Dr. Gary Smith
Dr. Smith is a visiting professor in the Department of Animal Science at Texas A&M as well as a visiting professor in animal science and advisor to the president at Colorado State University. Known to many as the “dean” of meat scientists, Dr. Smith’s expansive career included the faculty of Washington State University; Professor, Section Leader, and Department Head at Texas A&M; and Professor, University Distinguished Professor and Holder of the Ken and Myra Monfort Endowed Chair in Meat Science at Colorado State University. He is especially proud of the JBS Global Food Innovation Center at Colorado State University that is named in honor of Gary and Kay Smith. Dr. Smith’s entire career has been dedicated to advancing meat science and educating thousands of students in meat science and meat judging. During his many years at Texas A&M as a professor from 1969-1982 and department head from 1982-1990, Dr. Smith contributed to countless SMA workshops and programs, including speaking at multiple conventions. He also served as a valuable technical resource to many SMA members, helping them address issues related to meat quality and safety. More recently, Dr. Smith was instrumental in developing a Master of Agriculture in animal science with an emphasis on meat science at Texas A&M. He remains a valued mentor to faculty and graduate students while serving as an active member of the graduate faculty at Texas A&M.
Mr. Alex “Alec” Bell, was a longtime and active leader in SMA, serving on the Board of Directors and as Associate Member Chairman in 2003-04. He rarely, if ever, missed an SMA Annual Convention and was the self-appointed “mayor” of the Suppliers’ Showcase. Alec was born in Wellington, TX and grew up in the Amarillo area. He received his bachelor’s degree in Ag Business and Economics from West Texas A&M University. His professional career included stops at Amarillo Livestock and USDA for 18 years before spending 17 years at Birko and his final 10 years at StartKleen. Outside of work, Alec was an avid horseman, roper, farrier, and leader in several community organizations, including his home church, the Bell Avenue Church of Christ. He left us too soon in November 2019, survived by his wife, Jeri, daughters Alexis and Amy, as well as five grandchildren.
Dr. Ranzell “Nick” Nickelson
Dr. Nick is a proud Texas Aggie, with a doctorate in Food Microbiology. He joined the Texas A&M faculty as an extension seafood specialist. Nick entered the private sector in forming a commercial food testing company, Applied Microbiological Services, Inc. Nick served as the Coordinator of the Blue Ribbon Task Force on E. coli O157:H7. In 2004, Dr. Nickelson became employed at Standard Meat Co. as the Chief Executive for Science in Health. Dr. Nick is proud of some of his later ventures, including Red Mesa Microbiology and Grey Dog Partners. Nick has partnered with several industry veterans to form a retail meat establishment called The Meat Board in Fort Worth, TX. In addition to an amazing career, Nick has served in numerous leadership roles, including board member, president and chairman for SMA, chairman of the International HACCP Alliance, member of the National Advisory Committee on Microbiological Criteria for Foods, board member of National Meat Association and Texas Food Processors Association. Dr. Nickelson has been awarded the NSF International Lifetime Achievement Award for Research in Food Safety and has been inducted into Texas Food Processors Hall of Fame. Dr. Nickleson is a retired Colonel for the United States Army Reserves of 21 years.
David Ruff was the third-generation owner of Morrilton Packing Co. in Morrilton, Arkansas and longtime leader of SMA. David was born and raised in Morrilton, where he worked in the family’s meat business from an early age. He was a proud Arkansas Razorback, earning a degree in Industrial Engineering. After nearly two decades with Campbell Soup in a variety of roles, David came home to the family business, assuming leadership of the company upon his father’s retirement. David presided over tremendous growth and diversification of the company until his passing in 2018. His legacy lives on through the continued success of the firm with the next generation at the helm. David was a valued leader and mentor within SMA, serving several terms on the board of directors and two terms as Chairman of the Board.
Burley Smith is the Senior Vice President of Lone Star Beef Processors in San Angelo, TX. He has been with Lone Star since he and fellow investors purchased the firm in 1997. Burley is a 1971 graduate of Texas A&M, where he competed as a member of the meats judging team, coached by Dr. Gary Smith. Burley worked in sales for Wilson Meat Company and as a meat marketer for Evans Meat Company and the founder of Sun Flower Brokerage. Burley has represented SMA as packer member of the Texas Beef Council board of directors and served on the SMA board. He was Chairman of the Board in 2004-2005. An avid supporter of education, Burley has funded scholarships for meat science students at Texas A&M for many years through his family’s charity, SMIKIDs Ltd. Burley enjoys spending time with family on his Ranch in Melvin, TX.
Dr. H. Russell Cross
Dr. H. Russell Cross has been an influential pillar in the meat industry for half a century, since beginning his career in meat grading in the 1960s. His leadership, expertise and experience have helped numerous individuals in academia, government, and industry. Dr. Cross’ impact in academia, especially at Texas A&M University, can be attested to by the thousands of students and led as the Executive Vice President for Operations and Chief of Staff to President Elsa Murano, Deputy Vice Chancellor and Associate Dean for Agriculture and Life Sciences at Texas A&M University and, the Head of Texas A&M’s Department of Animal Science. He was the first holder of the E.M. “Manny” Rosenthal Chair in Meat Science. Widely recognized for his research, he continues to lead groundbreaking research at Texas A&M. He has served as the Administrator of USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service under Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton. Upon leaving FSIS, he created and became the founding Executive Director of the International HACCP Alliance. Dr. Cross and his wife, Elaine, reside in College Station, Texas.
