Dr. Robert Khayat Retires from Sanderson Farms Board of Directors
After 12 years of serving on Sanderson Farms’ board of directors, Dr. Robert C. Khayat retired in December 2019. During his tenure on the board, he was elected by our shareholders five consecutive times, and never received less than 98 percent of the votes.
“Robert Khayat has been a valued member of Sanderson Farms’ Board of Directors since 2007,” said Joe F. Sanderson Jr., chairman and chief executive officer of Sanderson Farms. “He brought a unique perspective to the company with his extensive academic leadership experience and distinguished legal career.”
During his service on the company’s board of directors, Khayat’s focus on diversity, inclusion, talent development and a zero tolerance for discrimination of any kind helped set a tone that has been fundamental to the company’s success. In addition to his focus on the people that represent Sanderson Farms, he also managed the construction of several of the company’s poultry facilities including Kinston, St. Pauls, Palestine and Tyler.
“Robert brought to our board the same commitment to diversity and inclusion he demonstrated throughout his career,” continued Sanderson. “We are grateful for his important work in serving on our audit and compensation committees and for his invaluable contributions toward building our corporate culture and increasing long-term shareholder value.”
In addition to serving on the company’s board of directors, Khayat dedicated his career to furthering higher education and establishing a legacy of leadership in numerous fields including academics, law and sports. He served as the chancellor of the University of Mississippi for 14 years until his retirement in 2009. Prior to his retirement, Khayat served the university in various capacities, including serving as a professor of law at the University of Mississippi School of Law for 13 years.
During his 14-year tenure as chancellor, Khayat led a major transformation of the university that resulted in higher academic standards, tripled minority enrollment, higher private financial support and recognition of the university by many independent organizations as one of the country’s leading public universities. He is specifically credited with increasing enrollment by 43 percent and bringing more than $100 million in research and development grants to the university.
In one of his first acts as chancellor, Khayat arranged for a $5.4 million gift from Jim and Sally Barksdale to establish an honors college. Among countless other accomplishments, his efforts to promote the university culminated in unprecedented national attention from its successful bid to host the first United States presidential debate in 2008.
A 1956 graduate of Moss Point High School, the former chancellor earned undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Mississippi. A Sterling Fellowship later enabled him to pursue a degree from the Yale Law School in 1980. His book “The Education of a Lifetime” won a Silver IPPY award in 2013 for best memoir in the nation.
“Those of you who know Robert know that while he was a football player in college, he was a cheerleader afterwards,” continued Sanderson. “He is always cheering for us as individuals, as a board and as a company. Robert would tell you how good you are in one sentence, but then pull you aside and ask hard questions with his next one. He is both a great cheerleader and an outstanding coach. Sanderson Farms and its shareholders are fortunate to have had Robert serve on the board of directors during a period of tremendous growth and change. He was the right man at the right time in 2007, and we will miss his leadership.”