The Center for Retailing Studies at Mays will host the M.B. Zale Visionary Merchant Lecture Series on Wednesday, April 4, featuring Theo Killion, chief executive officer at Zale Corporation, as the keynote speaker. Prior to his lecture, Killion will be presented with the 2012 Visionary Merchant award for leading the company’s turnaround plan and returning Zales to historic levels of profitability. He will speak on Zale’s strategy and its commitment to providing outstanding products, service and value to the customers of the Zale Corporation brands: Zales Jewelers, Gordon’s Jewelers, Zales Outlet, Piercing Pagoda, and Peoples and Mappins Jewelers in Canada.

Theo Killion

Killion has a long, distinguished career in retailing and, unlike many CEOs, it includes extensive experience in human resources. Prior to joining Zale Corporation, Killion was with the executive recruiting firm Berglass+Associates, where he focused on companies in the retail, consumer goods and fashion industries. He has held leadership roles in human resources strategies at Tommy Hilfiger Corporation, The Limited Inc. and the Home Shopping Network.

The award presentation and lecture are open to the public and will be held in Ray Auditorium (113 Wehner) at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday.

The Visionary Merchant Lecture concludes an invitation-only conference for retail executives, the center’s annual Retail Sponsor Forum. Speakers for the one-day event include Mays faculty members and industry experts. They will address topics critical to business leaders including trends in creating unique marketing campaigns, managing workplace violence and customer buying behavior.

“This year’s award is especially meaningful to our organization,” says Cheryl Holland Bridges, director of the Center for Retailing Studies. “Thirty years ago, M.B. Zale, the founder of Zales, gave Texas A&M a grant to establish the Center for Retailing Studies. Donald Zale, M.B.’s son, will present the award to Killion, an extremely talented CEO who exemplifies the M.B. Zale’s success as an innovative merchant.”

More than 450 students, faculty and guests are expected to attend the April 4 lecture series.

For more information about these events or the Center for Retailing Studies, see or contact Kelli Hollinger at

Categories: Centers, Executive Speakers

Business graduates Hal Hornburg ’68, Bob Surovik ’58 and Don Adam ’57 are among this year’s recipients of the 2012 Distinguished Alumnus Award, the highest honor bestowed upon a former student of Texas A&M University.

Established in 1962, the Distinguished Alumnus Award is the highest honor bestowed upon a former student of Texas A&M University.
Established in 1962, the Distinguished Alumnus Award is the highest honor bestowed upon a former student of Texas A&M University.

Since the award’s inception in 1962, 216 individuals have been recognized for their significant contributions to their professions, Texas A&M and their local communities.

“Each day, I am reminded of the power of our Aggie Network with its worldwide reach,” said Texas A&M President Dr. R. Bowen Loftin, Class of 1971. “And each day, I am also thankful for the efforts of individual former students such as these, who so generously give of their time, expertise and other resources to help propel Texas A&M to be among the nation’s top public universities, while also making their mark as leaders in their professions and communities. They are truly role models for all Aggies.”

The recipients learned of their honor when surprised in their places of business and other locations by a group of university and Association of Former Students representatives.

The Association will further honor all recipients of this award and celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Distinguished Alumnus Award during its annual Distinguished Alumni Gala on Sept. 21. In addition, the 2012 recipients will be recognized during the Texas A&M football game against South Carolina State on Sept. 22.

Other Aggies being honored posthumously this year are Tommie E. Lohman’ 59, and, Dr. Robert V. Walker ’45, and Congressional Medal of Honor awardees George D. Keathley ’37, Horace S. Carswell, Jr. ’38, Eli L. Whiteley ’41, Turney W. Leonard ’42, Thomas W. Fowler ’43, William G. Harrell ’43 and Lloyd H. Hughes ’43.

General Hal M. Hornburg (USAF, Ret), Class of 1968

Hal Hornburg graduated from Texas A&M with a bachelor of business administration degree in finance, and earned a master’s degree in human resource management from the University of Utah in 1978. In between his degrees, he attended Squadron Officer School and Air Command and Staff College at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Ala. Afterward, he went to the National War College at Fort Lesley J. McNair, Washington, D.C., in 1986, and completed the Seminar XXI for Foreign Political and International Relations at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the National and International Security Program at Harvard University in 1994. While at Texas A&M, he was a Ross Volunteer, Distinguished Student, Outstanding Military Student, Commanding Officer, 2nd Group Staff in the Corps of Cadets, as well as a member of MSC Town Hall Committee, MSC Great Issue Committee and the Apollo Club.

