Tom Wiltrout has left the Dow AgroSciences global headquarters in Indianapolis, but only literally. His influence lingers in room after room, and likely will do so for years to come.
“Tom’s personal moral standards and relationship skills, together with his intelligence and experience of a life dedicated to agriculture, has delivered so much value — not only in business and technology development, but also in developing and motivating a whole generation of new leaders who will shape the future of this industry,” a former Dow chief executive officer said.
Former colleagues consider him a catalyst for driving innovation forward for an industry that must soon feed 9 billion people.
That’s high praise for a Kosciusko County native with bachelor’s (Forestry, 1975) and master’s (Weed Science, 1976) degrees from Purdue University who spent the first half of his four-decade career on the agrochemical side of the business, when DowElanco was the name.
Eventually he became a pre-eminent leader in seeds and traits development and advancement. “Tom Wiltrout helped shape the current seed and biotechnology landscape in the marketplace today,” said one of his nominators. “Tom, who has unrivaled strategic understanding of the seed and biotech industry, also has the rare ability to clearly communicate it. His vision and strategic thinking were key drivers of the seeds and biotech business in Dow AgroSciences, and he was a catalyst for the (company) investments in research and acquisitions in Indiana and around the world.”
Risa DeMasi once headed the American Seed Trade Association board.
“His thoughtful contributions and leadership during his tenure on the Board of Directors for ASTA were instrumental as we developed the strategic plan which guides our activities today,” she said. “It was an honor to serve with him and to have the opportunity to learn from him. I’m better for knowing Tom.”
Wiltrout oversaw the corn and technology business for Dow AgroSciences during the development of Herculex traits. This innovative trait enables top-performing corn hybrids to reach their maximum yield potential by combining high-yielding genetics with consistent, season-long control of European corn borer, corn rootworm, western bean cutworm, black cutworm and fall armyworm. Wiltrout’s leadership during the first commercial product launch helped shape many strategic decisions.
He also led efforts on negotiating agreements and development of SmartStax, a widely used corn technology that offers reduced refuge requirements of only 5 percent in the Corn Belt.
His work took him to every corner of the world as he advanced agricultural technology through collaboration, negotiation, and trust-building. Wiltrout was known as a hard and passionate, yet fair, negotiator of agreements. “We were able to develop critical collaborations for Dow AgroSciences and huge future value for farmers with major companies,” a former CEO said, “thanks to the respect, trust and knowledge that Tom has earned in this industry.”
A seed company colleague who has served on boards with Wiltrout put it this way: “Tom’s knowledge of the world seed industry is as strong as anyone I know. His ability to process current events and how they might affect the future is typically where most of our conversations end up. He is really good at working through possible outcomes. He is one of the best strategy guys I know.”
An increasingly important focus for the industry and consumers is healthy oils. “Tom really helped shape the industry,” a colleague recalls, referring to canola and sunflower products. “He was involved in the first commercial product launch and led/was involved in many of the strategic decisions on how companies invested and aligned themselves across the industry.”
A colleague who served with Tom on the board of directors for AgrIInstitute, a leadership development organization, recalled Wiltrout’s contributions as the group was at a pivotal point of rebranding. “Tom has an uncanny ability to cast vision for a group,” the board member said.
• Retired from Dow AgroSciences in 2014; his last position was Global Seeds, Traits and Oils Strategy Leader. Previously: Biotechnology Platform: Global Business Leader — Corn; Director and Project Success Leader (insect resistance product); General Manager, United AgriSeeds. For DowElanco Specialty Products: Manager, Marketing Services, Marketing. For Elanco Specialty Products: Manager, New Products, District Sales, Communications, Market Research.
• Member of these and other boards: Illinois Foundation Seeds Inc., Mertec LLC, Verneuil Semences, Seed Genetics Inc., and Barenbrug Seeds, The Netherlands.
• Recipient of the College of Agriculture’s Distinguished Alumni Award in 2009.
When Chris Hurt speaks, people listen. They read what he writes. They care what he thinks. They trust him.
Who are they? Decision makers. Members of the agricultural committees in the U.S. Congress. USDA statisticians and economic analysts. Federal Reserve banks in Chicago and Kansas City. State and national boards that cover a wide agricultural spectrum: dairy, poultry, beef, pork, corn, soybeans, etc. He gets 300 interview requests each year — from USA Today and the New York Times to the National Hog Farmer and the Corn and Soybean Digest.
