Honoring LSU College of Agriculture alumnus Don Welge

Image of Don Welge
The late Donald “Don” E. Welge, LSU College of Agriculture alumnus and former president and CEO of Gilster-Mary Lee Corporation.

LSU College of Agriculture was saddened to learn of the passing of alumnus Donald “Don” E. Welge in April 2020. Welge was a passionate supporter of the LSU College of Agriculture, having majored in agricultural economics.

After completing his degree in agricultural economics, Welge returned to his home state of Illinois. Welge served as the president and CEO of Gilster-Mary Lee Corp. and had been with the company since 1957.

He joined the organization, then known as the Gilster Milling Co., immediately after earning a bachelor's degree and helped build the organization into a $900 million private label manufacturing company specializing in producing dry food mixes.

Welge is credited with being a visionary for his company. As the sale of pre-baked goods rose in the 1950s, Welge had the vision to shift the focus of Gilster Milling Co. The flour milling company moved to a private label dry mix company, building Gilster-Mary Lee Corp. into what it is today.

Welge advocated for the LSU College of Agriculture to implement food science and management curricula in the Department of Agricultural Economics & Agribusiness. He wanted to prepare students to enter the food industry and have a holistic understanding of food production from farm to table.

Don Wegle’s son, Tom Welge, remembers his father as a simple man with a lot of passion. “My dad was a very ordinary and everyday guy, but he had a lot of love for this company and love of LSU,” said Tom Welge. “He only had a few interests. However, the things he was interested in he was very dedicated to.”

When Don Welge was looking for a college to attend in the 1950s, he fell in love with Baton Rouge during a campus visit. Tom Welge said that despite living in Illinois, his father frequently attended LSU home football games.

By Annabelle Stokes