Hal Hornburg '68
Hornburg ’68

Hornburg entered the United States Air Force (USAF) in 1968 and commanded all levels—flight, squadron, wing, numbered air force and major command. While on active duty, he fought, participated in or commanded forces in four wars, and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for heroism. He was also awarded three Legions of Merit, 10 Air Medals, two Air Forces Distinguished Service Medals and the Defense Distinguished Service Medal. In 2004, he was made an honorary Tuskegee Airman in honor of his efforts in developing and mentoring minority officers and airmen. General Hornburg commanded a composite fighter wing during Operation Desert Storm and the first Air Force composite wing during the services reorganization in 1991. He directed air operations over Bosnia, commanded the Joint Warfighting Center, served on the Joint Staff, and directed operations at Headquarters U.S. Air Force. He also has served as Tactical Air Command’s F-15 demonstration pilot for the East Coast, Air Force Liaison Officer to the U.S. Senate, Chief of the Air Force Colonels’ Group, and he commanded Air Education and Training Command. He retired as commander, Air Combat Command in 2005 after 36 years of service to the USAF and more than 4,400 flight hours. He continues to serve the aerospace field as an Aerospace Industry Consultant.

In retirement, Hornburg has served as director of the Armed Forces Benefit Society, which assists returning wounded soldiers. He is a trustee of the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, director of the Fisher House, a foundation that assists military families, and is a senior advisor for Segs4Vets, a program that provides Segways for American disabled veterans in Iraq and Afghanistan. He is also a senior advisor to the Sierra Nevada Corporation, the Camber Corporation, Environmental Techtonics Corporation and Conceptual Mindworks, Inc.

He has served as member and Chairman of Strategic Planning and Fundraising for the President’s Board of Visitors for the Corps of Cadets since 2003, and he has served on the President’s Advisory Council Strategic Planning Committee since 2010. He is a past chair of The Association of Former Students and an Endowed Century Club Member. He led the Texas A&M Commandant Search Committee in 2010 and is a member of the Aggie Real Estate Network.

Hornburg and his wife, Cynthia, live in Fair Oaks Ranch. They have two sons — both USAF pilots — and five grandchildren.

Bob J. Surovik, Class of 1958

Bob Surovik received a bachelor of business administration degree in accounting from the Agricultural & Mechanical College of Texas and continued on to earn a doctor of jurisprudence degree from the University of Texas Law School in 1961. While a student, he was president of the Student Senate and the Singing Cadets, Sophomore Class Secretary and he was listed among the Who’s Who Among Students in American Colleges and Universities in 1958. He was on the Southwest Conference Sportsmanship Committee, Town Hall Staff, Election Commission, MSC Council, Arts and Science Council, Accounting Society and the Pre-Law Society. He was Adjutant in the Second Battalion, Second Regiment Staff in the Corps of Cadets, and a member of the Student Government Association.

Bob Surovik '58
Surovik ’58

After college, he was a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army Reserves in Austin, and then a first lieutenant in the U.S. Army at Fort Bliss. In 1963, he earned an Army Commendation Medal for Meritorious Service and started practicing law. After working as an accountant for the Texas Department of Agriculture, he was an instructor of business law at the University of Texas at Austin, state representative aide in the Texas House of Representatives before becoming president and shareholder of McMahon, Surovik, Suttle, P.C.

Surovik has served many organizations in Abilene, including the Abilene Industrial Foundation, Abilene Chamber of Commerce, First Financial Bank-Abilene, The Community Foundation of Abilene, the Abilene YMCA, the Volunteer Council at Abilene State School, Hendrick Home for Children, and the Public Responsibility Committee of the Texas Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation, and the St. Paul United Methodist Church Foundation, among others.

He is an active supporter of Texas A&M through the Texas A&M Legacy Society, Endowed Century Club at The Association of Former Students, the Former Student Body President Association, the Texas A&M Foundation Planned Giving Council and the Texas Aggie Bar Association. In addition, he is a past Chairman of the Texas A&M Foundation Board of Trustees, past Chair of the Board of Directors at The Association, past area representative (West Texas) for The Association, and past president of the Abilene A&M Club.

Surovik lives in Abilene. Two of his three children graduated from Texas A&M.

Donald A. Adam, Class of 1957

Donald A. Adam graduated from the Agricultural & Mechanical College of Texas with a bachelor of business administration degree in insurance. While a student, he was a major in “A” Composite, 4th Battalion, Regimental Staff in the Corps of Cadets, as well as a member of the Business and Marketing Societies.

