Celebration of Excellence

CAFNR honors its outstanding faculty, staff, students, alumni and friends

CAFNR - Celebration of Excellence

The College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources (CAFNR) at the University of Missouri held its annual Celebration of Excellence Award ceremony on April 10 to honor outstanding faculty, staff, students, alumni and friends of the College.

CAFNR was founded in 1870 as the MU College of Agriculture. Today, its mission encompasses traditional plant and animal sciences, as well as natural resources, fisheries and wildlife, atmospheric sciences, agroforestry, economics, science and agricultural journalism, food science, hospitality management, tourism, and biological engineering.

Winners announced at the event held at the Reynolds Alumni Center were:


14FreshmanMiriam Martin was named the 2014 Outstanding Freshman of the Year. The award recognizes students who demonstrate leadership and CAFNR activity involvement. Martin is studying animal sciences.

“I have not witnessed another freshman with her level of focus,” said Monte Kerley, professor of animal sciences. “She is participating on the meats judging team for the University and is involved with a research project in meat science. Her GPA is stellar. Simply put, what she puts her hands on excels and she has excelled at much. This trajectory will position her far above her peers. Her focus, her understanding of the industry and what is needed to succeed, and the high level of achievement places her well above peer students.”


14SophomoreCourtney Spencer was named the 2014 Outstanding Sophomore. Spencer is majoring in animal sciences.

“I’ve been fortunate to view Courtney in action, in very diverse circumstances, and she consistently handles herself with class and professionalism,” wrote Chip Kemp, Youth Leadership program director and animal sciences instructor. “Her personal and moral compass were instilled and reinforced at a young age by a family steeped in agriculture and focused on self-accountability and having a purpose. Her actions, attitude and humble confidence give me good reason to recommend her, without reservation, as our college’s outstanding sophomore.”


14JuniorShannon Yokley was named the 2014 Outstanding Junior. Yokley is studying science and agricultural journalism. She is the president of Sigma Alpha Professional Agricultural Sorority.

“Shannon is a worthy combination of determination, leadership, and intellect and her resume reads like a checklist for college success,” wrote Chip Kemp, Youth Leadership program director and animal sciences instructor. “Her ability to adapt her skillset and energy to various tasks makes her all the more unique and marketable in today’s agricultural industry. It’s no coincidence then that she reflects Mizzou and CAFNR in an impressive light.”


14swineclubThe MU Swine Club was named 2014 Outstanding Student Club. The mission of the Swine Club is to inform Mizzou students about the swine industry through networking with business professionals.

In 2013 the Swine Club helped in the CAFNR Fall Round Up, and represented the Missouri Pork Producers at Columbia’s Roots and Blues Festival. They also conducted field trips to the Cargill Pork Open House, the Novus Research Farm, and Passion for Pigs, a conference on Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome. They also volunteered at the Bradford Research Center Field Day where they spoke about nutrition, breeds, swine housing, bio-security and major swine diseases. At the South Farm Showcase, they answered questions from 9,000 attendees. At MFA’s 100th anniversary, the group assisted with food and drinks.

In 2014, the Swine Club served as judges for the Missouri Pork Association’s Taste of Elegance in Columbia, and sponsored a feral hog panel. They plan to build a cardboard racer for the Float Your Boat for the Food Bank fundraiser, in addition to volunteering at The Food Bank.


14Weber-AJ. Alan Weber, Columbia, Mo., was recognized with the Past President Award by the Ag Alumni Association. He completed his undergraduate and graduate training in agricultural economics at Mizzou, and is actively engaged with an 875-acre family farm in central Missouri.

Weber is a founding partner of MARC-IV, a consulting company that fosters the development of bio-based innovations that benefit agriculture and enhance our environment. Active with biodiesel commercialization since 1991, Alan helped establish the National Biodiesel Board’s Washington, D.C., office and continues to provide economic and technical support. He was appointed by the U.S. Secretaries of Agriculture and Energy to serve on the Biomass Research & Development Initiative Technical Advisory Committee in 2012.

Weber is a recipient of the National Biodiesel Board’s Outstanding Service Award, and served as President of the Board of Directors for the Agricultural Leadership of Tomorrow Foundation.

