Hall of Honor
2015 Guadalupe Gracia
Guadalupe "Lupita" Gracia is a Supervisory Plant Protection and Quarantine Officer with the United States Department of Agriculture, Animal Plant Health Inspection Service, Plant Protection and Quarantine.
Ms. Gracia graduated from Lyford High School in 1991 and Texas A&M-Kingsville in 1996 with a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture, majoring in Agriculture Business. She began her career as a COOP student with the USDA and, upon graduation, accepted a promotional position as a Plant Protection and Quarantine Officer. In her position, she oversees and safeguards American agriculture at United States-Mexico ports of entry. As a supervisor with the agency, her accomplishments include contributing to the eradication of a serious South Texas pest, the Mexican Fruit Fly. Lupita believes in and supports new breakthrough methodologies and leading-edge techniques that have strengthened the agency.
She is currently involved in supporting and inspiring college students by offering and encouraging internships for them to gain hands-on experience within the federal service, which will facilitate and open pathways towards their careers in agriculture.
2014 Thomas R. Lansford, III, DVM
A native of south Texas, Thomas R. (T.R.) Lansford, III, DVM, grew up near Tilden. He attended Texas A&M University-Kingsville prior to attending Texas A&M University in College Station, where he earned a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine.
Upon graduation, Lansford practiced veterinary medicine in a mixed animal veterinary hospital in Hondo. He then began employment with the State as a supervisory circuit veterinarian with the Texas Department of State Health Services Meat Safety Assurance (MSA) Unit. Lansford spent five years in that capacity while headquartered in Midland and then College Station. For six years after that, Lansford served as the program’s assistant State director in Austin. He served as the Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC) Region 5 Director, headquartered in Beeville, prior to being named Assistant Executive Director (AED) over Animal Health Programs headquartered in Austin. As AED, he oversees animal health and emergency management programs for all Texas livestock, including: cattle, swine, poultry, sheep, goats, equine animals, and exotic livestock.
Dr. Lansford is married to Christy and they have two sons, Thomas R. (Buddy) Lansford, IV and Byron James Lansford. In their spare time, they are involved with their families’ ranches in the south Texas brush country and in the mountains of southwest Colorado.
2013 Dr. Susan Wyatt Sedwick
Dr. Susan “Susie” Wyatt Sedwick, a native of Tilden, Texas, received her BS degree in home economics in 1976 from Texas A&I University graduating summa cum laude and her MS degree in human sciences from Texas A&M University-Kingsville. She received her Ph.D. in higher education administration from Texas A&M University.
Dr. Sedwick is associate vice president for research and director of the Office of Sponsored Projects at The University of Texas at Austin, where she is responsible for both pre- and post-award financial administration units with oversight of over $60 million in annual sponsored projects expenditures. She is also a clinical professor in the Department of Educational Administration for the Higher Education Administration Program at UT Austin and is an adjunct faculty member at Rush University in Chicago. She is a Certified Research Administrator (CRA) and a frequent speaker on the topic of research data security and export controls as they apply to universities. She authored the chapter on export controls included in the NCURA/AIS publication, Sponsored Research Administration: A Guide to Effective Strategies and Recommended Practices.
Dr. Sedwick received the National Council of University Research Administrators (NCURA) Distinguished Service award in 2012, having served that organization as an at-large representative to the Board of Directors, as chair of the Professional Development Committee, as a member of the Nominating and Leadership Development and Membership Committees and as a travelling Fundamentals faculty member. Dr. Sedwick is chair of Phase V of the Federal Demonstration Partnership (FDP) and co-chair of the STAR METRICS working group. She also has served on the FDP Strategic Planning Committee and as co-chair of the Membership Committee. She serves on the Board of Directors for the Council on Governmental Relations (COGR), on the Research Compliance and Administration Committee and is chair of the export controls working group. She previously served on the COGR nominating committee and Contracts and Intellectual Property Committee. She is frequently engaged as a workshop and webinar faculty member and presenter at both regional and national meetings for NCURA and the Society for Research Administrators (SRA). She is a graduate of Leadership Texas, a past trustee for the Texas A&M University-Kingsville Foundation, and president of the FDP Foundation.
Dr. Sedwick has two daughters, Dr. Whitney Driver and Hailey Sedwick, and one granddaughter with a second grandchild expect in early April 2013.
2012 Eladio H. Cornejo-Oviedo
Eladio H. Cornejo-Oviedo completed a B.S. degree in 1987 with a major in forestry and a minor in agronomy from the Universidad Autonoma Agraria “Antonio Narro” located in Buenavista, Saltillo, Coahuila, Mexico.
