Animal Science presents 2015 alumni awards, hall of fame induction

COLLEGE STATION – The Department of Animal Science at Texas A&M University recognized two former students with alumni awards and inducted two individuals into the Animal Science Hall of Fame during a special ceremony held April 29 in College Station.

Dr. Mitch Bowling received the 2015 Outstanding Young Alumni Award; John Bellinger was recognized with the 2015 Outstanding Alumni Award; and Dr. Gene T. King and Dr. O.D. Butler Jr. were posthumously inducted into the Animal Science Hall of Fame.

“The Department of Animal Science is honored to recognize these four individuals who in a very unique way have each influenced or continue to influence the fields of animal and meat science and have brought distinction to the department,” said Dr. Russell Cross, professor and head.

Outstanding Young Alumni Award

Mitch Bowling

Dr. Mitch Bowling

The Outstanding Young Alumni Award recognizes a graduate of the department within the past 12 years who has, early in their career, attained prominence in the field of animal science and brought honor to the Department of Animal Science.

Bowling is director of market access and regulatory affairs for the U.S. Dairy Export Council. In this position, Bowling resolves geopolitical, economic, and technical barriers to trade for U.S. dairy products in key foreign markets, including China, the European Union, India, Russia, and the Middle East. His negotiations help maintain and grow the $6.75 billion U.S. dairy export industry.

Prior to this, Bowling worked as an international trade specialist at the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service and managed a $3 billion portfolio of agricultural exports and negotiated with foreign governments for the removal of trade barriers for U.S. dairy, beef, pork, and poultry products.

Bowling is an active member of the International Stockmen’s Educational Foundation and sits on the group’s board of directors.

Bowling earned a bachelor’s degree in animal science from Texas A&M in 2004 followed by a master’s degree in animal sciences with an emphasis in meat science and a doctorate degree in animal science with an emphasis in meat science and international trade from Colorado State University in 2006 and 2009, respectively.

“Mitch has remained fiercely loyal to and supportive of his alma mater, never refusing to serve in any capacity asked of him for the Corps of Cadets, the Department of Animal Science, the College, or the university,” said Dr. Gary Smith, visiting professor in the Department of Animal Science.

Outstanding Alumni Award

John Bellinger

John Bellinger

The Outstanding Alumni Award recognizes a graduate of the department who has built a distinguished career in animal science and brought honor to the department.

Bellinger, a meat scientist and gifted businessman, is the chairman and CEO for Food Safety Net Services, a company headquartered in San Antonio that conducts microbial and chemical testing and food-safety audits for the food and nutraceutical industries. Bellinger and his wife, Gina, a microbiologist, founded the company in 1994. Today it has over 300 employees at 10 locations throughout the U.S.

Early in his career, Bellinger worked for Houston-based Seventy-Four Ranch Beef, where he developed markets for Texas beef in the United Kingdom. In 1982, Bellinger and partners formed Texas Western Foods, which in 1985 developed the first vacuum-packed fajita product for supermarkets. When the company was sold to Granada Corporation, Bellinger became Vice President of International Sales.

In 1989, he founded Agri-West International and continues to serve as CEO. AWI is an international and domestic marketing firm offering brokerage and consulting service for the food industry.

Dr. Rod A. Bowling, livestock and meat marketing specialist with USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service and longtime friend, said, “John has leveraged his agriculture-based education to produce visible and positive impacts within the meat industry. He stands as a great example of the strength and success of the Department of Animal Science.”

Bellinger received his bachelor’s degree in agricultural education and his master’s in meat science at Texas A&M. As a student, he was on the Meat Judging and Livestock Evaluation teams and was a meat-judging coach.

Bellinger has served on the board of directors for the Texas Beef Council and chaired the Southwest Meat Association and the U.S. Meat Export Federation boards. He was founder and chairman of the Houston Livestock Show Intercollegiate Meat Judging Contest.

Bellinger is also a generous supporter of the Department of Animal Science. He is a guest lecturer on campus and provides internships and job opportunities for students. In 2007, the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences named him an Outstanding Alumnus.

Hall of Fame

Dr. Gene T. King

Dr. Gene T. King

The Animal Science Hall of Fame was created to celebrate outstanding individuals who through their exceptional work and achievements advanced the field of animal science and made a profound difference in to the productivity of animal agriculture.

