Endowed deanship honors a storied ancestor, raising CAHNRS’ national profile.

Pictured: Gordon Davis ’68, ’69

James “Cashup” Davis was a 19th century pioneer and entrepreneur—a legend not only on the Palouse but also across Washington. His name lives on in many ways—including, now, a named deanship in WSU’s College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences (CAHNRS).

Davis’ great-grandson, Gordon Davis ’68, ’69, established the Cashup Davis Family Endowed Deanship of CAHNRS with a $5 million gift in 2019.  His motivation: to give back to WSU in thanks for his own success and to create a deanship that allows a leader to articulate and deploy a strategic vision that will better serve the people and students of Washington.

With his gift, Davis aims to amplify WSU’s impact statewide and nationally—specifically by increasing the influence and visibility of CAHNRS and WSU Extension.

Establishing the first such endowment at WSU enabled CAHNRS, after a national search, to recruit the inaugural Cashup Davis Family Endowed Dean—Wendy Powers—in 2022.

Before coming to WSU, Powers served for more than five years as associate vice president of Agriculture and Natural Resources at the University of California. In this capacity, she led numerous academic, research and outreach programs, oversaw county-based cooperative extension outreach, 12 statewide programs and institutes, and nine research and extension centers across California. Previously, she spent more than 20 years combined as a faculty member at Iowa State University and Michigan State University.


A more resilient Washington

Powers’ vision for CAHNRS is focused on building a resilient Washington, aiming to take the four pillars of the CAHNRS mission to new levels of success: 1) creating an adaptable workforce, 2) providing a secure food supply system, 3) helping to maintain sustainable natural resources, and 4) supporting thriving, healthy communities, families, and individuals.

With the uncertainty that comes with climate change—as heat waves, drought, and devasting fires fanned by high winds become more common in our state and across the West—Powers believes that it is essential to be resilient and prepared for any drastic changes that may be in store. Specific to agriculture, changing and extreme weather patterns have the potential to profoundly impact Washington’s crops, livestock, water resources, and forests, with attendant impacts on families and communities, our health, and the economy.

“Washington is one of the great agricultural areas in the world. It has always had bountiful crops and healthy livestock,” Powers said. “But we have to be prepared for the unexpected and to adapt for the future so that we can continue to make stronger, healthier communities.”

A thriving agricultural sector is crucial to Washington’s success. Today, the agricultural industry contributes $49 billion annually to the state’s GDP, just over 13 percent of Washington’s economy. But that sector faces change as it has in other parts of the country. According to the National Centers for Environmental Information, in 2023 there were 28 confirmed weather/climate disaster events in the U.S. with losses of property and crops together totaling nearly $30 billion, not to mention the loss of many lives.

CAHNRS’s role in addressing such a future will be essential to Washington state. As a research powerhouse, CAHNRS secures nearly 40 percent of the university’s total extramural funding annually, with more than $101 million in grant expenditures in fiscal year 2023, and boasts a nationally ranked profile (WSU has ranked No. 1 in U.S. Department of Agriculture [USDA] research and development expenditures several times in recent years). Additionally, its impact also extends into human health with its research in how children, youth, adults, and families develop, change, and navigate challenges.

The endowed deanship helps set the stage for channeling these many assets to support the best possible outcomes for the state—and beyond.


Investing in leadership

Gordon Davis has co-authored a book with journalist Jeff Burnside about his storied ancestor, who was a jolly host at the beautiful hotel he built atop Steptoe Butte: Cashup Davis: The Inspiring Life of a Secret Mentor, published by WSU Press.

As an undergraduate at WSU, a graduate student at Texas A&M, and then as a professor of meats at Texas Tech University, Davis has seen the upward trajectory of WSU’s reputation for agricultural research on the national scene. Through the endowed deanship, he sees an opportunity to position a highly visible and influential leader extending the impact of CAHNRS and WSU Extension nationally and internationally.

While his investment makes this possible, “the dean will be the one driving all this,” said Davis, “pushing forward innovation, and promoting and advocating for the college across WSU’s campuses, the state of Washington, and the nation.”

After earning two WSU bachelor’s degrees in agricultural science (’68) and agricultural education (’69), Davis earned his master’s and PhD in meat science from Texas A&M University. He went on to teach at University of Tennessee, then was hired by Texas Tech as an assistant professor and coach of the meat judging team. Within a decade he led the team to a national championship in 1989, the first of 16 national titles to date.

While teaching at Texas Tech, Davis also founded CEV Multimedia in 1984, a highly successful company making educational videos.

“We brought experts into schools and the teachers loved it,” said Davis.

Now called iCEV, the company has grown to 167 employees, offering 218 online courses, with 24 courses in agricultural sciences, supported by 1,900 subject matter collaborators, including several from WSU. Today, iCEV has 1.75 million subscribers in 50 states and 19 countries.

For his dedication to excellence during his extraordinary career as a meat scientist and educator, Davis has received 52 university, business, and industry awards. Most recently, he was inducted into the Meat Industry Hall of Fame and received the American Meat Science Association‘s highest honor, the R. C. Pollock Award.

“Gordon has defined the standard for excellence of those involved in the meat science discipline,” said Blake Foraker, a meat scientist and assistant professor at WSU who was mentored by Davis while both were at Texas Tech. “He has the uncanny ability to connect with all of his students.”

Like many of those mentored by Davis, Foraker is just one example of those who have emerged as new leaders in meat science and the meat industry. In 2023, his first year as the meat judging coach, Foraker led the WSU team to a national championship. WSU hadn’t won a national competition in meat judging since Davis was on the team in 1969.

As Davis himself says, “In my 56-year career, it’s always been about the kids, helping them make the future. I’ve learned that success begets success, and it’s important to give back along the way—the pursuit of excellence is important, but it’s important to enjoy life and part of that is giving back.”

That giving back now empowers a new dean to raise the stakes and create new metrics for success.

“As dean, my role is to encourage everyone in CAHNRS to think big as we focus on the needs of the future and harness our collective strengths to do more, together,” Powers said. “And we are already bringing new partners to the table, building partnerships within CAHNRS and across the WSU system to create a resilient Washington.”


Click here to give to the CAHNRS Cash Davis Family Deanship.