He graduated from Texas A&I University in 1989 with a M.S. degree in Plant and Soil Science in the Agriculture Department. His master’s thesis work at Texas A&I is entitled “Managing Immature and Mature Mesquite Stands for Hardwood Lumber Production and Pasture Management”, under the direction of Dr. Peter Felker. After graduating with a master’s degree, he worked as a researcher in Chapingo and Sonoro, Mexico. He continued his higher education studies in the area of forest science and graduated with his Ph.D. from Oregon State University in 1999.
Prior to and after graduating with his Ph.D., Dr. Cornjeo worked in the Forestry Department at his alma mater, the Universidad Autonoma Agraria “Antonio Narro” located in Buenavista, Saltillo, Coahuila, Mexico with a research program focus in the “Ecophysiology of Pine Forests” through several regions of Mexico. Dr. Cornejo is a professor at Antonio Narro, where he has been employed since 1991.
Dr. Cornejo-Oviedo has created and taught 12 undergraduate and 10 graduate courses during his tenure as professor. He has served as academic advisor for many undergraduate and graduate students, and has mentored and served as committee advisor to 52 undergraduate and 12 graduate theses projects related to pine forest mensuration, dendrochronology and ecophysiology.
Dr. Eladio Cornejo-Oviedo was elected Rector (President) of the Universidad Autonoma Agraria “Antonio Narro” in the Mexican state of Coahuila and is currently serves in this position from 2010 to 2014. The Department of Agriculture, Agribusiness and Environmental Sciences is proud of the career accomplishments of Rector Eladio Cornejo-Oviedo and the recognition he brings to A&M-Kingsville as an alumnus. Our institution looks forward to many years of collaboration between students from Mexico and Texas.
2011 Ruben Cantu
Ruben Cantu graduated from Texas A&I University in 1980 with a BS degree in Range and Wildlife Science and again in 1982 with a MS in Wildlife Science. After graduation he worked as a Rangeland Conservationist in the Panhandle the Natural Resources Conservation Service.
He began his career with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department on October 1, 1984 serving as a regulatory wildlife biologist in San Angelo. In October of 1989, Ruben was promoted to Technical Guidance Biologist for the Trans Pecos Wildlife District. There, he worked directly with private land owners, formulating wildlife management plans on over 1.3 million acres throughout western Texas. In January 1995 Ruben was the Wildlife Division's first legislative liaison and has served on and chaired numerous committees at state and national levels.
In December 1997, Ruben was promoted to Regional Director for Wildlife Region 1 (Trans Pecos and Panhandle Districts) in San Angelo where he supervises a staff of 43 wildlife biologist, fish and wildlife technicians, and support staff that oversee the state wildlife program in the western third of Texas. This past year he and his staff have been instrumental in the largest in-state release of desert bighorn sheep and pronghorn antelope restoration projects.
He is a certified wildlife biologist and has served as the President of the Texas Chapter of The Wildlife Society. Ruben was detailed to serve at Austin HQ in an acting leadership role in the Wildlife Division. He is a strong advocate of hunting and the outdoor sports and especially the recruitment of new hunters having written several publications on these topics and presented to audiences at the Texas Chapter of The Wildlife Society, Hunters Heritage Symposium, Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, North American Wildlife Conference, and hunter recruitment and retention workshops.
2010 Juan M. Garcia
Juan M. Garcia is the State Executive Director for Texas State Farm Service Agency. In July 2009, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack selected Mr. Garcia to serve the Obama Administration in this capacity.
As Executive Director for the Texas FSA, Garcia oversees all aspects of federal farm program delivery for an agency that employs nearly 1700 people and, on average, issues more than $1 billion annually in commodity, conservation, disaster and credit benefits to farmers and ranchers across the state.
In 1976, Garcia received a Bachelor of Science degree in Animal Science from then Texas A&I in Kingsville. Prior to his selection as the APM, Garcia served as a District Director in South Texas as well as East Texas, and served earlier in his career as County Executive Director (CED) in Nolan, Hidalgo and Cameron counties.
A native of Lyford, in South Texas, Garcia was raised on his family’s 500-acre cotton, grain sorghum and livestock operation. The Garcia family farm, in operation since 1860, received the Texas Land Heritage Award (recognizing century farms and ranches) in 1976. The family farm is still in operation today.
