(11/09/22) BATON ROUGE, La. — The late Don Welge’s vision for advancing the nation’s food supply chain is set to come to fruition through the proposed Welge Food Beyond the Farm Certificate Fund.
The fund will be used to develop and launch the Food Beyond the Farm certificate program at LSU. The program is designed to offer continuing education for recent graduates and working professionals seeking to diversify their skillset and enhance their knowledge of the food supply chain.
Don Welge spent his career as CEO and president of Gilster-Mary Lee Corporation. After earning a degree from LSU in agricultural economics in 1957, he returned to his home state of Illinois and began working with Gilster-Mary Lee, formerly Gilster Milling Company. Under his leadership, he built the company into a $925 million private-label food manufacturing company.
Tom Welge, Don’s son and current CEO and president of Gilster-Mary Lee, shares his father’s passion for progressing the national food industry.
Food supply plays a critical role in national security. Supply chain distributions and shortages brought on by the pandemic showed the crucial need for a skilled workforce in supply chain management, both domestically and internationally, Tom Welge said.
“The events of the past several years showed us that our supply chains are exposed to greater risks than we realized and that there is a need to better understand and strengthen our domestic ag, food processing and distribution sectors,” he said.
Gilster-Mary Lee is central to the nation’s food supply, supplying consumers and fast-food chains with everything from baking mixes and breading to cereals and pasta. Whether it’s a grocery store baking aisle or a fast-food drive-thru, most people in the U.S. have consumed a Gilster-Mary Lee product.
Understanding the essential need for employees specialized in supply chain logistics led Don Welge to work with faculty at his alma mater to develop the certificate program. The proposed certificate will encompass graduate-level business courses split between the College of Agriculture and the E. J. Ourso College of Business.
“In addition to meeting a critical need in the food industry, the proposed certificate aligns with LSU’s flagship mission to solve economic challenges resulting from transportation and logistics-related issues,” said Jared Llorens, dean of the E. J. Ourso College. “The program highlights the role that LSU plays in addressing complex problems that impact the economy and well-being of citizens. We are honored to work with the College of Agriculture to fulfill Don Welge’s vision.”
The interdisciplinary program will offer a niche area of in-depth coursework related to logistics and the inner workings of U.S. agriculture. The program will take a holistic look at food production from the moment it leaves the farm to when it ends up with consumers.
“Don was passionate about the food industry, the critical role it plays in our economy and the opportunities for rewarding career paths it offers to people in all parts of the country and around the world,” Tom Welge said.
Don Welge gathered more than 45 letters of support for the program from industry representatives who stated their need for a workforce with advanced education in the food supply chain.
To meet the needs of industry professionals from across the country, the proposed program will be offered through LSU Online, the most flexible mode of delivery and scheduling. The certificate is slated to launch in fall 2023.
“We are very glad that his dream of true ‘Food Beyond the Farm’ education is coming,” Tom Welge said.
The late Don Welge, former CEO and president of Gilster-Mary Lee Corporation, had a vision for the future of food supply chain management. The Welge Food Beyond the Farm Certificate Fund will be used to develop and launch a continuing education certificate program in food supply chain management. Photo provided