September 15, 2015

Left to right: Don Rea, Dr. Russell Cross and Dr. Gary Smith

A contribution from a Texas Aggie and businessman to the Department of Animal Science at Texas A&M University will ensure a successful start and promising future for a new program designed to prepare students for a career in the meat industry.

The Don Rea ’69 Excellence Fund and the Don Rea ’69 Endowment Fund will be used to support graduate students seeking a master of agriculture in animal science with an emphasis in the meat industry.

The Excellence Fund will provide immediate support for graduate students enrolled in the meat industry program as well as cover travel costs and other program-activity expenditures, and will allow the Department of Animal Science to enroll students in the program as early as this fall. The Endowment Fund is committed to providing financial support of the program for years to come. Both funds were established through the Texas A&M Foundation, which secures major gift funding for Texas A&M University.

“Mr. Rea’s generous financial commitment provides the support the department needs to broaden and enhance the educational opportunities available for students wishing to enter a career in U.S. meat production, processing and the sales industry,” said Russell Cross, Ph.D., head of animal science.

The master of agriculture in animal science with an emphasis in the meat industry is designed to provide students who have a bachelor’s degree supplemental coursework and practical experience through internships to prepare for a variety of careers in, and for future leadership of, the U.S. meat industry.

“The program will focus on the process of accelerating the climb up the corporate management ladder by exposing students to the tutelage of veteran industry experts with records of previous industry success,” said Dr. Gary Smith, visiting professor and chair of the new degree emphasis program’s executive committee.

Students will be required to complete 36 hours of coursework in meat science, management, marketing, communication and leadership, and two short-term professional internships within the meat industry customized to meet specific student career interests. Students can complete a graduate certificate in meat science as a component of this degree plan.

Ray Riley, manager of the Rosenthal Meat Science and Technology Center, Dr. Gary Smith, visiting professor, and Dr. Davey Griffin, professor and extension meat specialist, with "Bossie," a cow skeleton model built by Don Rea in 1969 when he was an undergraduate student in the department. Bossie is still used today for educational demonstrations.

Don Rea, a native of Fort Worth, Texas, has more than 40 years of leadership experience in the food industry. He held a variety of positions from entry-level to upper management in all facets of the meat industry from slaughter to further processing, and later in his career he became owner and partner of several companies.

“What interests me most about the master of agriculture in animal science with an emphasis in the meat industry is it gives students a chance, once completing a bachelor’s degree, to jump right into a master’s program to gain more coursework, work two internships, learn from industry leaders and become prepared to go right into a management position,” Rea said. “This is something that wasn’t offered when I was there in 1969. It took me 20-25 years to do what this program will allow the right student to do in three to four years.”

After graduating from Texas A&M with a bachelor’s degree in animal science in 1970, Rea began his career at Uvalde Provision Company, a small independent meat packer and was exposed to all facets of the business from slaughter to sales. Rea then spent nine years with Safeway Store, Inc. and learned the retail side of the meat business. He held a broad range of management positions including purchasing and industrial engineering, and finally as general manager responsible for running the largest meat prefabricated warehouse in the Safeway system.

Next, Rea worked for eight years at Texas Meat Purveyors, a new processing facility supplying hotels, restaurants, and institutions with portioned meat, pork and poultry. As vice president and general manager, he was instrumental in growing total sales of this start up meat processing company to $40 million. In 1988, Rea became vice president of sales and marketing for Quality Sausage, a manufacturer of cooked meats toppings and pepperoni, and had a significant impact on profitability and growth as revenue increased from $10 million to $50 million in four years.

Rea’s unique approach to building business was reflected in his work as president of KPR Foods, L.P. , president and CEO of Foodbrands Foodservice Company and later as group vice president of Tyson Prepared Foods, where he spent 12 years building relationships and delivering impressive bottom-line results with total sales of $1.6 billion. In 2005, Rea joined an existing partnership with CTI Foods, a cooked meats manufacturing company, and he served on the board of directors until his retirement in 2011.

“The career path of Don Rea exemplifies the importance of preparedness, dedication and hard work as he advanced from bachelor’s graduate, to new-hire in a small independent meat processing plant, to ownership of several food companies, and–ultimately–to president of one of our nation’s largest food-manufacturing companies,” Smith said.

“He has now provided Texas A&M with financial support, but more importantly, he has agreed to actively participate in the master of ag program by advising and counseling its students on matters of management, marketing and communication in the food-supply chain.”

This article was originally published by the College of Agriculture & Life Sciences.

Texas A&M Foundation 
The Texas A&M Foundation is a nonprofit organization that solicits and manages investments in academics and leadership programs to enhance Texas A&M’s capability to be among the best universities. 

You can support the College of Agriculture & Life Sciences with a gift of an endowment to the Texas A&M Foundation. For additional information about how to benefit the college, contact Mark Klemm ’81 with the Foundation at (800) 392-3310, (979) 845-9582 or