But Dr. Hurt can see the big picture because he knows agriculture up close, from ground level. He joined Purdue University’s Department of Agricultural Economics in 1981, bearing a master’s degree from Cornell and a Ph.D. from the University of Illinois. Before that he gained experience as a Cargill grain merchant, a farm supply manager, a community college ag teacher, and an Illinois family hog farmer. Those jobs aren’t found in ivory towers. His perspective is grounded in the real world.
As one of his nominators for the Purdue Ag Alumni Certificate of Distinction put it, “It would be difficult to overstate the contribution that Dr. Hurt has made to the understanding of agricultural markets for a wide-ranging audience that includes peers, students, agricultural producers, professionals, practitioners and policy makers.”
The “wide-ranging audience” includes those who visit FarmDocDaily, a website sponsored by Illinois, Purdue and Ohio State universities. The site has 45,000 unique visitors per month and 1.2 million annual page views.
Dr. Hurt coordinates Purdue’s Ag Outlook program. Ten economists cover their specialty areas — such as crop production costs, input prices, ag trade and ag policy — and Chris then delivers programs for grain outlook, livestock outlook, and general agriculture outlook. The foundation of his success lies in identifying economic issues that are important to decision makers, then developing educational programs to promote understanding of the issues, providing analysis of alternatives, and developing aids to assist decision makers who want to test the outcomes of alternatives for their individual situation.
Chris reaches 6,000 to 8,000 individuals a year in face-to-face educational programs. He makes presentations in nearly 60 counties each year. He has helped train about 80 Purdue ag and natural resources Extension educators on how to use materials with clients in all 92 counties. Local crop farm clients receive valuable information thanks to Dr. Hurt’s training programs for Certified Crop Advisors. Banking associations ask him to help train loan officers, who then rely on Dr. Hurt’s income, market outlook, and government programs information as they evaluate requests for agricultural loans. Sales and management personnel in the seed, feed, chemical, and machinery industries rely on his expertise.
“Dr. Hurt has remained focused on helping our Ag Community better understand both grain and livestock markets by extending the research and knowledge generated by the Ag Economics Department out to the people,” wrote another nominator. “He often presented Ag Outlook information in my county during the annual Fall Ag Outlook Campaign. The large crowds generated by these meetings were in large part due to the respect my agricultural clientele had for Chris and the information he delivered. Similar stories could be told in many other counties.”
Chris Hurt’s influence has grown in part because he “provides the most comprehensive and the best quality analysis that is available,” a nominator said. “Dr. Hurt’s career has exemplified the mission of the land-grant university at the highest level.”
Chris Hurt has developed educational programming for these (and more) issue areas:
• Economic impacts of biofuels
• Government farm program decisions
• World food shortages
• Farm income situation, economics of drought
• 30-year commodity price cycles
• PED virus education
• Agricultural marketing education
Some of the professional organizations that have sought Chris Hurt’s training and guidance:
• Indiana Bankers Association, American Bankers Association, Midwest Bankers School, Chicago Federal Reserve Bank, Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank.
• Mid-America Cooperative Council, Indiana Corn Growers, Indiana Farm Bureau, American Farm Bureau, Indiana Soybean Association, United Soybean Board, Farm Foundation, Ag Equipment Manufacturers Association, American Society of Ag Engineers.
• Indiana Pork Producers Association, National Pork Producers Association, Indiana Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers, National Dairy Producers Association, National Broiler Council, National Egg Board, U.S Meat Export Federation.
A sampling of individual and group awards:
• Agricultural and Applied Economics (AAEA) Outstanding Group Extension/Outreach Award for FarmDoc, 2014.
• Paul A. Funk Team Award for Excellence, 2013, College of Agriculture, Consumer and Environmental Sciences, University of Illinois. FarmDoc team member.
• Purdue University Cooperative Extension Specialist Association (PUCESA) Team Award: Managing Moldy Corn Team, 2010
Virginia Ferris took the long way to academic and professional success. Not that she had a choice.