During his 31-year career with USDA, Garcia has received numerous honors including twice receiving the FSA Administrator’s Award for Service to Agriculture. Outside of the Agency, Garcia has been an active member of several civic organizations.
2009 Dr. Maria T. (Vita) Canales
Dr. Maria T. (Vita) Canales, a native daughter of Kingsville, graduated Cum Laude from Texas A&I University in 1979 with a Bachelor of Science in Home Economics. She proceeded to further her education at Texas A&I /A&M-Kingsville by earning a Master of Science in Early Childhood Education in 1983 and Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership in 2004.
Dr. Canales has held various positions in the field of education for the past 30 years. Her teaching positions in public school include both Home Economics and Pre-Kindergarten. She has worked as an Educational Consultant serving over 45 school districts in South Texas. Her administrative positions include; Elementary Principal, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction and currently serves as Superintendent of Schools for Ricardo Independent School District.
Professional activities include:
- Texas Association of School Administrators
- Texas Council of Women School Executives
- Kingsville Rotary
- Brush Country CASA, past Board President
- Texas Association of Rural Schools
- South Texas Association of Schools
Dr. Canales continues her ties to Texas A&M University-Kingsville by serving as an adjunct professor in early childhood, a member of the Human Sciences Advisory Council, and as a member of several dissertation committees.
Being fond of life in the country, she loves to work in her garden, feed the wild turkeys and tend to Elena, Mia, Lizzy and Valentina (her four cows) and their young calves.
She and her husband, Daniel, live in Ricardo. They have two children: Victoria E. Canales-Nino and Daniel A. Canales.
2008 Dr. Mohammad Koohmaraie
Mohammad Koohmaraie received his B.S. degree in Animal Science from Pahlavi University in Iran. He received his M.S. degree from Texas A&M University at Kingsville (formerly known as Texas A&I University) in 1980 and his Ph.D. degree in Animal Science (Major: Meat Science and Muscle Biochemistry and Minor: Food Microbiology) from Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon in 1984. Fron 1984 to 1987, Dr. Koohmaraie was a postdoctoral fellow at the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center (USMARC) of USDA-ARS and Michigan State University. In 1987, he joined the staff at USMARC as a Research Physiologist. In 1991 he became the Research Leader of the Meat Safety & Quality Research Unit (MSQRU) of the USMARC. During his career as a Scientist and Research Leader of the MSQRU he focused his research efforts on the biological mechanisms regulating meat tenderness as well as addressing food safety issues facing the meat industry.
In September 2005, Dr. Koohmaraie was selected as the Director of the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center. As Director, he had the responsibility for directing research and operation of the Center. The U.S. Meat Animal Research Center employs 260 staff members, including 64 permanent and temporary scientists. The operating budget for USMARC is about $25 million.
In April 2008 he became the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the IEH laboratories & Consulting Groups. Based in Seattle, WA, the IEH Laboratories & Consulting Group combines consulting with accredited testing laboratories for its partners in the food industry. IEH currently employs 320 staff including 52 Ph.D. level scientists and operates 31 laboratories in 16 states.
In recognition of his contributions to science and technology, Dr. Koohmaraie has received numerous National Awards including Agricultural Research Service Scientist of the Year Award in 1992 and 2001; USDA Secretary Award in 1995 and 2001; and Research Awards from the American Meat Science Association and the American Society of Animal Science.
Dr. Koohmaraie has published over 400 scientific publications and has give over 250 invited talks to US and International Organizations.
Dr. Koohmaraie has been married to Mrs. Sue Ann Koohmaraie since 1980 and has a daughter, Sarah, and twin boys, Bijan and Nema.
- He has been credited with playing a leading role in discovering the biological basis for the variation in meat tenderness
- He was a leading scientist in the discovery that the calpain proteolytic system is responsible for postmortem proteolysis of key proteins that leads to meat tenderization.
- He discovered that the m-calpain (low calcium requiring isoform) and not m-calpain (high calcium requiring isoform) is responsible for postmortem proteolysis.
- He discovered that the inhibitor of the calpain system, calpastatin, rather the enzyme itself, is the determinant of the rate and extent of postmortem proteolysis and hence meat tenderization.
- Based on his knowledge of the biology of postmortem tenderization process (infusion of carcasses or injection of cuts of meat with calcium chloride) to enhance meat tenderness.
- He led a team of scientists to develop a non-invasive method for beef carcass grading. He then transferred the technology to a German-based firm (E+V) to produce an instrument based on the above method. He and his colleagues then worked with NCBA, meat packing industry and AMS to validate the instrument. The instrument is now approved by AMS and is installed in most large beef processing plants.
