A Prime Scholar

Pearson Harris ’27 is following his passion for animal science thanks to a scholarship from Rachel ’12 ’14 and Gatlan Gray ’11 ’12.

    By Dorian Martin ’06
  • Photography by Marshall Tidrick
  • May. 14, 2024
    4 min read

You might say Pearson Harris ’27 has taken the road less traveled to Texas A&M University’s Department of Animal Science. He grew up far removed from farms and ranches in a bustling South Carolina suburb bordering Charlotte, North Carolina, and in high school, he competed in lacrosse instead of the National FFA Organization. In fact, he never interacted with farm animals until his first semester in college, when he interned at the 2023 State Fair of Texas.

Yet Harris has always known two things: He’s passionate about agriculture, and he wanted to attend Texas A&M.

Part of that desire was due to his parents, Pamela ’91 and Shawn Harris ’92 ’95. “My parents’ influence opened my eyes to Texas A&M as an option,” Harris said. “My dad always took me to football games as a kid, including every year when the Aggies played in Columbia, South Carolina. I’ve always felt like I was meant to be here.”

Now firmly rooted in campus life, Harris remains committed to his decision. Already, he’s diving into everything he can, including joining the department’s Saddle and Sirloin organization and volunteering at a horse show in addition to his state fair internship. “The possibilities this degree offers, combined with being part of the community of animal science majors, just feels right,” he said. “My classes are challenging, but it’s genuinely fun to learn. And with the Aggie Network, I know if I work hard, I’ll be in a good position to get a job.”

Pearson Harris ’27 enjoys building his animal science experience in Aggieland.

But before he puts on that cap and gown, Harris has his sights set on becoming a member of Texas A&M’s champion Meat Judging Team. If he succeeds, he will follow in the footsteps of his father—who competed on and coached the Texas A&M team in the 1990s and was the 2024 Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo committee chairman of the meat judging contest—as well as those of Rachel ’12 ’14 and Gatlan Gray ’11 ’12.

Like the Harrises, the Grays remain bullish on Texas A&M and the team’s influence on their respective careers. “Team members get up early, stay up late studying and practicing, and are often away from school a week at a time,” said Rachel, who is currently a senior product development manager for meat, seafood and breakfast meats at Walmart. “We both understood the importance of working hard as we entered college, but these experiences drove home the career skills of hard work, time management and prioritization that you need to succeed.”

Meat judging team members also gain a network second to none. “The meat science community is so tightknit that the people we judged with and against are now our colleagues in the industry and lifelong friends,” Rachel noted.

To add to that network, the Grays established an endowed scholarship to help animal science majors have these same experiences and wisely tapped matching funds from their employers to increase their impact. “We received several scholarships in college, so we didn’t have student debt,” said Gatlan, who is the merchandising director for Walmart’s dog food business. “Before we even graduated with our bachelor’s degrees, we knew we wanted to create a scholarship to invest in students the way other donors had invested in us.”

Harris, who currently holds the Grays’ scholarship, is especially thankful for the support that helps offset his out-of-state tuition. “I was a little nervous when it was coming down to the wire to pay tuition,” he said. “When the scholarship came through, I gave a big sigh of relief because I could come to college and focus on my studies instead of my finances.”

Make a Difference: Passionate about helping students like Pearson beef up their animal science potential? Contact Jansen Merrill ’18 to learn more about creating a scholarship or supporting one of the department’s renowned judging teams.

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