She labored in obscurity yet was one of the world’s foremost experts on the soybean cyst nematode when Purdue University hired her in 1965 as an assistant professor. Ten years had passed since she left an identical position at Cornell University, where she’d earned a Ph.D. She used her final Cornell paycheck to buy a microscope. Her husband and major collaborator, John, joined Purdue’s entomology faculty in 1958. Virginia set up a home lab, conducted research as a freelance consultant, and waited for an opportunity to prove her greatness. When that time finally came, it didn’t take long for the first woman appointed to the College of Agriculture faculty to make her mark.
Nine years later (1974) she was a full professor in the Department of Entomology, having already added associate professor, assistant dean of the graduate school, and assistant provost to her resumé. By then she’d also been president of the Society of Nematologists, associate editor of the Journal of Nematology, and recipient of the Helen B. Schleman Gold Medallion Award.
What solidified her national and international standing came at the turn of the century, when she and fellow researchers — including her husband, John, Jamal Faghihi and Rick Vierling — identified genes in soybeans that provided resistance to the cyst nematode, a destructive plant parasite that has cost soybean farmers untold millions of dollars.
“Nematology was a young science,” Dr. Ferris said in a 2005 interview. “I grew up right along with it.” Years before gaining access to state-of-the-art scientific equipment in Whistler Agricultural Research Building, she made good use of her microscope. Back when she and John were traveling extensively, collecting species of nematodes, she even processed soil samples in hotel bathrooms.
Indiana’s state chemist and seed commissioner, Robert D. Waltz, is a former student and colleague of Ferris.
“Few careers with which I have been made aware share the breadth of reach and stretch of scholarship demonstrated by the career of Dr. Virginia Ferris,” he wrote in a letter recommending her for the Certificate of Distinction. He said she “exemplified the authority of a respected academic pedagogue, with high professorial expectations of her students.” He hadn’t forgotten the occasional “hidden personal sacrifice and contribution … for a successful student in a time of need. Her level of expected rigor in student performance was matched by her equally high level of concern for a student’s success.”
Nor had he forgotten the doors that didn’t open early in her career.
“Her engagement with the practice of her discipline as an academic in nematology could be characterized as more confrontational and combative than an accolade of recognized accomplishment,” Dr. Waltz wrote. “Her gender was seen apparently as barrier to academic and administrative recognition in a time when women were not privy to the full rights of her male academic colleagues. Her persistence and her … successes have paved the way for those who have followed her lead and her example as a woman engaged in male-dominated academic pursuits.”
Dr. Ferris has often spoken about the role of women in science and academia. Some of her listeners “find the stories hard to believe,” she said.
“Women have proven themselves — there’s no question about it.” And Virginia Ferris has paved the way for many of them by proving herself through her scientific achievements and dedication to the pursuit of research excellence.
• The Kansas native was an undergraduate at Wellesley College, near Boston. When she entered Cornell, she was the lone female incoming graduate student in plant pathology. She earned a Ph.D. in 1954.
• Assistant professor, Cornell, 1954-55; assistant professor, Purdue, 1965-70; associate professor, Purdue, 1970-74; assistant dean of graduate school, Purdue, 1971-75; assistant provost, Purdue, 196-79; professor, Purdue, 1974-present.
• Phi Beta Kappa. Fellow: National Science Foundation, Indiana Academy of Science, Society of Nematologists, European Society of Nematology.
• Helen B. Schleman Gold Medallion Award, 1973; FinOvation Award for CystX, Farm Industry News, 2000; Dean’s 2001 Agricultural Team Award for CystX Technology, 2001.
• Society of Nematologists: president, 1969-70; vice president, 1968-69; secretary, 1965-68. Associate editor, Journal of Nematology, 1974-76. Governing council member, Society of Systematic Zoology, 1979-82.
• Purdue University Graduate Council, 1971-75. Faculty fellow, Earhart Hall, 1971-2000. President’s committee to elect provost, 1973. Provost’s committee to select dean of agriculture, 1980. Chair, Dean’s Leadership Review Committee, 1995.
• Dr. Ferris was the first woman to ever buy a ticket to the Purdue Ag Fish Fry. Her request was met with resistance from her male colleagues and the Fish Fry organizers, but, as she has done so many times in her career, she insisted that she be treated fairly and equally.
“Father of Indiana’s corn checkoff program.”
Dean Eppley has achieved a great deal, but the Wabash County farmer is perhaps best known for what happened in 2007, after 20 years of trying.
