The University of Arizona will award two honorary degrees during the 155th Commencement on May 10. UA colleges, departments and programs nominate individuals for honorary degrees, which recognize distinguished contributions to the university, state, nation or world at large.
In addition, the UA Alumni Association will present its Alumni Achievement Award, given since 1943 to recognize outstanding achievement or distinguished service to the UA, the Alumni Association, or one’s community or profession.
Dr. Mae C. Jemison, engineer, physician, entrepreneur, educator and the first woman of color to travel into space, will be awarded a Doctor of Humane Letters from the UA College of Humanities. You can read more about Jemison, who will serve as the Commencement keynote speaker, here.
Honorary Doctor of Science from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences
Victor Smith is CEO of JV Smith Companies, a diverse group of operations with farming, cooling and distribution facilities and shipping capacities in Arizona, California, Colorado and Baja, Mexico. Since 1991, Smith has overseenall of the companies’ farming, packing and cooling operations, including more than 30,000 acres of vegetable production.
Based in Yuma, Arizona, JV Smith Companies’ first operation was Skyview Cooling, a cooling company that formed in 1970 in Colorado and New Mexico, and later expanded to Yuma and northern Mexico. Today, JV Smith Companies farm several commodities, including romaine and iceberg lettuce, spinach, celery, mixed leaf and organic spring mix, carrots, and green onions.
Smith grew up in Pueblo, Colorado. He studied economics and business law at the University of Colorado from 1970 to 1974 and went on to study finance at Arizona State University in 1975. He joined Skyview Cooling in the fall of 1975 and quickly earned a leadership role, becoming vice president in 1977. In 1988, he became president of Skyview Cooling. Throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, Smith added leadership roles in other JV Smith Companies to his portfolio. In 2012, he accepted his current role as CEO with oversight of all eight of the affiliated companies.
Smith is a longtime supporter of the University of Arizona College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. This year, the UA established the Victor P. Smith Endowed Chair in Food Safety Education, with a generous $1.5 million gift from Smith. The support of the endowed chair will aid in the development and promotion of food safety educational programs at the UA and in connecting students with industry partners for food safety-related career opportunities.
He helped to establish the Yuma Center for Excellence in Desert Agriculture, and a conference room in the Glen G. Curtis Building at the Yuma Experiment Station was named in honor of his parents.
Smith is actively involved in community and agricultural organizations, having served on more than a dozen boards over the past 30 years. He is currently on the boards of directors of the Western Growers Association, the Center for Produce Safety and the Center for Growing Talent by PMA. He also is a member and previously served on the boards of both the United Fresh Produce Association and the Produce Marketing Association.
Smith and his wife, Karen, have supported numerous charitable causes. In 2013, they created the Smith Family Foundation to ensure donations were being maximized to meet community needs and to offer scholarship opportunities to dependents of JV Smith Companies employees. The foundation has supported Amberly’s Place, KIDS CuddleKit Closet, YMCA Yuma, YRMC Foundation-School Drive and Youth Initiative, Yuma Catholic High School, Yuma Community Food Bank and the Yuma County Science Fair.
In 2014, JV Smith Companies launched Power Plate, which uses fun characters and a plate with sections to teach schoolchildren that half of their plate should be filled with fruits and vegetables. The program increased vegetable consumption by 62 percent in one Yuma elementary school.