Although he’s a cattleman through and through, Dr. Mark Miller may be better known for his day job as the San Antonio Livestock Exposition distinguished chair in meat science at Texas Tech University in Lubbock.
In that position, he oversees the university’s meat-judging program. But it’s not just any meat-judging program. Under Miller’s leadership, the university has won 13 national championships — seven of those in the past 10 years.
And yet you won’t meet a humbler gentleman.
Sitting in a room filled with trophies, belt buckles and other awards, Miller is quick to tell you that judging is not really about winning. Rather, it’s a vehicle to help train young people to pursue excellence in all areas of their lives.
“The thing that’s really cool about meat judging,” he says, “is it is very challenging. If you want to become good at it, it’s not easy. You’re going to have to work really hard. We feel like being your best and doing your best all the time, is really foundational.”
"You can be the best in whatever you’re doing. And you can do it with honor and integrity. But if you do it all for yourself, it doesn’t mean anything."
– Dr. Mark Miller
After hard work, Miller stresses the importance of doing everything with honor. Lastly, he says, it’s about serving your team selflessly.
“You can be the best in whatever you’re doing. And you can do it with honor and integrity. But if you do it all for yourself, it doesn’t mean anything,” he says.
His philosophy is summarized in the Texas Tech team’s motto: striving for honor in the pursuit of excellence while unselfishly serving others.
“That’s what we try to do,” he says. “And we believe in problem solving. In being solutions instead of the problem. I tell students I don’t need the five obvious reasons why you can’t do something. I need you to find the one obscure reason why you can get the job done. Because that’s what employers want when they graduate.”
Loni Lucherk, a doctoral student and instructor of meat science at Texas Tech, judged on the 2010 team. She says there’s no doubt his compassion contributes to the program’s success.
“Dr. Miller believes meat judging is more about the students and less about the trophies,” she says. “He treats each meat judger like one of his own kids. He cares about their success in the cooler, but also outside.”
She says many students, including her, see him as their father away from home.
No doubt, that’s an honor greater than any trophy.