The College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources held its annual Celebration of Excellence Award ceremony Thursday, April 14, 2016, at Reynolds Alumni Center 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.
Award recipients announced at the event included:
Emma Downing, Warrensburg, Mo., was named Outstanding Freshman of the Year. She is an active member of Sigma Alpha Professional Agricultural Sorority, MU Collegiate Farm Bureau and MU Baptist Student Union. She is a conference assistant for Missouri Future Business Leaders of America-Phi Beta Lambda, planning for several state and district conferences. "Emma has always packed a quiet confidence that hinted at her openness to see what was out there and that same demeanor highlights her capable, committed and mature approach. She is a self-starter. It is not uncommon to see her put extra time and effort into tasks and goals she has set for herself," said Kendra Stinson, Sigma Alpha president.
Nora Faris, Concordia, Mo., was named Outstanding Sophomore. She is a Missouri Farm Bureau ambassador, a member of the Mizzou Student Foundation, and has been part of the National FFA Organization since 2010. Faris is the co-chair of the CAFNR Ambassadors, organizing meetings and leading the ambassador team in recruiting new students for CAFNR. "Nora is a pleasure to work with, because she has a drive unparalleled to those of her peers. She is a natural born leader, and handles positions fairly by making sure everyone has an equal share of responsibilities for the team to succeed. Nora is a steadfast member of all she is involved with, and can balance her time and dedication evenly between organizations and commitments," said Allison Spence, Agricultural Communicators and Leaders of Tomorrow social chair.
Abrea Mizer, Marshall, Mo., was named Outstanding Junior. She has served as a CAFNR ambassador and CAFNR peer career coach since 2014. In those roles, she informs prospective students about the opportunities in CAFNR and helps current University of Missouri students become more career-ready. "Abrea is a natural leader; her leadership traits include sociability, intelligence, and communication. Abrea excels among her peers in her ability to clearly and articulately describe a vision for the future. Abrea effortlessly engages decision makers/stakeholders and uses her sociability to quickly build an influential relationship," John Tummons, assistant teaching professor, agricultural education and leadership.
Dana Rogge, Boonville, Mo., received the Past President Award from the Ag Alumni Association. She has worked with USDA-Missouri Farm Service Agency (FSA) since 2000, in various positions. She is currently the public affairs and outreach specialist. Rogge received bachelor’s degrees in both agricultural journalism and agricultural education (emphasis in leadership and communications) and a minor in agricultural economics. "One of the first things we tell any new board member is that this is a working board and we’re all part of the same team, working toward the same goals. Dana has been a team player from day one and always has a bright, positive outlook on everything we do. She’s been a valuable leader and contributor, and I treasure her friendship. She has left some big shoes to fill!" said Kristen Marshall, president, MU Ag Alumni Association.
Randy Alewel, Warrensburg, Mo., received the Citation of Merit from the Ag Alumni Association. He graduated from Mizzou in 1983 with a degree in animal science. He is the third generation owner of Alewel’s Country Meats in Warrensburg, Mo., after joining the company in 1984. As the CEO, he manages, organizes, plans and coordinates all operations, resourcing, sales and distribution for the company. "Randy has operated a meat processing plant in Missouri for over 30 years. This is no small feat considering the competitiveness of that business. He has brought favorable attention to the state with his work and accomplishments in the meat processing business on both the state and national levels," said Gene Schlichtman, retired progressive livestock producer.
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Steve A. Brown, Alexandria, Va., received the Citation of Merit from the Ag Alumni Association. Since 2008 he has worked in the national offices of the FFA near Washington, D.C., but he’ll always be closely connected with the University of Missouri. Brown, who was raised on a farm in Orrick, Mo., earned three degrees at MU – a B.S., M.S. and Ph.D. in agriculture education. "The United States is extremely fortunate to have a dedicated professional with Dr. Brown’s depth and breadth of experience to lead the future of our Agricultural Education system. Developing leaders for our nation’s most critical industry, agriculture, is a passion for Steve and his devotion to the task is unequaled," said Terry Heiman, former director of agricultural education, Missouri Department and Secondary Education.