“Without Dean’s determination and willingness to put years of time into getting a corn checkoff passed in Indiana, we probably would never have gotten one passed,” said Dennis Maple, former president of the Indiana Corn Marketing Council. “He was there in the trenches, asking our national organization for more money for one year to help Indiana get it done. And finally, our state passed the checkoff. We have Dean to thank.”
The checkoff, administered by the ICMC, was first established in 2001. In July 2007, after a vote by the Indiana General Assembly, a new corn checkoff program went into effect to manage funds collected at the first point of sale. Legislators updated the law in 2012. The assessment — ½-cent ($0.005) on each bushel of corn marketed in the state — does not apply to popcorn, seed corn or sweet corn. The purpose is to fund research, promotion and educational programs that enhance corn production and use, and to distribute industry information.
As noted by Dennis Maple, one of those who nominated Eppley for the Certificate of Distinction, Indiana had no ethanol plants before adopting the corn checkoff program. Now it has about a dozen. “Dean helped promote ethanol as a new market for corn, and it has made a significant impact on Indiana and its farmers,” he said.
Dean Eppley graduated from Purdue University in 1957 with a bachelor’s degree in agriculture. The next year he married Carolyn Schuler. Three children and just a few years later, he and a son, Barry, work Pleasant Home Farm’s 1,200 acres of corn, 1,000 acres of soybeans and 200 acres of alfalfa.
He was a no-till pioneer in the mid-1960s. “To me, ‘plow’ is a four-letter word,” he told Indiana Prairie Farmer in 2011, when he and Barry were advocating vertical tillage. “I believe the plow is one of the chief pieces of equipment for enhancing erosion on soil that has any degree of slope.”
Back when no-till farming was a “novel concept,” he said, “I never heard any negative comments directly from neighbors, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there weren’t some conversations around the area about, ‘What’s that nut trying this time?’“
He’s worked with those neighbors over the years on the county Soil and Water Conservation District board, the Wabash County Farm Bureau, the Bowen Five-County Mental Health Board, and the Wabash County Board of Commissioners.
Dean has been a delegate to Corn Congress, a function of the National Corn Growers Association. He retired from the association’s Research & Business Action Team, where his last official action was to vote to approve the formation of the National Agriculture Genotyping Center in Fargo, North Dakota.
He represents Indiana corn farmers on the U.S. Meat Export Federation and has traveled far and wide promoting red meat products for export.
He’s been a longtime member of and held leadership roles for the Indiana Corn Marketing Council and the Indiana Corn Growers Association. He helped those two organizations and the Indiana Soybean Alliance “forge one of the most unique partnerships in the country,” said Jane Ade Stevens, chief executive officer of the alliance. “These three organizations share one staff and office. No other state does this. It is a credit to Dean’s vision to see how this partnership made sense to Indiana farmers and approved its concept as a board member.”
Dean Eppley, she said, is a “top-notch, forward-thinking farmer.”
Dennis Maple, of the Indiana Corn Marketing Council, echoed that praise.
“Without Dean’s leadership,” he said, “the Indiana corn industry would look much different today.”
• Dean was a founding member of the Wabash County Historical Museum, serving from 1999 to 2008. He was instrumental in making sure the county’s agricultural roots remained in the picture. “Dean’s expertise in agriculture was invaluable in the development of the museum’s farming exhibit,” read a quote from a certificate presented to him. “His devotion to the project helped turn the idea for a museum into a reality.”
• He teaches a Sunday school class and sings in the church choir. A former member of Purdue’s marching and concert bands, he was active in the Wabash Area Community Theater for several years — and was Mayor Shinn in the 1997 production of “The Music Man.”
In 1977, the State of Indiana transferred 900 acres in Jennings County to Purdue University. The brand-new Southeast Purdue Agricultural Center needed a superintendent. The ink was barely dry on Don Biehle’s bachelor’s degree in Agricultural Economics, but the Purdue University graduate — and Jennings County native — got the job.
He stayed 39 years.
Biehle retired in June 2016. During his tenure SEPAC expanded to more than 2,400 acres, and in 2015 an estimated 64 research projects were underway, involving more than 50 researchers, graduate students, Extension educators, and industry collaborators. That year nearly 1,150 people attended more than 30 Extension education programs at a research center that is widely regarded as efficient, effective, and impactful.
So clearly Don Biehle knew what he was doing. How he did it was impressive, too.
