Texas Tech University officials gathered in Amarillo Friday to express gratitude to donors who have contributed $46 million toward the institution's School of Veterinary Medicine.

Texas Tech University System Chancellor Robert Duncan and President Lawrence Schovanec led a delegation that greeted contributors just a stones throw away from where the vet school is slated to be built, near the Texas Tech Health Sciences Center.

“Since announcing our vision for the School of Veterinary Medicine two and a half years ago, the community has joined us and really stepped up,” Duncan said. “It’s gotten a lot of attention around the state of Texas about what you’ve done and this is a beginning celebration of the community’s commitment to this great idea. Today we’re celebrating what we call the trailblazers. You can’t do something like this unless you have support of the philanthropic community and we’ll be announcing more gifts we’ve had from the community. We are also proud of the support we have received from the agriculture community. Throughout history we have had opportunities to make big ideas happen and we're thankful for your collaboration and generosity."

In May the Amarillo City Council voted in favor of an arrangement guaranteeing the Texas Tech University School of Veterinary Medicine concept would come to fruition, supporting an Amarillo Economic Development Corporation pledge of up to $69 million toward the completion of the $90 million project. University brass took advantage of Friday's opportunity to extend kudos to the City and the private donors.

"When Texas Tech was established in 1923, the vision was that it would serve and support the needs of all of West Texas," Schovanec said. "The scope of the University has grown well beyond West Texas, as we serve the state, the nation and the world. We want to engage in research and educational programs that make a difference in West Texas and the state. The quantum leaps only take place when there are singular events that make a difference and I am talking about the kind of difference in the commitment this community has made to this vet school initiative. I really can’t say enough in terms of what this community has meant toward advancing the idea of the vet school. We have work to do, but the work that has been done serves as a strong statement of what’s to be achieved. The Amarillo community has steadfastly demonstrated its commitment to be with us along this journey and the willingness of the donors to do the same speaks volumes. We can’t thank you enough for your philanthropic behavior."

Officials said one such donor is Cactus Feeders, which they said was established in 1975, with beef and pork production locations in Texas, Kansas, Iowa, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia, noting the 800 employee-owners of Cactus Feeders are dedicated to finding ways to produce more food while using fewer resources at a lower cost. Cactus Feeders Co-CEO Paul Defoor said the company is honored to be a part of the initiative.

“There are a lot of things I can say philosophically about the importance of access to a high-quality, affordable education and the impact that has on our society," he said. "But what I should say more directly is an affirmation of the needs that are present today in veterinary medicine and an affirmation of the demographic challenges that await us tomorrow if we don’t act today. Cactus is one of the largest food production companies in the world and we see the need. We need leaders who understand the science behind their decision making, but also have a comprehensive understanding of the impact on food production and animal well-being. We complement everyone on the success we've had so far and on behalf of Cactus Feeders, we pledge not only our monetary support, but we pledge our help as well. We will work any way we can to provide an experiential setting for these students to come and learn."

Officials said one of every 25 fed cattle in the United States is from Cactus Feeders, noting each week 20,000 head of Cactus Cattle produce 12 million pounds of boneless red meat and 14,000 market hogs from the company produce two million pounds of ham, bacon and other pork products for American families.