“Alan’s vision and ability to look deeper than the details of what was currently being done has led our association to develop and adopt a strategic plan to guide us for many years,” commented Colleen Abbott, incoming board president. “That process under Alan’s leadership has led to meeting the goals of a million dollar endowment and impacting ever-increasing numbers of faculty and students.”


14wenneker-rRobin Wenneker, Managing Partner in a family business that owns farm, rental and land holdings, was awarded an MU Ag Alumni Association Honorary Membership.

Robin is a member of CAFNR’s Campaign Committee, serves on the Mizzou Alumni Association Governing Board and the Executive Board of MAA’s Boone County Chapter. Additionally, she received MAA’s Outstanding Graduate of the Last Decade (GOLD) award in 2001.

She graduated with a B.S./B.A. from Mizzou in 1991 and an MBA from Washington University in 2002.

“Her first step, as an out-of-town MU alum, was to work hard for Mizzou wherever she was planted by joining and leading Mizzou Alumni Chapters,” said John Saunders, Stewartsville, Mo., and the Past President of the College of Agriculture Foundation. “When she returned to Columbia, nothing would stop her from being actively engaged with her father’s and grandfather’s College. Today, she is President of the College of Agriculture Foundation. She believes in this lively College and plans to do her utmost to help it be even better.”


14borgman-dDon Borgman, B.S., Ag Journalism, Levasy, Mo.., was presented a Citation of Merit Award by the MU Ag Alumni Association. Borgman has a long association with the John Deere Company. His service began with an internship position while an MU Ag Journalism student. He authored the Tractors textbook in the Fundaments of Machine Operation series, which is no small feat for a new person at a large, respected company. Don worked numerous positions in service, sales and production throughout his career with Deere. He now serves as Deere’s Director of Ag Industry Relations for the USA and Canada.

“Don is a visionary who uses his knowledge and skills to promote agriculture and the University of Missouri,” said Dale Ludwig, Linn, Mo. “He has a strong commitment to Mizzou and its traditions. Don is an active advocate for agriculture and serves as a guide for many. He consistently looks for opportunities to further the agricultural industry. He continues to support and attend many CAFNR and University functions.”


14Parr-DDouglas Parr, Leawood, Kan., was presented a Citation of Merit Award by the MU Ag Alumni Association. Parr is owner of Parr and Associates and previously was Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Dean Foods Company, which saw its strongest sales growth under his leadership.

He served as Secretary of the Board for Quality Chekd Dairies, a major dairy industry organization. He has served on the boards of the Milk Industry Foundation and the National Ice Cream Association, both in Washington, D.C.

“Since his retirement, he has personally endowed a fund which not only provides scholarships, but also travel funds for workshops, professional meetings and support for internships,” noted Heidi Griswold, former CAFNR director of development. “He knows from experience the needs of students trying to learn all they can before entering their careers.


14Streeter-BBill Streeter, Columbia, Mo., was presented a Citation of Merit Award by the MU Ag Alumni Association. Streeter has been the President and CEO of MFA, Incorporated since 2009.

“MFA supports students, faculty, research and facilities as well as Ag Alumni events such as the Ag Unlimited Auction and Tiger Golf Classic,” said Michael Cook, professor and Robert Partridge Chair in Cooperative Leadership. “With direct contributions of at least $500,000, MFA is a significant donor to the Life Sciences Building and the Stringer Wing in Eckles Hall. He supports experiment farm research with in-kind donations, as well as plant and animal science research, and the Delta Center. He also supports student activities such as the Meats Judging Team, the FFA Field Day at Bradford Farm, the Paul Vaughn Scholarship and the Bud Frew Scholarship. The MFA Foundation provides scholarships for nearly 300 rural youth each year.”


14hanes-jJohn Hanes was named Alumnus of the Year by the MU Ag Alumni Association. Hanes is the president of The John T. Hanes Company and resides in Oklahoma City, Okla.

“John was part of the steering committee of the capital campaign that raised more than $60 million,” noted Darcy Wells, CAFNR Executive Director for Advancement. “He actively provided helpful fundraising ideas with which he was familiar through his years as a corporate executive and member of various charitable organizations. John willingly traveled to Columbia for Campaign Committee meetings, and connected by phone for those meetings he could not attend. His aim was to be of service to CAFNR to continue the tradition of excellence of which we are all proud.”