“Don demonstrated how to run an operation, work with campus and state Extension staff, develop ideas into plans that will benefit producers in the area — and how to be a true and honest human being,” said Jason Tower, who supervises the Southern Indiana Purdue Agricultural Center (SIPAC) in Dubois County. “As a young superintendent, he taught me how to lead and make suggestions to folks in a way that gets ideas across and accomplished, without being overbearing.”
A nominator for the Certificate of Distinction said Biehle’s “collaborative and supportive nature, plus his ‘can-do’ attitude, greatly enhanced researchers’ abilities to conduct practical agricultural research. His insight and knowledge of local agricultural concerns provided researchers with focus and helped ensure that research results were applicable to growers and input providers through southeast Indiana.”
Eileen Kladivko, a professor in Purdue’s Department of Agronomy, has conducted a considerable amount of applied crop production research at SEPAC. She recalls Biehle going “out of his way, on a regular basis, to make our research work there more productive and easier to accomplish. He and his staff have helped us flesh out crazy ideas so that we could test out something new. Over the past 30 years, many times Don went the extra mile to help me or my graduate students accomplish an experiment in the late hours, Saturdays, or under other unusual circumstances. SEPAC has grown into a model of integration of research and Extension in our state.”
Installation of soil drainage systems, development of no-till crop production techniques, development of wetlands for wildlife and fire protection, adoption of precision technologies for field research, and automated weather stations are among the innovations that Don encouraged and supported at SEPAC.
Jennings County is also home to MUTC — the Muscatatuck Urban Training Center, operated by the Indiana National Guard. In fact, MUTC and SEPAC are next-door neighbors, and Don Biehle was instrumental in developing a partnership: A land/feed exchange program that provides grain for MUTC animals, educational support for agricultural development teams readying for deployment to Afghanistan, and the use of various SEPAC sites for training exercises.
Maj. Stephen Spencer, MUTC’s deputy base operations manager, said Biehle helped replicate an “agrarian city in a failed state” that is used to train “war fighters, peacekeepers, emergency responders, and diplomats for the ever-changing challenges in a world of persistent conflict. The education he provides and flexibility he offers to MUTC has worldwide implications for soldiers and civilians going into harm’s way.”
Creating (and seizing) opportunities, thinking ahead, going the extra mile — those are hallmarks of good managers. John Poehlmann, a retired assistant director of the Missouri Agricultural Experiment Station, saw it firsthand years ago during discussions with fellow members of Division A-7 (Agricultural Research Management) of the American Society of Agronomy.
“Most of us were debating how GPS, yield monitoring and similar technology might have a positive effect,” Poehlmann recalled. “Don was presenting results of how this system was already returning new information to himself and the scientists working at his station.”
• Works with the Jennings County Growers Co-op to teach farmers how to use high-tunnel technologies.
• A township fire department member for 34 years (chief, grant writer, president, secretary, treasurer). Leadership positions with the county Emergency Management Board, 911 Board, Soil and Water Conservation District Board (Distinguished Service Award, 1988; Conservationist of the Year, 1990).
• Frederick L. Hovde Award of Excellence in Education Service, 2013, Indiana Farm Bureau.
• Hoosier Chapter of the Soil & Water Conservation Society of America, Conservation Accomplishment Certificate of Achievement, 1990.
People who know Robert D. Culler call him Bob. Or Cul. They appreciate his dry sense of humor, his calm demeanor, his no-nonsense approach, and the way he tirelessly shares knowledge. They consider him a go-to person, a data-based, fact-driven manager with unmatched technical skills. They praise his work ethic, his honesty, and how he works to do the right thing in the most positive manner.
“The work experience and accomplishments described above paint a picture of a very impressive career,” wrote one of his nominators for the Certificate of Distinction. “This does not tell the full story of Bob’s contributions to agriculture.”
That story started in Clay City High School and Vincennes University. Purdue University awarded him a bachelor’s degree in food science in 1972. His master’s degree was earned at Iowa State University; he studied beef tenderness as it related to carcass grades, and three peer-reviewed scientific journal papers were published based on his research projects.
The corporate world beckoned. Promotions followed accomplishments:
• At Hormel Foods Corp.’s Research & Development Division, significantly extending the shelf life of pork loins with modern atmospheric packaging.
• At Land O’ Frost’s Product Development Group, leading the development of the industrial and food service product lines, then guiding the quality team at the Searcy, Ark., plant, a large sliced meats operation.
