Joel Cowley awarded the 2019 Outstanding Alumni

By Kaitlyn Harkin

Joel Cowley was presented with the 2019 Outstanding Alumni Award during the Department of Animal Science External Awards Program held Tuesday, April 30, 2019. The award was presented to Cowley by Dr. Chris Skaggs, San Antonio Livestock Exposition Chair in Animal Science and Associate Dean for Student Development of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. The Animal Science Outstanding Alumni Award recognizes a former student of the Department of Animal Science at Texas A&M University who has built a distinguished career in animal science.

As an 11-year 4-H member in Wyoming and Colorado, Cowley became active in livestock projects. He was a member of a national champion 4-H wool judging team as well as a national champion 4-H livestock judging team. After judging livestock collegiately and completing an Associate of Arts degree in agricultural education from Northeastern Junior College and a Bachelor of Science in animal science from Colorado State University, Cowley began his career as a lecturer and livestock judging team coach at Texas A&M University, where he earned his Master of Science in the Department of Animal Science in 1995.

Upon leaving Texas A&M, he accepted a faculty position at Michigan State University as an extension livestock area of expertise agent for an eleven-county area in Northwest Michigan, conducting beef, sheep and swine educational programming for youth and adults. He later moved to campus to serve as an extension beef cattle specialist, where he conducted financial and performance analyses for Michigan cow-calf and feedlot operators and supported beef cattle research through the use of ultrasound.

While at Michigan State, he earned his MBA degree. Joel then worked for Certified Angus Beef LLC, the not-for-profit division of the American Angus Association. He began as an executive account manager in the international division, working with packers, distributors, retailer, and restaurants to grow demand for the Certified Beef Brand in Canada and Bermuda, and finished as assistant director of the foodservice division.

In 2005, Cowley joined the staff of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo as the Executive Director of Agricultural Exhibits and Competitions, where he worked with approximately one-third of the Show’s volunteer committees in overseeing all aspects of the world’s largest livestock show. He was promoted to President and CEO in 2013 and is currently responsible for the efforts of over 35,000 volunteers and 124 full-time staff in conducting a 23-day event that draws an annual attendance of over 2.5 million, 1.33 million of which view the rodeo and world-class concerts in NRG Stadium. The Show fulfills its agricultural Mission through competitions, educational exhibits and a financial commitment to youth and education that annually exceeds $27 million.

Cowley served as associate superintendent of the National Collegiate Livestock Judging Contest for 22 years and has served on numerous boards and committees; including the Texas 4-H Foundation Board of Trustees, the Texas FFA Foundation Board of Directors, the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau Board of Directors, the Texas Bowl Board of Directors, the University of Houston Bauer College of Business Board of Directors, the Super Bowl LI Community Council, and the Texas A&M University Animal Science Advisory Council. Among his awards are an Honorary Lone Star Degree from Texas FFA, an Honorary Membership from the Texas A&M University Saddle & Sirloin Club, the Beef Booster of the Year from the Texas Brahman Association, the Friend of the Year from the Texas Hereford Association, and the 2017 Business Communicator of the year from the Houston Chapter of the International Association of Business Communicators.

Cowley resides in Richmond, TX with his wife of 26 years, Tammy, who earned a Master of Science in Kinesiology from Texas A& M University in 1994. They have two daughters, McKenna and Aubrey.


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


Comments are closed.