DENVER — Two men who dedicated their lives to furthering the American wool industry have been chosen as 2018 recipients of the Wool Excellence Award.
Mark Kent and Dr. Carl Menzies were selected for the annual honor by the Wool Roundtable and will be recognized at the 2018 ASI Annual Convention in San Antonio. The Wool Recognition Lunch is scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 1, at the Marriott San Antonio Rivercenter.
Kent will be honored posthumously as he died unexpectedly at age 55 on Sept. 24, 2017. He became President of Kent Manufacturing Co. at age 29 and was the fifth generation in his family to lead Kentwool. The company will celebrate 175 years in business this year.
Kentwool is one of approximately 75 yarn companies in the world, and the only yarn company in the United States with the Usterized Quality Certification. Under Kent’s leadership, the company invested in the latest technology for fiber and yarn testing and put to use the most modern machinery available for processing worsted wool yarns for hosiery, apparel and other end uses.
The company has been best known in recent years for developing “the world’s best golf sock,” which is worn by countless players and caddies at professional golf tournaments all across the globe. Kent led the development of the sock using American Merino grade wool as the main yarn component. From experience, he knew there was a market for high performance golf socks using wool yarn. He secured multiple patents on the technology of the sock’s construction.
Particular emphasis was put into developing the wool yarn used in the sock’s construction. It’s a blend of Merino wool, nylon, polyester and spandex, however, roughly 60 percent of the blend is wool.
“Mark Kent realized long before the rest of us that wool was a year-round product,” said Jack Ewing with Crescent Sock Company. “Mark started marketing wool golf socks for the summers in South Carolina – the screen door to hell. Why did he do it? Because he believed in wool. We producers and marketers thought that summer wool was crazy, but Mark knew better.”
Kentwool’s core business has always been yarn manufacturing, and as such, Kent previously served as president of the American Yarn Spinners Association and as a member of the National Council of Textile Organizations. Through the years, Kentwool has partnered with other American manufacturers, including Nester Hosiery, Crescent Sock Company and Duckworth. The company has also worked on products for the U.S. military.
Kim Kent will attend the 2018 ASI Annual Convention to accept the award on her husband’s behalf.
“Mark would be humbled and likely speechless – which was something he rarely was – to receive this honor,” she said. “Mark would be thrilled about the spotlight this award brings to the innovation taking place in the wool industry overall and at Kentwool in particular. He would have been very proud to know the longstanding commitment of Kentwool and its employees to producing high-quality, innovative wool yarns and consumer goods had been recognized to this degree by other industry influencers. This honor certainly would have meant so much to him.”
Menzies served as director of research at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center in San Angelo from its opening in 1971 until his retirement in 1996. A longtime sheep producer, it was during his time at the San Angelo center that he made his mark in the wool industry.
“I was instrumental in moving some wool research equipment to San Angelo,” he said. “I was never the one doing the research, but I was able to provide funding, equipment and an opportunity for others to do some very important research with wool. I’m most proud of the researchers and students I worked with through the years who went on to play an important role in the sheep and wool industries.”
Menzies graduated from Texas Tech University with a bachelors degree and Kansas State University with a masters degrees before pursuing his doctorate at the University of Kentucky. He worked as a county agriculture agent before spending 14 years teaching at Kansas State. He left KSU to head the animal science department at South Dakota State University for two years. In 1971, he headed to San Angelo to work in his home state of Texas.
During his professional career, he authored more than three dozen publications on sheep nutrition, breeding and wool research. At 85 years old, he still raises Rambouillet ewes on land originally purchased by his grandfather.
“I served as president of the Texas Sheep and Goat Raisers Association, coached wool judging teams and raised fine wool sheep all my life,” Menzies said. “I’m humbled to receive this award.
“I’m just happy to see that through research we’ve been able to produce wool fabrics that are easy to care for. Wool has always been a quality fabric that could be used for so many different products.”
ASI is an equal opportunity employer. It is the national trade organization supported by 45 state sheep associations, benefiting the interests of more than 88,000 sheep producers.
–American Sheep Industry Association
For more articles concerning sheep, click here.