Don Rea’s passion for the meat industry is second to none. He has spent his entire life supporting the meat industry and the Southwest Meat Association. Don is a proud graduate of Texas A&M University and remains an avid supporter the Meat Science Section including the funding a new graduate program focused on preparing students to enter the meat industry. He began his meat industry career at a custom slaughter facility in Uvalde, Texas, and has worked in nearly every facet of the meat industry since. Don served several years on the Board of Directors and was President of SMA in 1992-93. Whether he is attending the Annual Convention, donating time and money to the SMA Foundation, or volunteering his ranch for SMA’s Annual Dove Hunt, Don has always been a passionate supporter of SMA. Don and his wife, Nancy, reside in Ft. Worth, TX.
Morris Bolton was involved in SMA his entire career, beginning in 1963 with Pratt Packing Company and culminating with his retirement from Winn Meat Company in 2002. Morris was the first, and one of a very select few individuals to be elected to two terms as president of SMA; 1984-85 and 1987-88. There were times when he organized SMA members to financially support the association when it appeared it may not even survive, thus cementing his legacy in an SMA history that would never have seen its 60th anniversary. Morris, Bob Ondrusek, and Bob Winn were legendary in SMA for their exploits; but it was Morris’ love for SMA and his industry colleagues that made him such a highly respected leader. He was active in planning conventions and in fundraising for SMA scholarships. Morris and his wife Patsy lived in Sulphur Springs, TX until his passing in 2017.
Jim Henry is indisputably the longest-tenured member of SMA. When SMA was founded in 1957, Jim worked for Enterprise. He went on to form Jim Henry Enterprises, and as the saying goes, “the rest is history.” He was the “go-to” person for anything related to buying, selling, refurbishing, troubleshooting, or repairing meat processing equipment. Jim was a highly respected leader and mentor within SMA, twice serving as President of the Associate members in 1973-74 and 1982-83. The true affection and the high regard with which SMA members hold him are on display any time they gather for an SMA convention. Jim Henry attended 58 of SMA’s 60 annual conventions. At 91 years, he was a fixture around the association for longer than most of its members have been alive. He and his wife, Virginia, resided in Waelder, TX, until his passing in 2017.
Robert Langford was known by his industry colleagues as one of the most respected gentlemen in the meat business. A Texas A&M University-trained engineer, he spent 35 years in various roles with Owens Country Sausage. Robert was passionate about SMA from his first involvement in the 1960’s. He was a loyal friend to all who knew him and helped lead SMA in good times and through some not as rosy, devoting both time and personal resources to help SMA succeed. Robert served as president of then the Southwest Meat Packers Association from 1977 to 1979. In 1987, he joined Ruben Hinojosa and Jerry Stokes to serve as the founding trustees of the SMA Foundation. In the SMA Foundation, Robert’s legacy continues to grow every day. Upon his retirement, he and his wife Cathy continued to live in Dallas until his passing in 2004.
A graduate of Texas A&M, Gary Nace was a fixture at SMA for several decades. He was instrumental in formalizing the Associate Members group into a functioning entity. Gary’s employer, Birko Corporation, is one of the association’s longest tenured members, joining in 1976. His leadership ability was recognized by his peers when they elected him to serve as the Associate Member President on two separate occasions, 1991-92 and 2008-09. The Suppliers’ Showcase got its start because of Gary’s efforts along with a few of his fellow members. A legacy of Gary’s devotion to the organization is that 60% of the proceeds from each year’s Suppliers’ Showcase goes directly into scholarships for deserving students. He was an avid supporter of the SMA Foundation and a key advocate in getting the annual golf tournament started. Gary and his wife Darliss continued to live in Claude, TX until his passing in 2018.
A native of Ferris, TX, Bob Winn was a graduate of Southern Methodist University and a U.S. Army veteran. In the early 1970’s, he purchased Buntings Wholesale Meat Market, which later became Winn Meat Company. Bob’s entry into the meat business gained the industry and SMA a tremendous leader. He was a forward thinker who was among the first to comprehend what a monumental shift the meat industry was about to occur in the mid-1990’s. He loved planning SMA Conventions, bringing a flair for social events and a practical joke or two. He served on the convention planning committee every single year until his retirement in 1995 to his east Texas farm with his wife, Jan. Bob was elected and served as SMA’s president in 1993-94. In 2015, Bob left us all too soon, but he is remembered by scores of industry friends and colleagues who benefited from his influence.
Bob Ondrusek was and is a legend in SMA. Bob’s company, Columbia Packing Company in Dallas, TX has been in the Ondrusek family since 1913 and was a charter member when SMA was formed in 1957. His passion for the association was unsurpassed, and he made that fact abundantly clear to everyone with whom he came into contact. He was famous for “allegedly” requiring potential vendors to join SMA before he would even discuss business with them. Bob’s industry colleagues recognized the value of his love for the association by electing him to serve as its president twice, in 1981-82 and 1997-98. That love of young people and their education was recognized and memorialized by Bob’s industry friends with the creation of the Bob Ondrusek Scholarship fund within the SMA Foundation. The Ondrusek Fund provides tens of thousands of dollars each and every year to deserving students.