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Cattle industry, OSU mourn loss of great leader and pioneer.

Krissa Welshans

December 26, 2023

4 Min Read
Photo Credit: Oklahoma State University

Jarold Callahan, 69, who served as the president of Express Ranches for 27 years, unexpectedly passed away on Dec. 23, 2023, Express Ranches owner Bob Funk, Sr., announced Dec. 24 in a social media post. Funk said Callahan’s sudden passing will leave a “profound void.”

“Jarold was not only a dedicated leader but also a cherished friend of our family,” Funk said. “His visionary leadership, unwavering commitment, and passion for our ranching business played a pivotal role in its success and growth. Under his guidance, we have achieved significant milestones, and his legacy will continue to inspire us in the years to come.”

Funk expressed gratitude for the outpouring of support and condolences from the ranching community, colleagues, the educational community and friends. “Your kind words have provided solace and strength during this hard time,” he added.

Oklahoma State University and the OSU A&M Board of Regents, of which Callahan served as member, released the following statement: “The passing of OSU/A&M Regent Jarold Callahan profoundly saddens us. Regent Callahan has served on the board since his appointment in 2016 with unwavering dedication, carrying out his responsibilities professionally and thoughtfully. His extensive knowledge of higher education from his service as a faculty member at NEO [Northeastern Oklahoma] and OSU and his expertise in agriculture was a true asset to his role as a Regent. His strong commitment to advancing agricultural knowledge and making an impact in our state will be remembered and cherished.”

OSU president Kayse Shrum commented, “On behalf of the entire Cowboy family, we express our sincere condolences on the passing of OSU/A&M Regent Jarold Callahan. Jarold was a fierce advocate for higher education and changed thousands of students’ lives through his leadership on the OSU/A&M Board of Regents. From his years as a faculty member to his decades of dedication to the agriculture industry, Jarold lived by the Cowboy Code and always worked to do what was right — even if it wasn’t easy. He lived a life of character and inspired all of us who knew and had the honor of working with him.”

A legacy that lives on

Callahan was born on Sept. 17, 1954, to Joe and Maxine Callahan, who instilled in him commitment to family, work ethic, and integrity. He grew up on a diversified family farm and cattle operation northwest of Welch, Okla.

He attended Welch High School, where he excelled at academics, livestock judging and basketball. He continued his livestock judging career at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M, where he received his associate’s degree in 1974. He went on to receive a bachelor’s degree in animal science from Oklahoma State University and later received his master’s degree in agriculture (animal science) from the University of Arkansas.

At Northeastern Oklahoma A&M, Callahan coached the livestock judging team from 1976 to 1982 and also served as chair of the Agriculture Division. From 1982 to 1991 he served as an instructor and coached the livestock judging team at Oklahoma StateUniversity, where he was promoted to assistant professor in 1990.

He made an impact on the lives of many students through his coaching and while serving on the Oklahoma A&M Board of Regents.

Apart from his academic contributions, Callahan served as executive vice president of the Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association from 1991 to 1995.

He was president of Express Ranches, one of the largest purebred cattle operations in the world, from 1996 to 2023. Bob Funk and Express Ranches gave him the opportunity to innovate and help shape the future of the purebred beef cattle industry.

Callahan’s many accomplishments and contributions were most recently recognized by being selected as the 2023 inductee to the Saddle & Sirloin Portrait Gallery.

“Jarold dedicated his whole life to being a loyal, hard-working and generous person who prioritized his family, friends, education and beef cattle improvement. He loved Oklahoma, OSU, cattle, his wife and partner Jennifer and his family. Of all of Jarold’s accomplishments, he was most proud of his children Brian, Tracie and Ryan,” according to his obituary.

The family will receive friends from 5-7 p.m. at the Burckhalter-Highsmith Funeral Home Chapel in Vinita on Dec. 27. A celebration of life will be held at 10 a.m. on Dec. 29 at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, Okla.

About the Author(s)

Krissa Welshans

Livestock Editor

Krissa Welshans grew up on a crop farm and cow-calf operation in Marlette, Michigan. Welshans earned a bachelor’s degree in animal science from Michigan State University and master’s degree in public policy from New England College. She and her husband Brock run a show cattle operation in Henrietta, Texas, where they reside with their son, Wynn.

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