Donnie Smith, CEO of Arkansas-based Tyson Foods, and his wife, Terry, have personally pledged a $3.2 million gift that establishes the Donald and Terry Smith Endowed Chair for International Sustainable Agriculture through the UT Foundation.
"The new faculty position will help bring science-based agricultural solutions to areas of the world with struggling agricultural practices and economies, as well as provide unique opportunities for the State of Tennessee," said Larry Arrington, chancellor of the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture (UTIA), when announcing the gift.
"Because of the outstanding reputation of the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture and our shared mission to seek global solutions to world hunger, we felt it was a perfect fit," said Smith. "Terry and I are both alumni of the University of Tennessee and feel we would not be where we are today without the education and support we received during our years there and the relationships developed there that continue to encourage us and enrich our lives to this day."
Donnie Smith earned his undergraduate degree in animal science from the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources and his wife, Terry, is a graduate of the College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences. Smith was appointed CEO of Tyson in 2009; however, he has been with the company in various roles since 1980.
With the global population increasing to more than 9 billion people by 2050 and per-person food consumption also increasing, experts estimate the world will need to produce twice as much food as is produced today. To help meet this challenge, UTIA, a top-tier land grant university, has been placing a priority on becoming more internationally involved in academic and research programs in partnership with other US land-grant universities.
"We are operating more than ever in a global environment, and our faculty and students need opportunities to learn more about how we in Tennessee relate to the worldwide economy," said Arrington. "This generous gift from Donnie and Terry Smith allows us to better partner with others to have a greater impact within our borders and around the world."
The search for the Smith Endowed Chair and director for international programs is currently underway. The faculty member who holds this position will work to further develop international programs within UTIA's four units-the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, UT AgResearch, UT Extension, and the College of Veterinary Medicine.
Working with the UTIA Faculty International Advisory Council, the chair will help faculty develop an international dimension to their current work, including research, outreach, and learning opportunities. The goal is to find solutions to encourage less-equipped societies to maximize available resources in an effort to provide better nutrition for all of Earth's inhabitants.
"We have long recognized the need for global partnerships, and the Institute has exciting and meaningful work already underway with partners around the world," said Arrington. "The Smith Endowed Chair will take us to the next level in international partnerships relative to agricultural issues and providing solutions that help feed the world."
UTIA currently has ongoing international agricultural projects in Africa, Europe, South America, and Southeast Asia.