• At Sara Lee Corp.’s Bil Mar Foods Inc. division, he was corporate director of quality assurance, and he developed the Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP) systems for turkey harvesting and processing.
• Kent Quality Foods made him vice president of quality assurance, and he led the implementation of the HACCP system. An expansion during his tenure grew daily production from 30,000 pounds to 160,000 pounds.
Culler retired in 2013, but he soon formed Culler Consulting LLC. Large and small clients seek his wisdom on regulatory compliance, produce quality, and processing issues.
Since 2013 he’s been director of regulatory affairs for the Michigan Meat Association. “His understanding of federal- and state-level policy, coupled with his passion to find solutions for industry, puts him in a strong position to advocate for our members,” another nominator wrote.
Culler played a significant role in developing the Michigan Specialized Retail Meat Processing Variance Program. The plan, aimed to meet federal Model Food Code requirements, is being considered as a national model.
In their nomination letters, several colleagues noted that Culler’s career has spanned challenging times for the food business: “The complexity of regulatory compliance continues to grow, and Bob has been very willing to share his vast experience on continuous improvement, food safety, and compliance, especially with smaller operators. Whenever a foodborne illness or a product recall is avoided, all of agriculture benefits. His counseling, seminars, and articles play a significant role in avoiding these types of unfortunate food safety events.”
“His skill,” wrote another nominator, “to take difficult situations and create win-win opportunities has touched all who have had the opportunity to work with or for him. It would be easy for a person in his position to just do his job without representing and championing many causes for the meat industry. His dedication to help small businesses and entrepreneurs work their way through technical and regulatory issues is stellar.”
Culler was another nominator’s first boss. “No one joining the meat industry, especially an East Coaster with a newly minted degree in Human Nutrition and Foods and no meat industry experience or background, could have asked for a better mentor and coach,” she wrote. “Bob was and is, first and foremost, a teacher. His patience and ‘no question too basic’ approach gave me a solid foundation (for) my 36-year career.”
A former Boilermaker who hired Culler at Land O’ Frost recalls an employee who had a high school education. He said Culler “taught and mentored her to become a statistician. She went from an hourly worker to one of the key members of our technical staff of professionals — and is still in that role 30 years later.”
“He not only changed her life but many others, as he continually brings out their strengths and then mentors the pathway to success. This trait does not show up on a bio or CV.”
• He was president (1998-2002) of the Michigan Meat Association and received that group’s Outstanding Service Award in 2009. He received a Hometown Leadership Award for helping bring the 2004 American Association of Meat Processors national convention to Grand Rapids, Michigan.
• Culler has been a presenter or coordinator for more than 20 meat processing seminars for groups in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana and Illinois. He is the author of 30-plus articles, programs and white papers for small meat/food processors.
It is possible that rural Indiana has never had a better friend than Janet Ayres.
She has conducted more than 2,000 workshops and trained 65,000 leaders and professionals in the areas of leadership and rural development. More than 200 Indiana communities have benefited from her efforts to develop leadership skills to deal with change and conflict.
In 2012, she launched the Rural Issues series of Extension publications. The series features a set of factsheets on rural Indiana. Counties are grouped into three categories (rural, urban, and mixed) in order to analyze changes over the past decade, identify issues and highlight policy implications. Among the topics covered so far: Growth and decline, aging, poverty, poverty and teen childbearing, community banks, population trends, food insecurity and methamphetamine use. The series is a definitive source for legislators, scholars and others.
“Through her many Extension programs … Dr. Ayres has improved the quality of life in rural Indiana,” wrote a colleague who nominated her for the Certificate of Distinction. “Her efforts have led to increased personal and professional networks of change agents with the skills and understanding of how individuals, groups and institutions change and strengthen.”
The 1973 Purdue graduate earned a master’s degree in regional planning from Cornell University in 1975. She came back to Purdue in 1977 as a research associate and Extension specialist. After earning a Ph.D. in 1983, she joined the Agricultural Economics faculty as an assistant professor. She was promoted to associate professor in 1989 and became a full professor in 1995.
In the 1990s, she spent six years as assistant director of Purdue Extension, led the Community Development Program, and established the Purdue Land Use Team — one of the first collaborative efforts between campus specialists and field educators — and the Leadership Development Team. From 2003 to 2008, she was a senior fellow with the North Central Regional Center for Rural Development as a 25 percent appointment. She produced the Foundations of Practice, which became one of the early online courses in community development. It led to the USDA/Rural Development’s community development online course.
