Celebration of Excellence

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

The College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources held its annual Celebration of Excellence Award ceremony Thursday, April 9, to honor outstanding faculty, staff, students, alumni and friends of CAFNR.

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:


Clara Knipp

Clara Knipp was named the 2015 Outstanding Freshman of the Year. These awards represent students who are leaders on campus, and involved throughout the college. Knipp is majoring in agricultural education.

“Before attending the University of Missouri, I knew of many CAFNR students that spoke of their fondness for the students, faculty and staff that made the college feel like family. CAFNR students are well known for their career potential, academic success and contributions to their communities. As a freshman in the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, I wanted to emanate these high expectations of professionalism, academic dedication and extracurricular involvement,” said Knipp.


Samantha Coulson

Samantha Coulson was named the 2015 Outstanding Sophomore of the Year. Coulson is studying agricultural education. She serves as the CAFNR Student Council Secretary and an Agricultural Education and Leadership Ambassador.

“I enjoy serving on both CAFNR Week Steering Committee and the CAFNR Student Council because they are a great way to meet and work with people from all majors within the college and learn more about their interests,” Coulson said. “Meeting all incoming CAFNR students truly made my love for the CAFNR faculty and students even greater.”

 15bergmann-jJaelyn Bergmann

Jaelyn Bergmann was named the 2015 Outstanding Junior of the Year. Bergmann is an agricultural education major. This year she won Sigma Alpha Sorority’s Pillar Award for Service.

“Jaelyn consistently displays a calm drive and determination with a genuine readiness to work as a team player. She is equally comfortable being on the big stage, or applauding with enthusiasm as a friend gets the recognition in the lights. That is the hallmark of a leader. Jaelyn has participated in many philanthropic events that display her class and moral character. But likely the trait that I admire most is her ability to smile and calm others in times of stress or anxiety. This is likely one of the core skills that she possesses that so often places her in positions of leadership,” says David “Chip” Kemp, Youth Leadership Program Director.

 Alpha Gamma RhoAlpha Gamma Rho

Alpha Gamma Rho was named the 2015 Outstanding Student Club of the Year. The mission of Alpha Gamma Rho is to improve agriculture by encouraging individual endeavor, resourcefulness and development of better mental, social, moral and physical qualities.

Last year the fraternity helped raise more than $20,000 in the Firefighter Face-Off. Proceeds go to the True North and the George D. Peak Memorial Burn Center. The group also provides logistical support for the Float Your Boat for the Food Bank event.

“Academics are taken very seriously at Alpha Gamma Rho, particularly in assisting struggling or new students. Beginning in fall 2014, two elected officers, Zach Knipp and Ryan Eisenbath, developed programs to improve scholarship in the house. Mentorships, counseling and dedicated study halls became part of this program. After receiving the grades at the end of the semester it was evident that their hard work had paid off. The Alpha Gamma Rho chapter had placed third among Mizzou fraternities, with an overall house grade point of 3.15 for its 145 members. To me, the most impressive part was that 39 freshman achieved a 3.24 grade point average,” says Ryan Milhollin, Extension economist, Commercial Agriculture Program.

15abbott-cColleen Abbott

Colleen Abbott was recognized with the Past President Award by the Ag Alumni Association.

Colleen Abbott is the Eldon R-1 Schools Director of Afterschool Services. She has also worked as an athletic director, placement coordinator, agriculture instructor and FFA advisor for the Eldon and Tuscumbia school districts. Abbott received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in agriculture education from CAFNR. She has given presentations for the Missouri FFA Camp; the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources; the National Science Teachers Association; Missouri Vocational Agriculture Teachers Association; and the National Association of Agricultural Educators.

“Colleen’s enthusiasm for CAFNR is contagious. Her passion for the College and for helping CAFNR students succeed has provided essential motivation to our board and volunteers,” said Dana Rogge, Board President.

15gardner-rRoger Gardner

Roger Gardner, Chief Cultural and Communications Officer, Learfield Communications, was presented a Citation of Merit Award by the MU Ag Alumni Association.

Gardner earned his bachelor of science degree in agricultural education from Mizzou in 1983. Today, he is recognized as a national leader in sports media communications and marketing. He has been a key member of what began as the Missouri Network and the Brownfield Network, today known as Learfield Communications, an international leader in agricultural media and collegiate sports marketing. Learfield Sports is the owner of athletic multi-media rights to 100 major collegiate programs, including the University of Missouri, the company’s first sports client.

“I had the pleasure of working for Roger for I8 years. He is a progressive thinker and kind man. He wholeheartedly supports Mizzou and is willing to pitch in whenever asked. I’m a past Ag Alumni President. After serving on the board and then as president, many hours were taken away from my job at Learfield. Roger never questioned the time it took away from my daily job to be an active alumni member. He was supportive and encouraged the effort. This is rare in the workplace of today,” said Anita Vanderwert, head of sales, Americas BMK Holdings.