- At the request of Safeway, he led a team of scientist to develop a line of guaranteed tender line of product. They then worked with Cargill to produce that line of product for Safeway.
- He led a team of scientists to develop a non-invasive method of predicting beef tenderness at the chain speed. This NIR-based system accurately certifies a portion of the carcasses that can be guaranteed to be tender.
- He led a team of scientists to demonstrate that the hide rather than feces is the major source of E. coli O157:H7 on carcass and in ground beef.
- He led a team of scientists to develop a hide intervention of reduce/eliminate hide to carcass transfer of E. coli O157:H7
- He led a team of scientists to conduct multiple projects over a decade to collect key information about the E. coli O157:H7. This information is the foundation for many subsequent discoveries by his team as well as the scientific community at large.
2007 Dr. Lynn Drawe
Dr. D. Lynn Drawe, a native son of Mercedes Texas, graduated Summa Cum Laude from Texas A&I University (now Texas A&M University-Kingsville) in 1964 with a Bachelor of Science in Agricultural Education. He proceeded to further his education by earning a Master of Science in Range Management in 1967 and Doctor of Philosophy in Rangeland Ecology in 1970. He was on our faculty from 1970 to 1974.
Presently, Dr. Drawe holds the position of Director of the Rob and Bessie Welder Wildlife Foundation in Sinton, Texas, and has been affiliated with the Foundation since 1974.
Professional activities include:
- The Wildlife Society
- Society for Range Management
- American Society of Animal Science
- Soil Conservation Society of America
- Boone and Crockett Club
- Conference of Southwest Foundations
- Grazing Lands Conservation Initiative
Dr. Drawe has been honored by Who’s Who in American Colleges and Universities, Who’s Who Among Young Men in America, Alpha Zeta, Who’s Who Among Educators of the South and Who’s Who Among Scientists of the World. His honors and awards include Distinguished Conservation Award, Honorary State Farmer, Outstanding Alumnus (Texas Tech University) and Outstanding Achievement Award (Society of Range Management).
Continuing his interests and ties to Texas A&M University-Kingsville, Dr. Drawe holds an adjunct professorship with our university and serves on the management council of the King Ranch Institute for Ranch Management. He was the major professor to nine MS students when he was on faculty and has been a member on 18 graduate student committees.
Being an avid sportsman, he enjoys fishing, hunting, wilderness camping and shooting. Farming, ranching, cattle and horses are included among his passions. His ‘weekend hobby herd’ includes 35 cows.
Our honoree is married to wife, Kay. They have two daughters: Kimberly and Pamela. Their four grandchildren are Colton, Lauren, Caleb and Eliana.
2006 Robert J. Underbrink
Robert J. Underbrink receives AgNRHS 1st Annual Distinguished Alumni Award
Robert J. Underbrink, a native son of Riviera, graduated cum laude from Texas A&I University in 1983 with a Bachelor of Science in Agricultural Business. Since that time, in ever-increasing management roles, Robert has directed the agricultural operations of King Ranch, Inc.
He has served as Vice President of King Ranch, Inc. Farming Operations since 1998-2010. South Texas Operations include 56,000 acres of cotton and milo, a cotton gin, and ag flying service. Florida operations include 20,000 acres of sugarcane and sod and 50,000 acres of citrus, through Consolidated Citrus Limited Partnership, owned and managed by the King Ranch. He has since been promoted to CEO of King Ranch, Inc.
Having served as president and CEO for Consolidated Citrus from 1999 to 2005, our honoree now is director of the company. Consolidated Citrus is owned and managed by King Ranch, Inc.
Hired by King Ranch in 1984 as a management trainee, Robert traveled to various operations in the United States and throughout South America and Australia. He assumed responsibility as general manager of Florida operations in 1987. The company acquired citrus groves in 1994 as part of an expansion of the Florida operations.
His other activities include:
- Director, Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative of Florida
- Member, American Society of Sugar Cane Technologists
- Member, Florida Citrus Mutual
- Chairman, Florida Land Council
- Trustee, South Florida Fair. The fair’s Youth Market Program encourages young people to pursue careers in agriculture.
Robert continues his ties to Texas A&M University-Kingsville by delivering speeches as well as interviewing and hiring our students for positions within King Ranch operations.
He and his wife, Laura, make their home in Houston, Texas. They have three children: Krystal A. King, Katelyn A. Underbrink, and John T. Underbrink.
This page was last updated on: January 4, 2016