Extension educators and specialists have long benefited from Dr. Ayres’ focus on professional development. Her workshops at state park lodges around the state provided educational opportunities to learn about personal, interpersonal, group, and community leadership methods of engagement, forming “the foundation of Extension teams and collaborative efforts among staff to this day,” a nominator wrote. “The workshops led to many county leadership academics and youth programs which remain today.”
Her off-campus accomplishments are considerable, and College of Agriculture undergraduates can attest to her on-campus impact. Those who took her “Leadership and Controversial Issues in Agriculture” class saw and heard her facilitate group discussions about sources of conflict, power, influence, and privilege. She also led the effort to establish and revise the College’s Leadership Development Certificate Program, which earned the Outstanding Program Award from the Association of Leadership Educators.
Carroll County has been home for Dr. Ayres and her husband, Dr. Lynn Corson, since 1986. They restored a historic farm on the edge of Delphi. Janet led the Carroll County at the Crossroads efforts in 2004 and 2009, and co-created Carroll County Focus on the Future, Leadership Carroll County, and the Heritage Tourism group. She served on the Community Foundation board and is a member of the Land Use and Zoning Committee, Wabash & Erie Canal Association, Carroll County Historical Society, Delphi Preservation Society, the county Chamber of Commerce, and the Carroll County Ag Association.
“Janet’s passion for community development, combined with her tireless commitment to develop and deliver programs and work with community leaders and groups, led to increased quality of life for individuals and communities throughout rural Indiana and beyond,” a nominator said.
“She has a passion and an innate ability to relate to and inspire others,” wrote another nominator.
A sampling of Janet Ayres’ awards and achievements:
• Charles Carroll Award, Carroll County Chamber of Commerce, 2011
• Dean’s Team Award for CAFO study, co-recipient, Purdue College of Agriculture, 2010
• Carroll County Agriculture Hall of Fame, Carroll County Agriculture Association, 2010
• Award of Appreciation, Rural Business Cooperative Services, USDA/Rural
• Team Award for CAFO team, co-recipient, Purdue Extension Specialist Association, 2009
• Friend of Conservation Award, National Association of Conservation Districts, 2008
• State Senior Faculty Continued Service Award, Epsilon Sigma Phi, 2007
• Distinguished Service Award, Community Development Society, 2006
• Leadership Carroll County Recognition Award, Carroll County, 2006
• Frederick L. Hovde Award of Excellence in Educational Service to Rural People of
• Medal of Commemoration, Agricultural University of Krakow, Poland, 1996
David Petritz is a native of Rockford, Illinois. He actively participated in 4-H in Winnebago County and in FFA at Stillman Valley High School. He earned his B.S., M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in agricultural economics from the University of Illinois.
After earning his Ph.D. in 1972, Dr. Petritz joined Purdue’s Department of Agricultural Economics as an Assistant Professor, and in 1982 he became the Assistant Head for Extension in Agricultural Economics. His areas of research and Extension were in the economics of beef and sheep, forage production and marketing, and in agricultural market analysis and outlook. Early in his career, he served as local arrangements chairperson for the national meetings of the American Agricultural Economics Association held at Purdue University. Through his Extension programming, Petritz was largely responsible for bringing regional and national recognition to Purdue's research programs on large hay bales and grazing systems. One of Dave's strengths was his strong commitment to seeking solutions for any problem. He worked on several programs to help farm families deal with difficult financial times, including the FARM project, which focused on financial decision-making tools for farmers. He also coordinated the 1988 drought response effort that included a toll-free hotline and extensive news media coverage.
In 1989 Petritz was named Assistant Director of Purdue Extension and Agricultural and Natural Resources Program Leader, a position he held until 1999, when he was appointed as the sixth Director of the Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service. In 2002, he was also named the Associate Vice Provost for Engagement, and in 2004 he was appointed interim department head for 4-H Youth Development. He retired on June 30, 2007 after 35 years of service to Purdue.
As an Extension specialist Petritz was regularly in leadership roles at the county level addressing issues of farm management and market outlook. Throughout the changes in his position, his commitment to county level Extension programming did not change. One colleague described this dedication that Petritz demonstrated in his role as Assistant Director of Extension, writing in his letter of recommendation, “…Purdue’s relationship with counties blossomed under Dave’s leadership.”