15lane-rRichard Lane

Richard Lane, founder of Meridian Flavors, was presented with a Citation of Merit Award by the MU Ag Alumni Association.

Richard Lane received two degrees from CAFNR: a bachelor of science in animal sciences in 1969; and a master’s in food science in 1973. Before getting his master’s he worked as a research technician at the Space Science Research Center. His graduate work in N-nitrosamine chemistry contributed to the economic success of the pork industry in Missouri and across the nation. Lane has been serving on CAFNR’s Food and Hospitality Systems Advisory Board since 2005 and helps advise the program. Currently he is President of Meridian Flavors in St. Louis and is a certified member in the Society of Flavor Chemists. He has served as President of the St. Louis Institute of Food Technologists and the Chemical Sources Association, a national organization that acquires new molecules for flavor research.

“Since my research revolves around flavor analysis, Rich and I have become friends. Over the last decade and a half, he has helped me out on more than one occasion with difficult analytical problems, where the expertise he had accumulated over several decades provided me with much needed answers,” said Ingolf Gruen, program chair, food science.

15kessler-b William Kessler

William Kessler, B.S., Agricultural Education, was presented with the 2015 True Tiger Volunteer Award.

Kessler is an active leader in local and state pork producers associations, and has been active at the national level through Operation Main Street, Pork Leadership Academy and the LEADR program. He has served on various committees for both the Pork Board and National Pork Producers Council, and has served as chairman of Producer and State Relations
for the Pork Board. Kessler served on the NPPC Board of Directors since 2012.

“Bill proudly waves his MU banner whether it be helping with activities like Ag Unlimited, the Tiger Ag Classic or a host of 4-H, FFA, Missouri State Fair and other youth activities. Bottom line, Bill Kessler is one you can always count on. Bill also actively participates in a variety of mainstream agricultural organizations and in doing so always exerts a positive perspective and never fails to advocate for MU in some capacity,” said Don Nikodim, Missouri Pork Association executive vice president.

15idel-bRobert Idel

Robert Idel, Vice-president, insurance, FCS Financial, was presented with the 2015 Alumnus of the Year Award.

He has been instrumental in securing sponsorships and participants for the Tiger Ag Classic, which in turn supports scholarships for CAFNR students. In addition, he has had years of involvement in the MU Ag Alumni Board, MU Ag Unlimited, Missouri State Fair Sale of Champions,
Agricultural Leadership of Tomorrow and Missouri Farmers Care.His support of Missouri youth interested in agriculturally related careers is exemplified through his support of CAFNR programs, in addition to
his work on the Missouri 4-H Foundation Board of Trustees and the
Youth in Agriculture Program. Bob has received numerous awards including
the CAFNR Citation of Merit and the prestigious Missouri Pork Association Chairman’s Award.

“No one is more deserving of the Alumnus of the Year award than Bob Idel,” said Don Nikodim, executive vice president of the Missouri Pork Association. “Bob continues to be one of MU and CAFNR’s leading ambassadors and advocates. Whether it be helping with activities like Ag Unlimited, the Tiger Ag Classic or a host of 4-H, FFA, Mo State Fair and other youth activities, you can count on Bob to always be there and to take a leading role.”

15schreffler-jJon Schreffler

Jon Schreffler, farm manager for the Thompson Research Center, received a Staff Recognition Award for his nearly 33 years of work at the Center.

Schreffler manages more than 200 Angus beef cows and 80 heifers on 1,000 acres of fescue pasture. He supports the research program through detailed record keeping – going back more than 20 years. This information is a tremendous asset to the timed artificial insemination research occurring at the center.

“Jon also is active in working with graduate students conducting research with beef cattle. His positive and hardworking attitude is greatly appreciated by the students, who must travel three hours to start work early in the morning. Jon is instrumental in the success of the annual field day held at Thompson farm. The field day has attracted many producers across Missouri and Iowa. Jon’s coordination has received high praise by producers,” said Rodney Geisert, professor of animal sciences.

15muzika-rRose-Marie Muzika

Rose-Marie Muzika, associate director, SNR Academic Programs, and professor, forestry, was named the Outstanding Advisor for Undergraduate Advising. Muzika came to MU in 1998 after a career at the USDA. She teaches Forest Ecology, Forest Health and Protection, Advanced Forest Ecology, Forest Ecology Field Studies, and an Honors Tutorial. She has earned research grants exploring the White Oak decline in the Midwest, and the effect of fire on woody vegetation.

“Since my graduation, I have continued to seek Dr. Muzika’s advice. As a college freshman, I would never have expected that 14 years later, my academic advisor would still be inspiring me as a professional mentor. I am forever grateful for her time, energy, enthusiasm and inspiration,” said Jessie Moan, 2004 Forestry graduate.