Don Adam '57
Adam ’57

After graduating, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant and discharged as a captain in the U.S. Army in 1961. The same year he returned to Bryan and became president and director of CRA Company in Bryan. In 1969, he founded The Adam Corporation/Group, became Chairman and CEO of Community Television, also in Bryan. He became Chairman and CEO of American Cablevision Corporation in 1975 before holding the same positions at American Momentum Bank, which is headquartered in Tampa, Fla., and has a branch in College Station. Today, he is concurrently at American Momentum Bank and The Adam Corporation/Group in Bryan.

Adam is an active contributor to organizations throughout the Bryan-College Station community. He has given time and financial support to Habitat for Humanity of Brazos Valley, American Heart Association of the Brazos Valley, Brazos Valley Veterans Memorial, Allen Academy, Arts Council of the Brazos Valley, Boys and Girls Club of the Brazos Valley, Bryan I.S.D. Foundation, March of Dimes of the Brazos Valley, St. Joseph Hospital Foundation, and more.

Adam was a charter member of the George H. W. Bush Presidential Library Foundation, the President’s Council of Advisors and the Chancellor’s 21st Century Council of Advisors. He is a member of The Association of Former Students’ Century Club Member, the College of Medicine Advisory Council, Texas A&M Vision 2020 Committee and the 12th Man Foundation. He is also a former chair for development for the Opera and Performing Arts Society (OPAS).

Adam lives in Bryan with his wife, Donna. One of his two children graduated from Texas A&M.

Categories: Former Students, Texas A&M

Mays Business School has been ranked among the top 15 public schools for undergraduates in Bloomberg Businessweek‘s recent ranking of undergraduate business programs. Mays ranked 15th among public schools (up from 18th) and 39th overall (up from 48th) in the magazine.

The school ranked 10th among public schools in terms of student satisfaction (25th overall), and 11th in recruiter satisfaction (24th overall). In addition, Mays scored well in the publication’s rating of factors that contribute to the experience of undergraduates. For the last three years, Mays scored an “A+” in job placement, an “A” in facilities and services, and an “A” in teaching quality.

Also of note, Mays graduates’ median starting salary rose 5.7 percent this year, from $46,631 to $49,300. The school is also among the most affordable, with the 12th lowest annual tuition in the nation.

“I’m very pleased to see that the rankings acknowledge Mays’ continuous progress in the areas that add value to our students and enhance their undergraduate experiences,” said Martha Loudder, Mays associate dean for undergraduate programs. “In the past five years we have decreased upper division class sizes, added numerous high-impact learning experiences and kept tuition low.”

“Mays Business School is incredibly committed to the professional development of its students. Every class features insights into the real world,” said one student on the Businessweek site’s Mays profile.

“Mays Business School works very hard to create well-rounded students to make us appealing to firms, rather than solely relying on teaching from the textbook,” said another student responder. “We know how to work in teams and communicate effectively with others. Mays wants to graduate professionals.”

Businessweek judges business schools based on five measures, including recruiter and student surveys, academic quality, teaching quality, and the starting salaries and career outcomes of graduates.

Learn more about the Businessweek rankings at

Categories: Programs

Have an idea for the “next big thing”? The Ideas Challenge soon will be spotlighting students’ innovative business ideas.

Ideas Challenge

The deadline to submit entries is 5 p.m. Friday. The competition will be May 2.

The Ideas Challenge, hosted by the Center for New Ventures and Entrepreneurship (CNVE) is open to Texas A&M students of all majors, undergraduate and graduate classifications. Cash prizes and $8,000 in cash prizes is available for winning ideas.

The challenge cultivates Texas A&M’s collective entrepreneurial spirit, challenging Aggies of all majors and classifications to contribute their ideas. According to the CNVE website, the Ideas Challenge “helps students think in an entrepreneurial way and develop the competencies needed to identify and successfully implement new business ideas throughout their careers.”

Students are welcome to participate in the competition individually or in groups. Idea submissions and competition entry are free, but require creative and careful planning to persuasively express original ideas.

In previous years, hundreds of Aggies have participated in the Ideas Challenge, submitting proposed products and services ranging from folding bikes to hostels in Austin.

For more information on the Ideas Challenge, visit

Also open to all students, faculty, staff and the community is CNVE’s “Start-Up 101″—a three-night workshop series (April 3, 10, 17) for those interested in running their own businesses. Established entrepreneurs and business professionals educate attendees on how to transform an idea into a successful operating business.

