Tollett, Wray Headed to State Agriculture Hall of Fame
Tyson executives both Bumpers College graduatesThursday, March 07, 2013
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Two former co-workers at Tyson Foods Inc., alumni of the Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences at the University of Arkansas, are being inducted into the Arkansas Agriculture Hall of Fame Thursday in Little Rock.
Leland Tollett and Donald “Buddy” Wray are being inducted along with six others.
Tollett and Wray worked together for more than 50 years. Along with John Tyson and his son Don, they helped Tyson Foods become a global company, creating thousands of jobs and becoming a worldwide leader in poultry production and processing.
Tollett earned a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in animal science from the University of Arkansas and immediately went to work as director of research and nutrition for what was then Tyson Feed and Hatchery Inc. Wray also earned his bachelor’s degree in animal science and was working on his master’s when he accepted a position with Tyson as a field representative working with producers.
“Leland and Buddy are very deserving of this honor,” said Mike Vayda, dean of the Bumpers College. “We are happy the Arkansas Agriculture Hall of Fame is recognizing them for their work not only in agriculture and economic development, but also for contributions to the community. They are excellent examples for our students and we are proud to have them as members of the Bumpers College family.”
Tollett was general manager of the broiler division in 1965 and rose through the ranks, eventually becoming chief operating officer in 1981, president in 1983, chief executive officer in 1991 and chairman of the board in 1995. During his 50-plus years associated with Tyson, he established key industry standards in research and nutrition, and his leadership helped make Tyson Foods one of the world’s largest leading producers of chicken, beef and pork.
Under Tollett’s leadership, Tyson Foods successfully built or integrated 23 major production facilities from 1981 to 1989. The company’s acquisition in 1989 of Holly Farms and its 16 processing plants made Tyson the world’s largest poultry producer. At the time of his retirement in 1998, net sales had reached $7.4 billion.
Tollett served on the boards of J.B. Hunt Transport Services Inc., Worthen Banking Corp., the Arkansas Poultry Federation and the National Chicken Council. In 2010, the Leland and Betty Tollett Center for Retinal and Ophthalmic Genetics Disorders was established with a $3 million gift to the UAMS Jones Eye Institute. His honors include being named “Man of the Year” by the Arkansas Poultry Federation in 1989 and induction into the Arkansas Business Hall of Fame in 2011.
Donald “Buddy” Wray
As a field representative, Wray served as a liaison between the company and contract family farmers to ensure their flocks were healthy and growing well. He moved into management at Tyson’s second plant in Rogers and was later manager of the first processing plant in Springdale.
Wray was instrumental in acquisitions, product development, sales and marketing, and expanded the company’s offerings from fresh chicken into prepared foods such as chicken nuggets and patties through the 1970s and 80s.
Wray was named chief operating officer in 1992 and oversaw all operations, including live poultry production, processing and sales. He was promoted to president in 1993, was a member of the board of directors from 1994 to 2003 and came out of retirement in 2009 to serve as executive vice president – special assistant to the president and CEO.
Wray was named “Man of the Year” by the Arkansas Poultry Federation in 1999, and was recognized as the Outstanding Alumnus of the Bumpers College in 2000 and by the animal science department in 2001. He was also named as a “Quality of Life” honoree by NorthWest Arkansas Community College in 2012.
A gift from Tyson Foods endowed the Donald “Buddy” Wray Chair in Food Safety in 2004 while Tollett was a major fundraiser for the Center for Excellence in Poultry Science, and the auditorium in the center is named in his honor.
“The careers of these two poultry pioneers have been an inspiration to all of us in poultry science,” said Michael Kidd, head of the Arkansas poultry science department and director of the Center of Excellence for Poultry Science. “Moreover, their support to the Center of Excellence has allowed us to focus our careers on helping poultry producers and the poultry industry.”
The Arkansas Agriculture Hall of Fame is sponsored by the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce and Arkansas Farm Bureau to build public awareness of agriculture. It honors past and current leaders who have given selflessly to the farm industry, their communities and to economic development in the state.
Other members of this year’s class are Margaret Alexander, Lanny Ashlock, Jack England and Mathew Post. Alexander spent her career as a cooperative extension service home demonstration agent for the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture. Ashlock worked as an extension soybean specialist with the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture.
The 25th annual induction luncheon is at 11:30 a.m. on March 8 in the Ambassador Ballroom of Little Rock’s Embassy Suites Hotel. Tickets are $35 and are available by calling 501-228-1470 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Robby Edwards, director of communication
News by Keyword
- Administrative News
- Arts & Humanities
- Awards & Appointments
- Business & Economics
- Distance Education
- Diversity & Multiculturalism
- Greek Life
- Health, Fitness& Nutrition
- Law and Justice
- Politics & Social Sciences
- Research & Innovation
- Sustainability & Environment
- University Press
- Entertainment & Cultural Events
- Home, Family & Style
- Intramurals & Recreation
- Intercollegiate Athletics
- Points of Pride