Gordon Davis peers into the trophy case in the foyer of the Texas Tech meat science lab that bears his name. A steady stream of students in red hardhats and white lab coats — the uniform of the meat lab — walk back and forth behind him between the classrooms that flank the space.
“Guess how many awards we had for meat judging when I got here,” he asks. “From 1938, when the team started, until 1981 when I coached my first team.”
He holds up a single finger. “One.”
Dozens of silver and gold championship cups pack the trophy case. A separate section holds the program’s national championship cups.
Davis makes his way out of the foyer down the adjoining hallway that leads to the meat cooler — a hallway lined on the right with team photos and the names of donors and on the left with 12 uninterrupted feet of trophy cases, four shelves high. The glass shelves bow from the weight of the trophies they support.
“I had to convince the chair to build glass trophy cases because I said we’d need them,” he reminisces, looking at the hundreds of plaques won by four decades of meat judging teams. “Look at them. There are so many they’re stacked like books. And we started with one.”
While Davis started Texas Tech’s meat judging dynasty, his passion for West Texas, agriculture and students runs much deeper. It’s that passion that led Davis, and his wife, Joyce, to give $44 million to Texas Tech University’s College of Agricultural Sciences & Natural Resources. The gift, the largest in university history, is for the people and programs of what’s now known as the Davis College of Agricultural Sciences & Natural Resources.
The gift will fund three areas within the college:
- A $25 million endowment that will directly benefit the college.
- A $4 million gift to establish the Gordon and Joyce Davis Endowment for Excellence in Meat and Food Science.
- A $15 million gift from the Gordon W. Davis estate to benefit future educational efforts within the college.
“My wife and I voted 2-0 on this college,” Davis said of his and Joyce’s decision to make this gift to the college. “We did this together.
“I think agriculture is a sleeping giant. We’re out here in West Texas, one of the great agriculture areas of the whole world. We have great alumni from all over the country, especially Texas, who love the college and love the education they got in agriculture at Texas Tech. So why wouldn’t we want to do this and get it better and better and better? The sleeping giant wakes up and becomes one of the preeminent colleges of agricultural sciences in the world.”
The gift also will challenge faculty, staff and students of Davis College to forge a bold vision for future fundraising to continue supporting new and ongoing projects within the college and its seven departments while increasing the level of excellence already established.
“The legacy of Gordon Davis at Texas Tech reflects his passionate dedication to students and a history of promoting excellence in the College of Agricultural Sciences & Natural Resources, first as a faculty member and then through generous support as a successful entrepreneur,” Texas Tech President Lawrence Schovanec said.
“This historic and transformative gift from Gordon and Joyce Davis amplifies that legacy and will provide resources to enhance educational experiences, academic programs and faculty research. I am profoundly grateful for their extraordinary commitment and investment in the future of the college and Texas Tech University.”
These new gifts add to the Davis family’s legacy of giving over the years. In 2006, the $500,000 Gordon W. Davis Meat Science Enhancement Endowment helped maintain facility equipment and support teaching, outreach and research activities in the Department of Animal & Food Sciences. The meat science laboratory building on campus bears the Gordon W. Davis name.
At the same time, Davis also gave $500,000 to establish the Gordon W. Davis Endowed Chair in the Department of Animal & Food Sciences, which was matched by the Regents’ Faculty Endowment Program, creating a new faculty position currently held by professor Brad Johnson.
The Gordon W. Davis Endowed Scholarship for Excellence in Meat Judging was established in 1996 by the Meat Science Alumni Association to provide financial assistance for students majoring in meat science who are participating on the Texas Tech Meat Judging Team. Today, the team is the three-time defending national champion and has been called “the Alabama football of the meat judging world” by Sports Illustrated.
“Gordon and Joyce Davis’ gift is about investing in people,” said Provost and Senior Vice President Ron Hendrick. “The Davises know that investing in students, faculty and staff in the Davis College of Agricultural Sciences & Natural Resources is critical to its success and our success as a university. The Davises’ generous gift demonstrates their commitment to, and strong belief in, education and academics as a pathway to success.”