15johnson-tThomas Johnson

Thomas Johnson, Professor of Agricultural Economics, was named the Outstanding Advisor in Graduate Advising. Johnson has been MU’s Frank Miller Professor of Agricultural Economics since 1997. He helped develop the International Comparative Rural Policy Summer Institute, an important vehicle for graduate training.

“What distinguishes Dr. Johnson is his diligent, truthful, friendly and respectful dedication to his graduate students, from their first year in grad school all the way to their professional careers. Despite the many critical projects he runs, the 100-plus emails he receives every day and the multiple hats he wears at MU, his office door is always open and as a student or alumna/us you are always invited to come in and ask any questions,” said Maria Figueroa-Armijos, professor of economics, College of Business and Economics, Lehigh University.

15tummons-jJohn Tummons

John Tummons, Instructor, Agricultural Education and Leadership, received the 2015 Outstanding Teacher Award, Early Career.

After a teaching career in Nevada, Mo., and work as a professional development specialist at the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, Tummons joined CAFNR in 2009. He was named the 2013 Professor of the Year by the Mizzou Athletic Department, and was named the MU Faculty Member of the Month in April 2011. He has received the Inclusive Excellence Award by the Chancellor’s Diversity Initiative. He has written peer-reviewed research journal articles in the Journal of Agricultural Education. He received an honorary FFA degree in 2013.

“I’m a current student of Mr. Tummons. He consistently shows high enthusiasm. Many times after lecture he allows students to develop experiences using the specific topic, such as his Service Learning Projects. Experiences like these, which can be found in many of Mr. Tummons’ classes, provide opportunities for students to apply the curriculum to everyday situations outside of the classroom,” said Samantha R. Coulson, University of Missouri undergraduate.

15mckendry-aAnne McKendry

Anne McKendry, associate professor, plant sciences, was named the Outstanding Senior Teacher.

She teaches plant science, animal science, plant breeding and genetics, advanced field crop breeding, and has been a mentor for four Borlaug Fellows. She has earned more than $1.5 million in competitive funding for wheat and barley breeding, and more than $1 million in royalties from various varieties and variety testing.

“Two of my daughters have worked on Anne’s summer wheat crew. Although the work is hard, hot and dirty, both have appreciated the sense of work ethic that Anne instills by example,” said William Lamberson, professor of animal sciences.

15mendozacozatl-dDavid Mendoza Cozatl

David Mendoza Cozatl, assistant professor, plant sciences, received the Early Investigator Researcher Award.

He earned the 2013 NSF Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award, the Cozzarelli Prize from the National Academy of Sciences USA, a PEW Foundation Latin American Fellowship and the Weizmann Award for the best Ph.D. thesis from the Mexican Academy of Sciences. His research has appeared in 22 publications and he has one patent.

“Another important indication of David’s research is his ability to attract extramural funding. His recent NSF CAREER award is a testament to his grantsmanship. It is noteworthy that David is frequently asked to serve as a reviewer of both grant proposals and manuscripts. Indeed, he has served as a panelist and reviewer for NSF as well as for a number of high impact journals such as Nature and The Plant Cell,” said Erin Connolly, professor of biological sciences, University of South Carolina.

15van-doren-s-2Steven Van Doren

Steven Van Doren, professor of biochemistry, was presented the Distinguished Researcher Award. His laboratory investigates molecular workings of enzymes (and their partners) underlying lung disease, cancer, cardiovascular disease and innate immunity. He has published 56 journal articles, and is a National Institutes of Health grant review panel member.

“I have the pleasure of interacting with Steve’s graduate students. Those interactions tell me that Steve is a wonderful mentor. His students are always eager to present their work and demonstrate a level of understanding for their projects that directly reflects their mentor’s commitment to teaching and training,” said Amy Andreotti, professor, Iowa State University.

15downing-dDan Downing

Dan Downing, water quality associate/SARE state specialist, was presented the J.W. Burch State Specialist Agriculture and Natural Resources Extension Award. Downing provides leadership in watershed plan development, and has developed guide sheets, planning guides and a section in a book on watershed planning, “Pathways for Getting To Better Water Quality – The Citizen Effect,” to help regional specialists and communities. He recently became MU’s coordinator for the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Extension (SARE) program, and has been identified as the MU representative for the North Central Region Water Network.

“In working with Mr. Downing on various watershed projects and meetings, I have seen firsthand his ability to impart knowledge and facilitate discussion while keeping things interesting, on task and lively. He imparts words of wisdom at just the right moment to steer the conversation in the direction needed. He is well versed in an endless variety of topics, and is not only personable, but an ardent proponent of utilizing all available resources. His passionate dedication to his profession inspires that same level of commitment in others,” said T.R. Dudley, mayor of Potosi, Mo.

