Texas Tech University

Davis College Distinguished Alumni & Outstanding Young Alumni Honored

Norman Martin

April 10, 2024

Texas Tech University's Davis College of Agricultural Sciences & Natural Resources recognized six distinguished alumni on Monday (Apr. 8) at the university's McKenzie-Merket Alumni Center. 

The 2024 Distinguished Alumni & Outstanding Young Alumni Awards honor graduates who've made significant contributions to society, and whose accomplishments and careers have brought distinction to the college and to the professions associated with agriculture and natural resources. 

The recipients of this year's Davis College Distinguished Alumni Awards are:

Kendra Burris of Lubbock, Texas. She received a bachelor's degree in agricultural and applied economics (2001) and graduated from Texas Tech's Rawls College Executive MBA Program in 2018. Today, Burris is the Chief Strategy Officer for Masked Rider Capital (MCR). She spearheads the strategic planning and implementation processes of the organization. In addition, she serves as Chief Executive Officer for 7Crew Enterprises, LLC, an MRC portfolio company focused on developing and operating 200-300 7Brew coffee stands across West Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado and Florida. Prior to joining MRC, Burris was the Chief Operating Officer, Deputy Chancellor, and Executive Chief of Staff within the Texas Tech University System (2019-2022). Earlier she served in several executive capacities for Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, providing decisive leadership for communications and marketing, crisis management, and governmental relations. She was Associate Vice Chancellor for Institutional Advancement and Vice President at the TTUHSC (2009-2019). Burris is a current member of the Fortune Most Powerful Women organization, and a 2011 graduate of Leadership Texas.

Katrina Huffstutler of Electra, Texas. She received a bachelor's degree in agricultural communications (2004), and a master's degree in agricultural education (2005). Today, Huffstutler is the director of content for Grant Company, where she spearheads the creation of content for public relations, advertising, and communications projects in the beef cattle industry. Immediately after graduate school, Huffstutler was named the first director of communications for the Texas Pork Producers Association. In 2007, she joined Texas & Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association as a staff writer for The Cattleman magazine. She was promoted to associate editor (2008) and was named associate editor and social media manager (2012). In 2012, she launched Cactus Flower Communications, where she contracted and consulted for clients including Certified Angus Beef, National Pork Board, Cultivate Agency, and Electra Hospital District. From there, Huffstutler rejoined the Texas & Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association as Executive Director of Communications. She later led public relations at Noble Research Institute, where she won Agricultural Communicators Network's MarComm Award (2023).

Rhett Johnson of Granbury, Texas. He received a bachelor's degree in range management (1965). Today, Johnson serves as manager of the Rancho Hielo Brazos Ranch. During his career with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, he served as a GS-9 range conservationist, GS-9 district conservationist, GS-11 district conservationist, and GS-11 range conservationist throughout the State of Texas. In 1973, he transferred to the Pecos Area office as GS-11 Range Conservationist where he was responsible for the technical program leadership in the Trans-Pecos Area of Texas. In 1976, he was promoted to the State Office in Temple. There he served as GS-12 State Range Conservationist. In 1988, Rhett was promoted to the Fort Worth South National Technical Center as GS-13 Range and Pasture Specialist, serving the 12 south east states and Puerto Rico. He was promoted to GS-15 Director of the Grazing Lands Technology Institute in 1996 where he was a part of the national staff in charge of the Grazing Lands Technical Program for the nation. Johnson retired from the Natural Resources Conservation Service in 1997 and has served as a consultant since that time.

Wayne Keeling of Lubbock. He received a bachelor's degree in agronomy (1974), and his master's degree (1977) and doctorate (1985) in crop science. He has been the project leader for systems agronomy and weed science for Texas A&M AgriLife in Lubbock since 1986. In addition, Keeling served as an adjunct professor in the Davis College Department of Plant & Soil Science (1988-2023). His research has focused on developing effective and economical weed management systems in cotton and other agronomic crops in this region. Keeling has evaluated new herbicides for weed control efficacy, crop tolerance, and soil persistence in cooperation with agricultural chemical companies. Throughout his career he has worked as part of multi-disciplinary cropping system team to develop new systems incorporating no-till, cover crops, and crop residue in conservation tillage systems. Honors include the USDA Group Award for Excellence, West Texas Agricultural Chemicals Institute Award for Outstanding Contributions to Agricultural Chemical Industry, and the National Conservation Tillage Cotton & Rice Conference Outstanding Cotton Conservation Tillage Researcher. 

Robby Kirkland of Vega, Texas. He received a bachelor's degree in animal business (1994). During his time at Texas Tech, he was a member of the Livestock Judging Team. Today, Kirkland is Vice President and General Manager of Kirkland Feedyard in Vega, Texas. Established in 1983, Kirkland Feedyard is 27,000 head family-owned and operated cattle feeding operation in the Texas Panhandle. It is home to a combination of customer- and company-owned cattle. Each year, approximately 35,000 head of cattle are marketed through the yard. The feedyard offers a suite of services, including cattle and feed financing, risk management, and marketing programs. His commitment to the beef industry is evident through his involvement in various capacities, including his upcoming role as Chairman of the Texas Cattle Feeders Association, where he will assume leadership responsibilities later this year. He continues to promote not just beef, but also the values of hard work, dedication, and community. Kirkland's dedication extends beyond his family and business serving as an active member of his community.

Alex Scarborough of Lubbock, Texas. He received a bachelor's degree in landscape architecture (1983). Today, Scarborough is a registered landscape architect in State of Texas and president and owner of Tom's Tree Place in Lubbock. While at the business, he has been a designer, a project superintendent for installations, and helped support and mentor other landscape architects and project superintendents on many community projects. He has worked on numerous projects within Lubbock and the surrounding communities, including schools, banks, businesses, ranches, and homes. Notable projects include revitalization of the Overton Park area, which is comprised of Glenna Goodacre Boulevard, Roy Furr Park, the Overton Hotel, and numerous apartment complexes in the neighborhood. Other landscape construction projects Tom's Tree Place has built and installed under Scarborough's leadership include Buddy Holly Hall, Citizen's Tower, West End Shopping Center Phase 2, and Centennial Park in Midland, Texas. In addition, he has also worked on several Texas Tech campus projects, including the Texas Tech campus beautification project.

In addition, Davis College officials recognized one outstanding young alumnus. The recipient of the 2024 Outstanding Young Alumni Award is Laramie Adams of Waco, Texas. He received his bachelor's degree in agricultural communications (2009). He has been the Texas Farm Bureau's Government Affairs Division's National Legislative Director since 2017. In this role, he works with the 38-member congressional delegation to implement Farm Bureau policy at the federal level. Prior to that Adams served as the Director of Public Affairs for the Texas & Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association, as well as Communications & Membership Coordinator for the Animal Agriculture Alliance, Communications Director for U.S. Rep. Frank Lucas (R-OK), and Press Assistant for the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition & Forestry for former U.S. Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR).


This story was first published in the Davis College NewsCenter. See the original article here.