Since 1999, 76 young beef community leaders have benefited from the Colvin Scholarship fund, named for the Certified Angus Beef ® brand’s first president, Mick Colvin, and supported by brand partners through an annual golf tournament and auction. The scholarship program is an endeavor that inspires brand partners from around the world to support the next generation at the farm.
This year, 84 golfers participated in the Mick Colvin Scholarship Classic, sponsored by the Sysco Corporation of Houston. Numerous companies sponsored holes, the luncheon and individual golfing challenges, all to benefit young leaders in the beef community. Top bidders at the auction were Sysco for next year’s golf outing, Triple J Enterprises in Quam, Cargill Meat Solutions based in Wichita, Kan., Wolverine Packing Co. in Detroit, Amigos Foods in Chicago and S Foods in Japan.
Among the items sold at auction was a custom meat cleaver and case, donated by Oxford Trading Co., which became the brand’s first distributor in 1979 – selling this new branded beef to restaurants and grocery stores at a time when no such thing had existed.
Charlie Robinson had led the company the entire time, becoming one of the brand’s most stalwart champions. So when he made the decision to hang up his butcher’s apron in retirement in 2018, he wanted to say goodbye in the most fitting way possible.
With his cohort and current Oxford Vice President Ron Rurak, Robinson commissioned two hand-crafted meat cleavers – one as an auction item for the Colvin Scholarship Fund, and one to be on permanent display at the Certified Angus Beef ® brand headquarters in Wooster, Ohio.
“We consider them pieces of industrialized art,” says Rurak. “The inspiration came from an old carcass splitter I have that dates back to the 18th century. It took a tough person to handle one of those. These are probably the only ones of this size and quality in the country.”
Zack Jonas, a master blacksmith whose work has been displayed in the Philadelphia Museum of Fine Art, forged the blade. John K. Pease, a master engraver for Smith & Wesson and Colt Firearms, added the engraving. Even the case has a story. Built by designer Kurt Piper, whose work has been on display in art galleries between New York and Boston, it’s made from the same white oak zebra pattern as the cleaver handle.
Purchased by S Foods Inc. of Japan, the one-of-a-kind piece not only funded grants for future leaders, but added links to the chain that binds the brand community together across roles, continents and generations.
“There aren’t enough words to accurately convey the gratitude we feel toward Charlie, Ron and Oxford Trading,” says John Stika, President of the Certified Angus Beef ® brand. “Not just for these beautiful works of art, but for the partnership that has spawned the breadth of our existence. When we look at where the brand is today, we owe a lot of that to people like Charlie and Ron, who were willing to take a leap of faith on something that had never been done.”
Grateful, too, are those who are selected for the grants, like Liz Forker, who is completing her veterinary medicine degree at Iowa State University.
“The scholarship is such a blessing,” she says. “That support ensures that young people like me have the opportunity to continue their education.”
The support goes even deeper, she recognizes. Without partners’ efforts to market and sell the brand, and driving demand for premium Angus beef, it could not fulfill its central mission of helping sustain Angus farming families.