14heinz-bRobert Heinz, coordinator, Extension Nematology Lab, received a Staff Recognition Award, honoring his work at the University of Missouri for more than 34 years in nematology Extension, research and teaching missions.

“Bob Heinz is one of the hardest working individuals you will ever meet,” noted Extension Turf Pathologist Lee Miller. “Not only is he hard working, but he takes great pride in his work and is committed to doing a quality job. He never turns down a job or a request for help, and he takes on these opportunities with enthusiasm.”


14mueller-tTonya Mueller, Support Systems Administrator in plant sciences, was presented the Staff Recognition Award.

“Tonya is inquisitive and always willing to try new things,” said Michael Collins, Plant Sciences Division Director. “For example, many years ago she foresaw the need for a centralized location for personnel to access capabilities such as poster plotters, scanners, and specialized photographic equipment. Tonya led the establishment of the DPS Graphics Lab. Tonya also assisted Kevin Bradley in development of the web site and database for the Missouri Weed Identification Guide, which is accessible by field agronomists using an iPhone or iPad app.”


14goyne-kKeith Goyne, associate professor, School of Natural Resources, was named the Outstanding Advisor for Undergraduate Advising. Goyne joined MU’s Soil, Environmental and Atmospheric Sciences in 2005. He has 32 peer-reviewed publications from 2000 to present. He has garnered 18 grants from 2005 to present with a total of $2,077,670

“My advising experience at Mizzou has been nothing but positive,” said Rebecca Nordenholt, a SEAS graduate student. “If my classmates have trouble working out class schedules, I always tell them to talk to Dr. Goyne. He makes every effort to get to know you personally so he can help tailor your classes to your interests while still making sure you graduate in a timely manner.”


14smith-mMichael Smith, professor of animal sciences, was named the Outstanding Advisor in Graduate Advising.

“He challenges his graduate students to read, think and pushes them to accomplish more than they would on their own,” wrote Rodney Geisert, professor of animal sciences. “Dr. Smith does not just look for regurgitation of information, but stresses students to learn information as a knowledge bank to solve real-world problems. Dr. Smith not only teaches others, but also teaches others how to teach.”


14-leeChristopher Lee, assistant teaching professor, Biochemistry, was named the Outstanding Early Career Teacher. Lee earned his Ph.D. in Biological Sciences from Mizzou in 2008. From 2008-2011 he mentored underrepresented students in the Express and McNair Scholars Program at MU. Beginning in 2003, he mentored two undergraduate researchers, Larry Page and Kirby Swatek, both who have now earned a Ph.D. in Biochemistry.

“For my fellow students and me, Dr. Lee’s teachings carry beyond the scope of class,” wrote Anthony Shumate, a junior in Biochemistry. “Dr. Lee’s interest in our future is apparent. We have a guest speaker every week in lecture, and this speaker describes career options in their science areas. This wonderful tool allows us, as students, to form a very important network with companies that appeal to us. Each week, students flock to the speaker at the end of the lecture, eager to shake their hand and introduce themselves.”


14mitchum-mMelissa Mitchum, associate professor, plant sciences, was named the Outstanding Senior Teacher. Mitchum has been with CAFNR for nine years. Her research seeks to establish the molecular basis of plant-nematode interactions, particularly between the cyst nematode and its host plant, the soybean.

“Melissa draws on a variety of teaching styles, such as the inclusion of live nematode samples placed at multiple stations around the classroom, videos of nematodes, and student teams to research specific subjects,” commented James Schoelz, director of MU graduate studies. “She has developed a nematode Jeopardy game that students play in class to review materials for tests. It is very effective for student retention of the lecture materials. It is fun, but it was also a powerful teaching tool.”


14conant-gGavin Conant, assistant professor, animal sciences, received the Early Investigator Researcher Award. He earned his Ph.D. with distinction in biology from the University of New Mexico. He joined CAFNR’s Division of Animal Sciences and Informatics Institute in 2008.