Brad Fresenburg, Columbia, Mo., received the Citation of Merit from the Ag Alumni Association. He received four degrees from the University of Missouri – B.S. Ag ‘76, M.S. Agronomy ‘80, MBA ‘90 and Ph.D. Agronomy ‘10. He began his career with the University of Missouri in 1987 as a research specialist, and is now assistant extension professor in turfgrass sciences. Fresenburg specializes in athletic field design and maintenance and works with collegiate and professional sporting facilities around the state. "In the Turfgrass Industry we take pride in the fact that the less the turf is talked about on television, newspapers and social media the better it is for the field manager … We are encouraged to give the “and then some spirit.” Dr. Brad Fresenburg is all of these things: a behind-the-scenes motivator that trains knowledgeable turf managers, giving all he can to a state and to students while never asking anything in return but your very best effort," said Chad Follis, associate professor, Mineral Area College.
George Wm. Jesse, Columbia, Mo., was named Alumnus of the Year. After earning three degrees from MU (B.S. in agriculture in 1968, M.S. in animal husbandry in 1969 and Ph.D. in animal science in 1975), Jesse went on to teach in the Division of Animal Sciences for 36 years, specializing in swine production and management. Jesse’s tenure at MU included serving as the division chair from 1996 to 2001 and the director of undergraduate studies from 2001 until earning emeritus status in 2013. “The core of Dr. Jesse’s dedication is his love of Mizzou and our students. As an alum, he has demonstrated an unwavering commitment to MU. George has demonstrated his passion for Mizzou by working tirelessly to create the next generation of MU alumni," said Jim Spain, MU vice provost of undergraduate studies and professor of animal sciences.
Bill Ruppert, St. Louis, Mo., received the Dana Brown Haynes Distinguished Service Award from the Ag Alumni Association. He received a B.S. in Agriculture with an emphasis in ornamental horticulture and landscape design in 1980. He owns and manages the St. Louis office of National Nursery Products, a horticultural sales, marketing and consulting company representing wholesale growers, along with Ruppert Gardens and Chicken Ranch. "None of us is as involved in the green industry, both locally, statewide and nationally as Bill Ruppert. But Bill also has another distinction – not only is he serving on numerous committees, involved in many organizations and neck-deep in issues of our industry, but he is also active in these various roles. Bill doesn’t just show up, he becomes fully engaged and is not at all bashful about addressing issues that most of us just don’t have the time for," said Jim Cocos, senior manager, horticulture, Missouri Botanical Garden.
Vicki Bryan received the Staff Recognition Award from the Staff Advisory Council. She is a coordinator for the Interdisciplinary Plant Group (IPG) in the Division of Plant Sciences. She has held this position for four years. She served on CAFNR Staff Advisory Council from August 2013 to July 2015 and received the CAFNR Above and Beyond Award in September 2015. "Our Chancellor’s Distinguished Visitors Program speaker, Prof. Sir David Baulcombe (Head of the Department of Plant Sciences at the University of Cambridge, UK), indicated from the podium that because of the outstanding organization of his visit to MU, a job was available to help run his department!!" said Robert Sharp, director, Interdisciplinary Plant Group.
Chris Boessen received the Outstanding Advisor for Undergraduate Advising honor. He earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees and Ph.D. in agricultural economics from the University of Missouri. He joined the University of Missouri in 2006 as a teaching assistant professor, and has served as a teaching associate professor since 2014. "Dr. Boessen is more than a teacher; he is a mentor and a friend to many students. He tells them what they need to hear, not what they want to hear. His teaching and mentoring initiatives have improved the quality of education in the Department, at the College level, and across the University of Missouri campus. Chris prepares students to succeed, whether it is in the area of agricultural finance, new products marketing, or international agribusiness," said Joe Parcell, professor and department chair, agricultural and applied economics.
