Donnie’s enthusiasm for Tyson Foods and his self-effacing humor are contagious. Appointed to his role as president and CEO in 2009, his passion is the hallmark of his tenure at the company, which he joined in 1980. Daily, he guides Tyson Foods to be a company with a conscience, focused on feeding the world great, affordable food, while also making a positive difference in people’s lives.
Like many of Tyson Foods’ team members, Donnie often dresses in work-ready khaki uniforms with the Tyson logo and his name stitched over the shirt pockets. This tradition, started by the company’s legendary former chairman and CEO, Donald J. Tyson, is indicative of Donnie’s work ethic, reminding himself and others he’s willing to pitch-in wherever the company and his team members need him.
“I wasn’t born with any special gifts. I wasn’t born with a silver spoon in my mouth. I’m just like you.” -Donnie Smith, Smart Planet: Business Brains
Through his career, Donnie has worked to learn every angle of the Tyson Food business. He joined Tyson, working in poultry operations for seven years in Tennessee before moving the company’s headquarters in Springdale, Arkansas, where he started as a commodity buyer. He was named director of commodity purchasing in 1991 and during the next several years added complementary responsibilities to his management portfolio. He was named senior vice president of logistics, purchasing and information systems in 2006. In 2007 Donnie was named group vice president of operation services, which included oversight of engineering, food safety and quality assurance, as well as environmental health and safety. He moved into the company’s consumer products division in 2008 and was named senior group vice president of poultry and prepared foods in early 2009, the same year he was appointed as president and CEO.
A native of Tennessee, Donnie graduated from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville with a bachelor’s degree in animal science.