Dr. Gene T. King, who passed away in August 2014, was a respected professor and associate head of the Department of Animal Science from the early 1950s to the mid-1980s. He was recognized at the 2007 Beef Cattle Short Course as one of “the four that made a difference” for animal agriculture in Texas, citing their years of service devoted to teaching, training, and mentoring Animal Science students who have contributed to the success of the Texas livestock industry.

He earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at the University of Kentucky. In 1953 he came to teach at Texas A&M, where he received his doctorate in 1958.

Dr. King taught four Animal Science classes and helped lay the foundation for the world-famous Texas A&M University Meat Science Section by recruiting some of the department’s greatest meat scientists. He was a freshman-student advisor and coach of the meat-judging team, and he advised the Saddle and Sirloin Club for over a decade. He also helped establish carcass contests for beef, lamb, and pork at the San Antonio, Fort Worth, and Houston livestock shows.

Dr. King was widely published, and his research interests included the traits affecting the quality and yield of beef, pork, and lamb —including carcass evaluation, meat and muscle physiology, meat tenderness, and differences in quality among Brahman-cross cattle.

Many of Dr. King’s former students have made their mark in meat science and animal agriculture, holding leadership positions in the Department of Animal Science, The Texas A&M University System, and at other universities. They can also be found far and wide in food-animal production, commodity organizations, and public service.

Smith, who served on the faculty with King, said, “Dr. King was the epitome of a southern gentleman. A wise teacher, coach, counselor, and advisor, he changed the lives of countless students. He was the prototype of a Texas Aggie and a superb ambassador for Texas A&M, traveling often to visit with former students, FFA advisors, 4-H leaders, and prospective students and their parents.”

Dr. O. D. Butler, Jr., is considered one of the foremost animal agriculture leaders of the 20th century.

After graduating from Texas A&M with a bachelor’s degree in 1939, he became steward of the Duncan Dining Hall, then the largest food service facility of its kind in the nation.

After serving active military duty, Butler returned to Texas A&M. He earned his master’s degree in 1947 and then began teaching and coaching the A&M meat-judging team. Soon after receiving his doctorate at Michigan State University in 1953, he came back to Texas A&M as a professor of animal husbandry.

ButlerButler was named department head in 1956. Under his 22 years of leadership, the department became one of the top-ranked in the nation. In 1978 he was appointed Associate Vice President for Agriculture and Renewable Resources, and in 1980 he became Associate Deputy Chancellor, a key statewide position that he held until his retirement in 1986.

Butler placed equal importance on these three cornerstones of the land-grant mission. He was a driving force in establishing the statewide Research and Extension Centers and obtaining funding for Extension Livestock Specialist positions. His research contributed to major advancements in beef cattle production, including crossbreeding for increased productivity, the eradication and control of brucellosis and screwworm, and beef yield grading. He helped develop a cattle-feeding industry in Texas and established the scientific basis for regulating antibiotics, hormones, and chemicals in animal agriculture. And he used his influence to gain passage of the Texas Beef Check-Off program, which many thought couldn’t be done.

He was instrumental in creating the Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Lab and several producer organizations, as well as the Texas State 4-H Horse Show. He helped establish the Kleberg Animal and Food Sciences Center, the Freeman Equestrian Center, the Pearce Pavilion, the Rosenthal Meat Center, and the Animal Science Teaching, Research, and Extension Center, which was named the O. D. Butler Jr. Animal Science Complex in 2005. Dr. Butler recognized the importance of reproductive science, biotechnology, and genetics in animal agriculture. The O. D. Butler Chair in Animal Science, now held by Dr. Fuller Bazer, Distinguished Professor, was established to carry on this research in his honor.

Butler passed away in 1998, but his contributions continue, said Dr. Larry Boleman, Texas A&M AgriLife Associate Vice Chancellor.

“When one’s deeds and accomplishments live far beyond the individual’s contemporary accolades and awards, that person has a lasting legacy and influences generations to come. And so it is for Dr. O. D. Butler,” Boleman said.

The Animal Science awards program was started in 2012 and has recognized many individuals in the animal science and animal agriculture community who have played a significant role in the progress this field has seen over the past 50 years. For a list of past winners, visit https://animalscience.tamu.edu/awards/.

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For more information regarding news from the Department of Animal Science, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Texas A&M University, please contact Courtney Coufal at cacoufal@tamu.edu or (979) 845-1542.

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