Registration for Start-Up 101 ($50) is currently open. For more information, visit

Categories: Centers, Programs

The Full-Time MBA program from Mays Business School at Texas A&M University continues to rise in the rankings, moving up two places to 12th (tied) among public universities in this year’s U.S. News & World Report “Best Business Schools” ranking of graduate business schools. Last year, the program placed 14th among public universities. Overall, the Mays program ranked 32nd among U.S. universities, which is the same result as last year’s ranking of the program.

In addition, the program ranked 4th among U.S. public schools (11th overall) for employment at three months after graduation, highlighting the program’s continued success in placing students despite tough economic conditions.

Mary Lea McAnally, Mays associate dean for graduate programs, said she finds the rankings reinforcing. “We are pleased to see the rankings from U.S. News & World Report tracking what we know to be true of our MBA program: we continue to provide relevant classes, taught by world-class faculty, to highly qualified students who are valued by employers.”

In addition, the MBA program at Mays also made the “short list” in the corresponding article, “10 M.B.A.’s With Most Financial Value at Graduation,” which lists the top 10 programs based on the relationship between the students’ starting salaries and levels of student debt, further illustrating the success of our graduates.

The U.S. News rankings are based on two types of data: expert opinions about program quality and statistical indicators that measure the quality of a school’s faculty, research, and students. U.S. News surveyed thousands of academics and professionals to arrive at these rankings.

For further information, please visit the U.S. News “Best Business Schools” website.

Categories: Programs

As goes the nation’s economy, so goes the rail system, the CEO and chairman of one of the nation’s largest rail companies told Mays business students he spoke to recently.

“If the U.S. economy does OK we’re going to be really good, because you all love to buy things and it all has to be moved,” said Matthew Rose, CEO and chairman of BNSF Railway Company. “And if you believe in higher gas prices and population growth, then the railroads are in a really good position.”

BNSF Railway Company CEO and chairman Matthew Rose told Mays students that BNSF values employee longevity. “We need that level of expertise to run our company.” (view more photos)

Rail is environmentally friendly, Rose says. It can move a ton of freight 500 miles on a single gallon of diesel – and three to four times more efficiently than trucks. “One large intermodal train can take 280 trucks off the highway,” he says.

Rose has been CEO and chairman of BNSF since 2000. He was named president and chief operating officer in 1999 and for almost two years prior to that Rose served as senior vice president and chief operations officer of BNSF. Rose was 37 years old when Rob Krebs, his predecessor, told him he was going to appoint him the next leader of the company. The Fort Worth-based company operates one of the largest rail systems in North America, with 32,000 route miles covering 28 states and two Canadian provinces.

In 2010 BNSF was acquired by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway. When Rose is asked to respond to the common belief that he is heir apparent to the 81-year-old Buffett, Rose says, “I don’t talk about it at all. Seriously,” and redirects the conversation.

When Rose was at Mays, Dean Jerry Strawser shared with the students a message Buffett wrote about Rose in his letter to shareholders. “When someone like Warren Buffett says you’re doing great things for society and mentions you by name, you know you’re doing something right,” Strawser said in his introduction.

Rose started his career in a management program at the Missouri-Pacific Railroad, and then held several positions in the trucking industry. He joined Burlington Northern Railroad in 1993 and had several positions in the Merchandise Business Unit.

Rose holds a bachelor of science degree from the University of Missouri, where he majored in marketing and minored in logistics. He is former chairman of the board of directors of the Association of American Railroads and a member of the boards of directors of AMR Corporation, AT&T, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Texas Christian University. He is also a member of the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness and the Texas Business Leadership Council, a member of Business Roundtable, a member of The Business Council and vice president of the Boy Scouts of America National Executive Board.

Rose says he rewards longevity in his company, which he calls counter to the current business philosophy of “get a job, jump companies, increasing 10 to 15 percent every time.” He says he would rather hire someone straight out of school and keep them for 30 to 35 years. “We really relish the experience and the time with the company,” he says. “We need that level of expertise to run our company.”

Rose says he has been working on his company’s leadership model for 12 years. He thinks he can best benefit his company if he will:

  • Create a compelling vision
  • Model the way
  • Lead more; manage less
  • Communicate, communicate, communicate
  • Make development a priority. He encourages his employees to make development a priority, whether they take an outside course or learn a foreign language.