Corinne ValdiviaCorinne Valdivia

Corinne Valdivia, associate professor, agricultural and applied economics, was named the inaugural Brady J. Deaton Fellow in International Agriculture. This fellowship honors Deaton, chancellor emeritus for the University of Missouri, to recognize those who exemplify leadership and commitment to international development. Deaton joined the MU faculty as a professor and chair of the department of agricultural economics in 1989.

He serves as chair of the Board for International Food and Agricultural Development (BIFAD). BIFAD advises USAID on the topics of food and agriculture in developing countries. He also leads the Brady and Anne Deaton Institute for University Leadership in International Development.

William MeyersWilliam Meyers

William Meyers, Howard Cowden Professor, agricultural and applied economics, was named the inaugural Roger L. Mitchell Fellow. This fellowship honors Mitchell, the former dean of the MU College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, to recognize those who elevate the College through collaboration and innovative thinking.

Mitchell was instrumental in conceiving the Bond Life Sciences Center and the Food for the 21st Century program. Food for the 21st Century would become a collaboration among four colleges and a top priority for the UM System and the state. The program focused on Missouri’s agricultural strengths and advanced the idea of research and biotechnology. During his tenure as dean, Mitchell restructured the College to become six divisions rather than 17 departments and oversaw the change in name from the MU College of Agriculture to the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources that reinforced the strength of the College as a collaborative and interdisciplinary entity.

Frederick B. Mumford Awards

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.

Mike CookMichael Cook

Michael Cook was named the recipient of the Frederick B. Mumford Award for Outstanding Faculty. Cook is the Robert D. Partridge Chair in Cooperative Leadership, agricultural and applied economics.

“Professor Cook is an extraordinary scholar in the mold of the land grant mission. His contributions in the area of cooperative leadership span research, teaching and outreach to a worldwide agricultural community focused on providing the world food supply in a period of rapid population growth,” said Jill Findeis, director, Division of Applied Social Sciences. “Professor Cook is central to the Graduate Institute of Cooperative Leadership, a program that my predecessor, Dr. Mike Nolan, described as the ‘premier executive education program for agribusiness cooperative managers, CEOs and board members.’ I concur. More than 500 cooperatives — national and increasingly international — have participated in MU’s cooperative leadership program since its inception. The Graduate Institute of Cooperative Leadership is a powerful educational tool through which Dr. Cook, as Executive Director, brings sophisticated information derived from his team’s research and scholarship.”

Tony ThorpeTony Thorpe

Tony Thorpe is the recipient of the Frederick B. Mumford Award for Outstanding Staff. Thorpe is research specialist senior, fisheries and wildlife sciences, and the director of the Lakes of Missouri Volunteer Program.

“Tony brings creativity to science. Tony seems less encumbered by convention, and we depend on him for unconventional approaches and alternative hypotheses to the discovery of lake processes. These ideas stretch and mold discussion, improve data evaluation, and enhance our contributions to reservoir research. Tony’s keen attention to detail often catches the ‘not quite right’ statement in what others thought was the final draft of a manuscript. His oral presentations are equally effective in volunteer groups in the Ozarks and in large lecture halls at international meetings,” said Jack Jones, professor and chair of fisheries and wildlife sciences, Curators Professor and Dunmire Professor of Water Quality.

Morris BurgerMorris Burger

Morris Burger is the recipient of the Frederick B. Mumford Award for Distinguished Service. Burger is the CEO/Chairman of Burgers’ Smokehouse, California, Mo., and received a B.S. in agriculture from CAFNR in 1957.

“Morris became CEO of Burger’s Smokehouse in 1972 and has led the company into the national spotlight through marketing, technology and innovation. Burger’s Smokehouse is the nation’s largest producer of country ham and specialty smoked meats and is renowned for their products world-wide,” said Don Nikodim, executive vice president, Missouri Pork Association. “Morris’ service to Mizzou, and CAFNR, is longstanding and unwavering. As a MU grad and member of Alpha Gamma Sigma Fraternity, he has served his alma mater in a host of capacities. He is a member of the For All We Call Mizzou campaign steering committee, a Jefferson Club Trustee, a member of the Chancellor Fund for Excellence and an outstanding member of the Ag Alumni Association. He truly leads by example through his membership in the McAlester Society, Monticello Society and the MU Legacy Society and is a MAA Endowed Life Member. A prime example of this is his 2003 National Volunteer Service Award from the National Agricultural Alumni Development Association. He has been a staunch agricultural supporter throughout his lifetime and has always promoted MU to many constituencies in legislative matters concerning higher education, agriculture and family businesses and farms. He has received the CAFNR Alumnus of the Year Award and their Citation of Merit Award, as well as the MAA Alumni Award in 2014.”