Terry Siebenmorgen leaves global legacy in rice industry innovation

• By Mary Hightower •

terry siebenmorgen
Terry Siebenmorgen at the 2019 Arkansas Agriculture Hall of Fame induction in Little Rock — U of A System Division of Agriculture photo by Mary Hightower

Terry Siebenmorgen was known around the globe for his work in rice processing, but closer to home, he was treasured by co-workers and friends alike for his optimism, unflinching support and kindness. Siebenmorgen passed away Sunday following a battle with cancer. He was 63.

He is survived by his wife, Patty, sons Justin and Ryan, and preceded in death by his son Matthew.

A funeral mass is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Friday, Nov. 26, at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Fayetteville. Attendance is limited but will be livestreamed on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/574904600014170

A native of Scranton in Logan County, Siebenmorgen earned his undergraduate degree from the University of Arkansas, his master’s degree from Purdue and a doctorate from the University of Nebraska, all in agricultural engineering. Siebenmorgen began his faculty career with the University of Arkansas System in 1984 as a food engineer, working in several areas of food processing.

Starting in the late 1980s, he focused on rice processing in response to the substantial need for research from the food industry. Siebenmorgen founded the world-renowned Rice Processing Program in 1994. It was an industry-interactive, multidisciplinary effort focusing on rice processing operations and has sponsors from across the United States, South America, Europe and Japan.

In 2019, Siebenmorgen was inducted into Class XXXII of the Arkansas Agriculture Hall of Fame. He was also inducted as a Fellow of the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers in 2005 and the American Association of Cereal Chemists International in 2014.

He earned many industry awards, including Riceland Foods’ Friend of the Farmer in 2012 and the Distinguished Service Award from the Rice Technical Working Group in 2016 and 2018. He also received the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers Distinguished Food Engineer Award in 2007.

He was twice selected for the Texas Instruments Outstanding Research Award. He earned the Spitze Land Grant University Faculty Award for Excellence and John W. White Team Award, the highest award of its type given by the Division of Agriculture.

Chuck Wilson Terry Siebenmorgen
Dr. Terry Siebenmorgen (right), director of UA’s rice processing program, checks out some new equipment as Dr. Chuck Wilson explains its use — photo by Vicky Boyd

“Terry was a true gentleman and a giant in his field. In addition to his great work for agriculture, he mentored a great number of students and post-docs who had the good fortune to work with him,” said Mark Cochran, vice president for agriculture for the University of Arkansas System and head of the Division of Agriculture. “He dedicated himself to improving production and processing of a crop that is important not only in Arkansas but also is the most widely consumed grain in the world. He leaves a deep legacy for the industry in his work, and on the students and colleagues whose lives he made a great impact.”

Jean-Francois Meullenet, senior associate vice president for agriculture-research and director of the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station for the Division of Agriculture, was relatively new in his career at Arkansas when he met Siebenmorgen.

“Terry was a great mentor to me throughout my faculty career and he always made me feel welcome and wanted when it came to be a part of Rice Processing Program,” he said. “My participation in the Rice Processing Program allowed me to do a lot of fun research on rice quality and provided me great professional opportunities as invited speaker at international venues in several countries including South Korea and Uruguay.

“When I became department head in 2008, Terry was a strong supporter on the work I did to advance the Food Science Department. He always gave me sound advice and was always there for me. Many times, while meeting with Terry, an hour had passed before I would realize there was a long line of students and staff waiting patiently for him outside his door. I always walked out of his office with a calmer mind, renewed enthusiasm and greater vision. Terry was that kind of guy. He loved to talk ‘big picture.’”

“Dr. Siebenmorgen impacted so many people, and he will be deeply missed,” said Jeyam Subbiah, head of the food science department for the Division of Agriculture and the Dale Bumpers College of Agriculture, Food and Life Sciences. “His contributions towards research, teaching, leadership, and service to the rice industry will always remain.

“He was one of the most optimistic and spiritual persons I have ever seen in my life,” Subbiah said. “He treats his staff, students, and colleagues like members of his family. Besides being a kind-hearted man, he was also a loving husband, father, grandfather, friend, teacher and co-worker.”

Mary Hightower is University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture communications director. She may be reached at mhightower@uaex.edu.

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