“The average life cycle of a CEO is about five years, so the corporate culture typically expects that the path will roll back, and everyone says, ‘This too shall pass,'” he says. “But we’ve been at it for 12 years, and I truly believe I could leave tomorrow and it would continue. It’s no longer what the boss wants; it’s part of our fabric.”

Categories: Executive Speakers

Balance, timing and the ability to keep up with his commitments are the traits Steven Bender ’78 says keeps him afloat in the business world.

The chief financial officer and senior vice president at Westlake Chemical Corp., positions he has held since 2007 and 2008, began with a bachelor’s in business administration and an MBA from Southern Methodist University. He previously held positions at KBR and Halliburton.

“Balance and timing are critical in business decisions,” Westlake Chemical Senior Vice President and CFO Steve Bender ’78 told students. (view more photos)

Bender began his talk with Mays students pursuing careers in business by stating, “I feel like a pingpong,” explaining that his job took him to six major cities in three weeks.

Bender told the students about Westlake Chemical, which was founded by a Taiwanese family many years ago, then went public in 2004. The company’s core business is manufacturing olefins and vinyls, two types of plastic. “When you go to the grocery store and buy shrink-wrapped items, there’s a 60 percent chance it’s from our company,” said, adding that in 2011, Westlake Chemical was worth $3.6 billion.

Bender then discussed his main duties as the senior vice president and CFO.

“My job involves a strategic development challenge. I have to balance leverage, cost advantage, and growth profitability.” He explained that most of his time is spent developing growth strategies. “It’s all about scale. I want the company to grow but I also want to cut costs.”

Bender focused much of his lecture on his current project — the purchase of a rival company.

He explained: “Right now we’re trying to acquire Georgia Gulf, the only buyable player of five companies similar to ours. The acquisition of the company would allow us to strengthen our vinyls business, giving us balance.”

Throughout the lecture, Bender repeatedly stated, “Balance and timing are critical in business decisions.”

Westlake went public in January about wanting to purchase Georgia Gulf. “Since then, their stock price has driven up tremendously. They are feeling the pressure to sell now.”

Categories: Executive Speakers, Former Students

Forty members of Mays Business Student Council traveled recently to Chicago. They toured several companies, including marketing agency commonground, and visited company co-founder and managing partner Sherman Wright ’92, a 2010 Aggie 100 recipient.

Business Student Council members with Sherman Wright '92 (back row) at the commonground office in Chicago.
Business Student Council members with Sherman Wright ’92 (back row) at the commonground office in Chicago.

Wright says his Aggie education continues to impact his entrepreneurial spirit and the business he started in 2004. “It was important to show the students that the Aggie Spirit is alive and well in Chicago … The ideas of thought and servant leadership play an integral role in my approach to entrepreneurship, management and relationship building and have had a dramatic impact on my success. Three key areas we focused on during the Mays Business School student council visit included the idea that students don’t have to take a traditional career path to be successful, diversity and inclusion are important in building a winning team and knowing how to best leverage the power of the Aggie Network is essential step in building lifelong relationships.”

Junior finance student Bryan Lothrop called the visit to the company “truly a highlight of our Chicago trip … After being in boardrooms downtown all morning, it was an excellent change visiting the more relaxed, creative and dynamic environment of commonground.” Lothrop says the students particularly enjoyed seeing the advertising work commonground did for its clients, which most had seen on national TV. “Seeing an Aggie have such success inspired all of us because we could relate to Sherman from an Aggie perspective,” he says. “It was very special to see an alumni do something that has such an impact on such a large scale. Sherman was an excellent speaker, a great role model for all Aggies and is truly a great entrepreneur and leader.”

Categories: Former Students, Students

“The business of business is people” is the mantra of Herb Kelleher, co-founder of the nation’s largest domestic airline service, Southwest Airlines. Known for its positive culture and emphasis on its employees, Southwest maintains its focus on the fun-loving “business of people” in all departments — even in the professional environment of finance.

Laura Wright, senior vice president and CFO at Southwest, recently spoke with Mays Business School students about the leadership, culture and finance at Southwest, as well as how the company preserves its distinctive reputation.

“You must take time to celebrate and recognize employees if you want to keep them engaged and productive,” Laura Wright, senior vice president and CFO at Southwest Airlines, told students. (view more photos)

Wright holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in accounting with a tax specialization from the University of North Texas. She started her career after college at Arthur Young & Company, where she worked with the (then) “little” company, Southwest Airlines, as one of her clients. Wright says that most of her career moves “came when [she] wasn’t looking for change,” and in 1988, Southwest approached her about working in its finance department. Attracted to the company’s culture, Wright joined Southwest, and recently celebrated 24 years working at the company.