“Gavin has moved the entire MU campus to the next level for both animal and plant sciences by adding systems biology approaches to our tool box,” said J. Chris Pires, associate professor, MU Division of Biological Sciences. “Gavin is providing the sheep industry with methods and insights that can be used in breeding and management programs, because in addition to traditional molecular markers for traits of interest, Gavin is able to see phenotypes as they relate to changes in global network topologies and not just single genes. This is a paradigm shift that is much larger than going from genetics to genomics, and while the revolution has yet to be fully appreciated, Gavin is poised to assume a major leadership role in this hot area.”


14gassman-wWalter Gassmann, professor, plant sciences, was presented the Distinguished Researcher Award. His research studies how plants express resistance genes that, directly or indirectly, interact with effector proteins of pathogens and trigger a plant disease resistance response.

“In a set of truly remarkable experiments published in Science and The Plant Journal, Walter Gassmann showed that a transporter, named HKT1, mediates potassium and sodium transport,” noted Julian Schroeder, co-director for the Center for Food and Fuel for the 21st Century, University of California, San Diego. “These landmark studies opened up a new field that is now being pursued by many laboratories globally.”


14scharf-pPeter Scharf, professor, plant sciences, was presented the J.W. Burch State Specialist Agriculture and Natural Resources Extension Award. Scharf’s research emphasis is the discovery of new knowledge to help farmers to manage nitrogen fertilizer better. This is primarily done through on-farm experiments and demonstrations – more than 400 total, so far.

“Peter has the most robust agronomic nitrogen management research and Extension program of any working agronomist/soil scientist in the United States,” commented Deanna Osmond, professor and Department Extension leader, North Carolina State University. “In addition, Peter works with remote sensing to evaluate nitrogen losses and quantify nitrogen deficiencies. Understanding spatial patterns of nitrogen response over different years and growing seasons will be critical to developing better nitrogen application rates. Peter is a leader in this field.”


Three individuals were surprised with the prestigious Frederick B. Mumford Awards. Mumford was the fifth dean of the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources.

14prather-rRandall Prather was named the recipient of the Frederick B. Mumford Award for Outstanding Faculty. He is the Curators’ and Distinguished Professor of Reproductive Physiology in the Division of Animal Sciences.

“For scientists to discover cures for human disease, which at this point have no known treatment, we must be able to create a suitable animal model that accurately replicates the human disease condition,” said Rodney Geisert, professor of animal sciences. “It takes a scientist to think outside the norm and demonstrate what was deemed impossible 20 years ago, possible. Dr. Prather’s laboratory successfully mastered the technological steps to produce the world’s first transgenic pigs by nuclear transfer and the first pigs with a specific genetic modification. He also developed the world’s first miniature pigs with both copies of disease genes rendered non-functional. The importance of Dr. Prather’s ground breaking work is even described in Sir Ian Wilmut’s book ‘The Second Creation: Dolly and the Age of Biological Control.’”

14copeland-cChristy Copeland is the recipient of the Frederick B. Mumford Award for Outstanding Staff. She is the assistant director of CAFNR International Programs.

“Christy’s skills reflect her personal drive and ability to work with people,” said C. Jerry Nelson, professor emeritus. “She is quick, to the point and always moving forward. Her current role includes being the primary locator of funding and the financial management of international programs. In this role, Christy is both facilitator and a leader for the faculty. She excels in locating funding sources, coordinating faculty to focus on opportunities, helping draft proposals, interacting with granting sources, and effectively winning the funding.”

14jones-pPat Jones is the recipient of the Frederick B. Mumford Award for Distinguished Service. She received her B.S. degree in soil science in 1950 from CAFNR. Pat and her late husband, brokerage-firm head Edward “Ted” Jones, worked passionately in conservation and helped get the state-wide KATY Trail established.

“Pat’s role in the establishment of the KATY is reason enough to be recognized with the Mumford Award, but there is another compelling reason,” said Mark Ryan, director of the School of Natural Resources. “In 1997, Pat donated 700 acres of farm, field and woodlot to the Missouri Department of Conservation and MU School of Natural Resources. The area is managed by MDC as the Prairie Fork Conservation Area. Pat also established an endowment to support management, research and conservation education programming at Prairie Fork. Each year, under the direction of the trustees, an advisory board distributes several thousand dollars for conservation-related research at Prairie Fork (most of it over the years to MU faculty). This year the Foundation disbursed $185,000, of which $144,000 went to MU researchers and educators.”