Walter Gassmann received the Outstanding Advising for Graduate Advising honor. Gassmann’s approach to graduate advising since arriving at the University of Missouri in 2000 as an assistant professor in the Division of Plant Sciences can best be described as "passion met with patience." Since that time he has served on more than 50 graduate committees. He currently serves as a professor, focusing on the innards of plant immune systems, as well as a member of the Interdisciplinary Plant Group (IPG). "His encouragement inspired me with confidence, and helped my transition from a dependent to independent researcher. I believe a great mentor should be a good friend, too, and he is definitely both for me. He is a role model for me as well as a desirable mentor," said Sang-Hee Kim, postdoctoral associate, Indiana University.
Gavin Conant, associate professor animal sciences, received the Outstanding Teacher-Early Career Award. He earned his Ph.D. with distinction in biology from the University of New Mexico. He has received a grant from the National Science Foundation for a teaching initiative involving research experiences for undergraduates in high-performance computing and has instructed a summer undergraduate bioinformatics “boot camp.” "His credentials and accomplishments far surpass our typical conception of teaching excellence and fall into the categories of truly innovative, transformational and exemplary – the latter to be taken literally: setting an ideal example for the teaching industry," said Tom McFadden, director, Division of Animal Sciences.
Bruce Barrett, professor, plant sciences, received the Outstanding Teacher-Senior Award. His research is focused on the biological, behavioral and chemical ecology studies of small/tree fruit, turf and agroforestry insect pests. Barrett’s two undergraduate courses focus on introducing students to the world of insects and helping those students understand the role of insects in the world. "Bruce’s goal is to motivate and enlighten all of the students by making the science relevant to their lives, having a sense of humor, and being friendly and accessible, and by all accounts he exceeds his own expectations. Bruce consistently receives outstanding reviews from his students and peer evaluators. Evaluations highlight his excellent communication skills and his positive attitude. Students are inspired by his passion for the subject and find his teaching style clear and engaging," said Deborah L. Finke, associate professor, plant sciences.
Thomas Guilfoyle, professor, biochemistry, received the Distinguished Researcher Award. He has been a member of the University of Missouri community since 1986. He is known throughout the world for his research on the biology behind the plant hormone auxin and the holistic effects it has on plant growth and development. During his career, he has identified the genes regulated by auxin, the proteins that control those genes and the overall framework for integrating how auxin regulates those transcriptional processes. His research has appeared in 106 publications, including Science and Nature twice. "Tom’s willingness to share ideas and ‘talk about auxin’ sets him apart in a field that tends to be taciturn when sharing unpublished data. As a result, he has been included as a collaborator on many projects from around the world — I suspect this is from his sharing his ideas into problems and leading others to an ‘Aha!’ moment," said Lucia Strader, assistant professor of biology, Washington University.
Joseph Zulovich, extension assistant professor, agricultural engineering, received the J.W. Burch State Specialist Agriculture and Natural Resources Extension Award. He has been with the University of Missouri for 23 years, with a primary research focus on livestock housing systems and agricultural structures. Zulovich also has a specialization in manure handling systems. He provides leadership and technical material development for several extension program areas, including livestock facilities and systems for the swine, dairy and beef industries. He addresses several facility areas such as functional planning, ventilation design and structural design. "Joe’s attention to detail and his ability to bring practical application to engineering makes him valuable to regional specialists, Missouri agriculture, and national issues. His focus has been to provide the best science-based information that is both economically viable for producers and environmentally sound. He recognizes the agricultural industry’s need for providing facility designs that promote animal welfare and well-being," said Robert R. Broz, extension assistant professor, agricultural engineering.
