WT, Lucherk teaches food science, meat animal/carcass evaluation and advanced animal/meat evaluation. She also coaches and mentors the meat judging, meat science quiz bowl, and meat animal evaluation teams and serves as the adviser to the Block & Bridle Club.

The endowment earnings will provide financial support for research, equipment, travel, supplies, graduate assistantships and other costs related to the meat judging program.

Meat judging programs are the most effective tool for the recruitment and development of future meat science technologists. Meat judging is much more than just the determination of the quality and lean meat yield of a carcass or wholesale cut; the program serves as a training tool to develop young leaders in the meat and livestock industries, Pond said.

“I am extremely honored to have the first-ever endowed chair in meat judging. It is even more special it is in Dr. Gordon Davis’ name, as I am one of many people who have benefitted from Dr. Davis’ meat judging lineage and passion,” Lucherk said. “My goal is to continue to give students the ability to develop a passion like Dr. Davis and I share through a renowned meat judging program at WT. This endowment will allow more students to learn about meat science while also learning the importance of teamwork, problem solving, reasoning, decision making and the other important life skills.”

Davis also pledged about $2 million for the chair in meat science, contingent on a matching gift from an ag industry leader. Caviness Beef Packers agreed to join Davis in his vision of securing WT’s position of excellence in the field. The naming order was determined by a coin flip at Davis’ request.

As the Caviness Davis Distinguished Chair, Lawrence will be granted discretionary funds to provide support for travel, supplemental salary, graduate assistants, computer software/hardware, database subscriptions, professional association memberships, student engagement activities and research, equipment and supplies.

Lawrence, a professor of meat science and director of the Beef Carcass Research Center, joined WT in 2004. A Dalhart native, he earned both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in animal science from WT and a doctorate from Kansas State University in 2002. A former research manager for Smithfield Foods, Lawrence teaches advanced level meat science and technology and integrated animal science courses for the M.S. and Ph.D. programs

“I am humbled and honored that Dr. Davis has chosen to invest in our meat science program and that the Caviness family continues to invest in our curriculum,” Lawrence said. “These gifts firmly cement the role of WT as a meat industry resource for future young talent, academic knowledge and research answers.”

Davis earned two bachelor’s degrees from Washington State University in the 1960s. He was an instructor at Texas A&M University while finishing master’s and doctoral requirements, followed by 13 years as a faculty member at the University of Tennessee and Texas Tech University. In 1984, Davis started CEV Multimedia Inc., now the nation's leading producer of Career & Technical Education (CTE) educational materials. He has supported programs at Texas Tech University, Washington State University, Texas A&M University, Colorado State University and Sam Houston State University.

Caviness Beef Packers has been family owned and operated for more than 55 years and is currently led by second- and third-generation family members. Since 1962, Caviness has remained one of the most relationship-oriented companies in the beef industry. The business has grown from harvesting a handful of cattle in the early days to processing 2,800 head today. Today, the company operates two processing locations and markets products worldwide.

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