MANHATTAN, KANSAS, US — Gordon Smith, who was head of the Department of Grain Science and Industry at Kansas State University (KSU) from 2015-22, died on May 21 in a motorcycle accident in McCracken County, Kentucky, US. He was 63.

The McCracken County Sheriff’s Department said Smith’s motorcycle collided with a Buick Enclave driven by Benny Green, of Paducah, Kentucky, US. Smith was transported to a local hospital where he was pronounced dead. Green was treated for injuries at the hospital.

Ernie Minton, Eldon Gideon Dean of KSU’s College of Agriculture, said the news shocked Smith’s former colleagues.

“The leadership and faculty in the College of Agriculture at K-State were deeply saddened by the news of Gordon’s passing,” Minton said. “Dr. Smith led the Department of Grain Science and Industry through some challenges, including the COVID-19 pandemic. However, through it all, we were regularly uplifted by his ebullient personality. We extend our sincere condolences to Gordon’s family.”

Smith, who resided in Kuttawa, Kentucky, US, came to Kansas State with a wealth of industry and academic experience. He worked nine years as vice president and research fellow for ConAgra Food’s research, quality and innovation team in Omaha, Nebraska, US. Prior to that, he had worked in research and development for Sara Lee Foods in Cincinnati, Ohio, US, and Jimmy Dean Foods, a division of Sara Lee, in Memphis, Tennessee, US.

During his career, Smith developed or co-developed nearly 20 patents or patent-pending technologies in food manufacturing.

His academic background before joining KSU included serving in multiple roles such as adjunct professor, doctoral advisory committee member, program advisory board member and guest lecturer at the University of Nebraska, Purdue University, Clemson University, Iowa State University, and the University of Minnesota.

In 2018, Smith was named a fellow by the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT), which noted that the honor “is considered one of the world’s most prestigious food science awards, recognizing exemplary professionalism in the field.”

In addition to being an IFT member, Smith belonged to the American Chemical Society and American Meat Science Association.

Smith received his bachelor’s degree in chemistry and biology from the University of Tennessee at Martin. He completed a master’s degree in organic chemistry and a doctorate in food science from Texas A&M University.

In an interview with World Grain shortly after he was hired by KSU, Smith said it was an honor to be chosen as head of such a prestigious department.

“There’s a legacy of really good leadership here,” he said. “I want to be a really good leader, not somebody who just sort of got by. Excellence is the goal.”

Funeral arrangements are pending.

The Department of Grain Science and Industry is also mourning the recent death of Dr. Charles Deyoe, who for 16 years (1977-1992) served as head of Kansas State University’s (KSU) Department of Grain Science and Industry and was the first director of the university’s International Grains Program Institute (IGP). Deyoe was 90.

Since Smith’s departure two years ago, Hulya Dogan has been serving as the interim department head. KSU announced earlier this week that Dr. Joseph Awika has been named department head and director of the International Grains Program Institute. He will begin his tenure on Aug. 18.