The Texas A&M AgriLife Distinguished Texan in Agriculture Award honors agricultural leaders in Texas for outstanding leadership and significant contributions to Texas agriculture.
Through decades of public service, the Lamesa, Texas, businessman and civic leader Jerry D. Harris has had an enduring effect on Texas agriculture. Mr. Harris has over 50 years’ experience in agriculture and has business interests in cotton farming, ginning, warehousing, merchandising, and equipment leasing. He has served as president of local, state, and national cotton ginner associations, including the National Cotton Ginners Association. Among the other industry associations in which he has been an active leader are the National Cotton Council of America and Lamesa Cotton Growers, Inc. He spent 16 years as chair of the Texas State Committee of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency. A major agricultural leader in the state, Mr. Harris “is always supportive of funding for the land-grant university system and tirelessly champions its public worth,” said Dr. Mark Hussey, vice chancellor and dean for agriculture and life sciences. “As a major proponent of the Texas A&M AgriLife agencies and Texas A&M University, he has been a vocal advocate through state and national councils on agricultural research, extension, and teaching.” Mr. Harris’s many honors include the Distinguished Service to Agriculture Award from the USDA Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service, Man of the Year Award from the Texas County Agricultural Agents Association, the Distinguished Service Award from the Vocational Agriculture Teachers Association of Texas, and the Gerald W. Thomas Outstanding Agriculturist Award from Texas Tech University. He was honored as the 2001 Horace Hayden Cotton Ginner of the Year by the National Cotton Ginners Association. The Horace Hayden award is presented to the ginner providing outstanding leadership to the U.S. cotton industry, superior customer service and civic contributions. Mr. Harris is active in the local community of Lamesa and, more broadly, of Dawson County, where he was born. He works with the school board, United Way chapter, Rotary Club, and chamber of commerce. He has coached Little League and girls’ softball and has an extensive record as a Bible school teacher.
Legislator and agricultural leader Bob Turner’s advocacy for the Texas agricultural industry has improved the lives of countless Texans. “From the grassroots level to the house floor, Bob’s common-sense approach to a wide array of issues has won him support not only from rural Texans but from urban constituents as well,” said Dr. Mark Hussey, vice chancellor and dean for agriculture and life sciences. Mr. Turner served in the Texas House of Representatives from 1991 to 2003. He served as chair of the House Committee on Public Safety and as a member of the House committees on Land and Resource Management, Agriculture, and Livestock and Natural Resources. Among other contributions, he authored a bill (HB 680) establishing the Helping Hands Program, which provided liability relief to entities that donate fire and emergency equipment to the Texas A&M Forest Service. The program has received about $25 million in equipment donations to date. Continuing his work with the state’s fire departments, Mr. Turner currently chairs the TFS Rural Fire Advisory Council, guiding the agency’s assistance to fire departments. Mr. Turner, who was in the U.S. Army Reserve for 35 years and retired with the rank of lieutenant colonel, has deep roots in rural Texas. He was born, raised, and lives in Voss in Coleman County, where his family settled shortly after 1900. He has owned and operated a retail western-wear store for 20 years. He has also farmed and raised livestock throughout his life. Mr. Turner’s service record reflects his interest in issues that matter to rural communities. He has chaired the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Damage Management Committee and the American Farm Bureau Federation Rural Health Committee. He has also served as president of the Coleman County Farm Bureau, as vice president of the Texas Farm Bureau, and as chairman of the Texas Rural Health Committee. “Agriculture depends on rural Texans, and rural Texans depend on agriculture,” writes Tom Boggus, state forester and director of the Texas A&M Forest Service at College Station, in a letter supporting Mr. Turner’s nomination for the award. “Understanding this connection has led Bob into a lifetime of tireless service for the betterment of Texas agriculture and the health of the rural communities that are linked to it.”
E. M. “Manny” Rosenthal ’42 was a meat-industry visionary and a longtime philanthropist for religious, cultural, and educational causes. Although Mr. Rosenthal passed away in 2001, his legacy continues through his community, his family, and the Rosenthal Meat Science and Technology Center at Texas A&M University. Beginning in junior high school, Mr. Rosenthal worked part-time at his father’s business, the Standard Meat Company. He interrupted his work at the Fort Worth establishment after graduating from Texas A&M University in 1942, during World War II. He joined the U.S. Army, serving as an officer in North Africa and Europe. He rejoined the Standard Meat Company on his return in 1945. Mr. Rosenthal became the company’s president in 1959 and its chairman in 1965. He retired from the Standard Meat Company in 1988, a few years after it became a subsidiary of the Sara Lee Corporation. Mr. Rosenthal’s son, Billy, today serves on the board of the Standard Meat Company. Current business models in the meat industry can trace their history to the models “Manny” Rosenthal developed during his career. Mr. Rosenthal was also a patron of numerous artistic, educational, religious, and other organizations. He served as president on the board of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations and on those of many other Jewish organizations. In Fort Worth, he served as a key member of the boards of the Modern Art Museum, the Symphony Orchestra Association, and the Arts Council of Fort Worth and Tarrant County, among others. In addition, he was actively involved in business and agricultural education in the region, serving as adviser and frequent lecturer at The University of Texas at Arlington and at Texas A&M University. In 1987 Mr. Rosenthal received the Distinguished Alumnus Award from Texas A&M University and The Association of Former Students, the highest honor bestowed on a former student of Texas A&M. The same year, The Texas A&M University System Board of Regents named the Rosenthal Meat Science and Technology Center for him and his wife, Rosalyn. The Rosenthals, in conjunction with the Texas A&M Board of Regents, established the E. M. Rosenthal Chair in Animal Science at Texas A&M. His legacy has gathered awards even after his death in 2001. In 2011 he was posthumously inducted into the Meat Industry Hall of Fame.