According to Wright, Southwest has been a “tremendous growth story during her tenure.” She attributes its quick, exponential success to the company’s simple strategy: “Stimulate markets and create demand.” Southwest currently flies 698 airplanes, and with the recent AirTran merger, the company will soon expand into new markets and airports.

It also has a New York Stock Exchange ticker symbol of “LUV” that it adopted in 1977, after starting service from Love Field in Dallas in 1971.

With the rapid growth of Southwest, Wright says the common question around the office in the past few decades has been, “How do we maintain the culture of Southwest?” She revealed that the company annually evaluates its leadership based on the “Southwest Way” categories: a “warrior spirit” (innovative, determination, courage), a “servant’s heart” (considerate, living by the golden rule), and a “fun-LUVing attitude” (fun, interactive, positive). In addition, Southwest maintains its culture by hiring a specialized department of “culture keepers,” who coordinate events (such as “Finance Olympics”) and birthday cards for all employees.

“You must take time to celebrate and recognize employees if you want to keep them engaged and productive,” says Wright.

Southwest is renowned for its emphasis on employees equal to its emphasis on stakeholders. Wright says the phrase often used to describe the company is that it is a “customer service organization that happens to fly airplanes.” She says, “Happy employees means happy customers, which means happy shareholders.”

Working at Southwest isn’t all fun and games, though, Wright says. Leading the finance department, she makes tough decisions in response to economy downturns, rising costs of fuel prices and company merger issues.

“The first thing I do in the morning is turn on CNBC to see gas prices,” Wright laughs. During the recent financial crisis and sharp rise of fuel prices, many airline companies cut costs by downsizing its workforce. Southwest didn’t lay off any of its workers. Wright says this was because the company “hedged costs well.”

“It’s small things like using ground power instead of fuel to cool the plane while not in the air and adding winglets to the tips of wings that help us cut costs and keep prices low,” the CFO says.

Wright also spoke with the business students about the key attributes needed for financial leadership. Characteristics such as being quick-learning, hard-working, good instincts, ability to understand both sides and driven were all on the list.

Referring to what it takes for a successful career, Wright left the students with simple advice: “You have to want it.”

Categories: Executive Speakers

“You’re looking at the son of the man who created nachos,” Tony Liberto ’86 said in a recent lecture to Mays Business School students.

The president of the San Antonio-based company Ricos Products comes from a long line of entrepreneurial spirits. Liberto’s great-grandfather migrated from Sicily in 1890 as a 14-year-old boy, and quickly got the idea to roast peanuts in a coffee bean roaster. He began selling roasted peanuts, as well as other concession products, at circuses.

Rico Products President Tony Liberto '86 advised students to find a balance between textbook knowledge and pure experience, and emphasized the importance of honesty and integrity in the workplace.
Rico Products President Tony Liberto ’86 advised students to find a balance between textbook knowledge and pure experience, and emphasized the importance of honesty and integrity in the workplace. (view more photos)

Eventually, the company was passed down to Liberto’s grandfather, then his father, who took over the business in the 1960s. Liberto jokes that his father “could sell ice to Eskimos,” describing him as a natural salesman. In 1976, Liberto’s father came up with the idea of concession-style nachos, and the company began selling the snack to baseball fans at Arlington Stadium.

Liberto says the company took off from there. Within a few years, 70 percent of movie theaters sold Ricos nachos at their concession stands. International movie theaters began carrying the product shortly after.

Liberto credits the jalapeno pepper for nachos’ booming success. “Popcorn and hotdog sales increased when nachos were added to the concession menu,” Liberto says, explaining that people bought other concession foods because they wanted to calm the jalapeno spice in their mouths.

Over time, companies such as Sam’s Clubs, H-E-B, Walmart and Kroger began approaching Ricos Products asking to carry their products. Nachos’ appearance in grocery stores propelled the company to further success, but also opened the door for competitors to begin making similar products. Liberto describes reacting to these competitors as one of the more difficult problems the company faces.

Liberto says his time at Texas A&M was critical to understanding how to run the family company. He advised students to find a balance between textbook knowledge and pure experience, and emphasized the importance of carrying on the honesty and integrity students learn at Texas A&M into the workplace.

The success of Ricos Products indicates the Liberto family’s dedication to maintaining a good product, good people and good tradition. Referring to his niece, who is now working for the company, Liberto says he’s “proud to say Ricos is now a fifth-generation company.”

Categories: Executive Speakers, Former Students