Azlin Mustapha, professor, food science, received the Brady J. Deaton Fellow in International Agriculture Award. She teaches food microbiology courses. Her research focuses on molecular detection and inhibition of food-borne pathogens. She has received the CAFNR Outstanding Graduate Advisor Award; MU Gold Chalk Advancement of Graduate Education Award; and MU Excellence in Education Award. "Serving as a program mentor is not always an easy task but Dr. Mustapha has received only high-praise from the fellows and each one has requested to continue collaboration with her once they return home … She is an exemplary international ambassador who contributes substantially to the internationalization of MU through her leadership activities and desire to develop lasting connections with international visitors," said Willi Meyers, Christy Copeland and Kenneth Schneeberger, CAFNR International Programs.
Randall S. Prather, Curators Professor, animal sciences, received the Roger L. Mitchell Fellow Award. Prather is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the Mizzou chapter of the National Academy of Inventors. In 2011, he received the AgriScience Award from the Christopher Columbus Fellowship Foundation, and in 2002 was Popular Sciences’ Medical Tech Grand Award Winner. "Cystic fibrosis is the most prevalent genetic mutation in adolescents in North America. Dr. Prather’s laboratory developed the first genetically engineered pigs which express all the pathological conditions associated with cystic fibrosis. Dr. Prather altered genes in swine to study and find therapies for cardiovascular disease, retinitis pigmentosa and spinal muscle atrophy," said Rodney Geisert, professor of animal sciences.
Rex Campbell, professor emeritus, rural sociology, received the Allan W. Purdy Award, presented to a CAFNR faculty or staff member who has a long history of service in meeting the needs of students and who exemplifies the same concern and care for students that Allan Purdy demonstrated during his educational career. It is given only on special occasions and not annually. Throughout his 50-year career in rural sociology, Campbell served as department chair twice (1974-79 and 1985-90) and was involved with many committees and councils on campus and in the community. He retired in 2007 but continues to teach one class per semester, donating his compensation back to MU. “Rex and Mary Campbell greatly value higher education and their mission has been to aid students in paying for ever-increasing college tuition. Countless students have benefitted from their generosity through the Rex and Mary Campbell Scholarship,” said Vice Chancellor and Dean Tom Payne at the awards ceremony.
Jim Schoelz, professor, plant sciences, received the Frederick B. Mumford Award for Outstanding Faculty. He joined the University of Missouri in 1987 as assistant professor and currently is professor in the Division of Plant Sciences. Schoelz is an internationally renowned scientist in the field of plant virology, focusing his career on understanding the virus-host interactions. “Dr. Schoelz is an exemplary scholar and educator who keeps academic integrity in his heart and soul. He continues to inspire many young scholars around the world,” said Vice Chancellor and Dean Tom Payne at the ceremony.
Debbie Lingle, grants and contracts specialist, plant sciences, received the Frederick B. Mumford Award for Outstanding Staff. She started in the Division of Plant Sciences in 1995 and is currently the division’s grants/contracts specialist. “Problem solving is at the core of her responsibilities. She possesses a level of personal and professional skills that help faculty with understanding compliance control issues and guiding faculty and staff through the research rules and regulations. Debbie is the backbone of the division and played a significant and pivotal role in the Division of Plant Sciences ranking first in 2015 among the other CAFNR divisions with $12 million in grant funding,” said Vice Chancellor and Dean Tom Payne at the award presentation.
Bill Streeter, retired president and CEO, MFA Incorporated, received the Frederick B. Mumford Award for Distinguished Service. Streeter held various positions within MFA Incorporated and in 2009 assumed the position of president and CEO until his retirement in 2015. He is a 1970 graduate of Mizzou with a B.S. in agriculture. During his tenure at MFA, Streeter emphasized the importance of continuing education and a well-trained work force. He was responsible for the creation of MFA’s Ag Experience Program, which provides college students with a real-life look at the workings of an agricultural business. In addition, through Streeter’s leadership, the MFA Foundation, MFA Incorporated and MFA Oil Company funded the MFA Chair in Agribusiness endowment in CAFNR. “It is indeed an honor to present the prestigious Mumford Award to one of CAFNR’s greatest supporters and advocates,” said Vice Chancellor and Dean Tom Payne during the award presentation.