As Purdue Extension Director, Petritz was effective in addressing the needs of farm families by combining the efforts of the Colleges of Agriculture and Consumer and Family Sciences and the School of Veterinary Medicine. He assisted staff members in various departments of these colleges to identify, develop, and implement educational programming. His vision created issue based teams for critical land use education with the Land Use Team and entrepreneurship with the New Ventures Team. He also worked to establish Learning Centers as part of the university engagement partnership with local communities. He was also a pioneer in fostering partnerships across state lines, working with both the University of Illinois and The Ohio State University to solve common problems. A specific outcome of the relationship between Purdue and The Ohio State University, which Petrtitz led in 2004, was the integration of Purdue Agriculture specialists into the programming of the Farm Science Review (FSR), one of the largest agricultural expositions in the Midwest.
In his role as Associate Vice Provost for Engagement, Petritz was responsible for helping the entire university become engaged in finding solutions to the problems facing Indiana communities. He was tasked with the design and implementation of a community visitation program for Purdue President Martin Jischke. Of this program, Jischke said, “The program was hugely successful and not only highlighted Extension but connected the broader university to the needs of communities all around Indiana. Dave was absolutely central to the success of this program, and I believe it could not have been done without him.”
Petritz has received many honors, but some stand out as career capstones. In 2011, the Farm Science Review Hall Of Fame inducted Petritz into its 22nd class. And in 2007, Epsilon Sigma Phi, the national organization of Extension professionals, awarded him its Distinguished Service Ruby recognition, which is the organization's
most prestigious honor designed to recognize truly outstanding thinking, performance, and leadership in Extension by individuals who have made highly significant contributions at all levels of Extension programming over a lifetime career. Upon his retirement, Purdue Agriculture established an endowment in his honor that pays for educational and professional development opportunities for Extension educators and staff members throughout Indiana because, for Petritz, his leadership legacy was always about taking care of his Extension family.
Donald E. Orr, Jr. is a native of Tipton, Indiana, where he grew up raising and showing hogs. He graduated from Purdue University in 1967 with a B.S. in animal science. He earned his M.S. in animal husbandry from Penn State University in 1969, and a Ph.D. in animal husbandry/institute of nutrition from Michigan State University in 1975. He and his wife Pam currently live in Nobleville, Indiana, and have grain farms in two western Indiana counties.
While at Penn State from 1967 until 1969, Orr worked as a Research Assistant in the Animal Science Department, and from 1974 until 1975, he worked for Central Soya Co. in Decatur, Indiana as a Swine Research Specialist. After receiving his Ph.D. in 1975, Orr began teaching in the Animal Science Department at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas. He was both Assistant and Associate Professor, and Director of the Swine Research Center, all while working as a Swine Consultant in Europe and Asia, a position he held beginning in 1977 until 1984, when he began his career with JBS United. Orr was the first Ph.D. nutritionist at JBS, using research and development to drive swine nutrition innovation, providing effective products and building business models to facilitate producer decisions. With his leadership, the company has built a team experienced in the research of both swine and poultry, and today, 45 animal science research and technical employees use the company’s four research farms to work to meet the global needs of the company. Over the course of 29 years, he has helped reinvent JBS from a small feed company in three Midwestern states to a livestock nutrition technology-based company with a U.S. and global footprint, with 14-fold revenue growth, up from its $40 million when Orr started in 1984. Orr was a distinguished leader within his company, as well as in the swine and feed industries, gaining additional credibility through his experience as a Yorkshire and Landrace swine breeder for the Orr Family Farm Operation from 1969 until 1994.
Orr currently sits on the Board of Directors of JBS United, a position he has held since he began in 1984. From 1997 until 2015 he served as its President, from 1997 until 2007 he was the General Manager of the Nutrition Division, and from 1984 until 1997, Orr served as the Vice President of Nutrition and Development. In 1999, he became the founder of three China joint venture companies, of which he currently sits on the Board of Directors.
Orr's leadership extends to the broader agriculture industry as well. He has served on the Board of Directors of Maple Leaf Farms since 2010. From 1999 until 2002, he was a member of the Dean’s Advisory Council in the Purdue College of Agriculture. He has been a Charter Diplomate for the American College of Animal Nutrition since 1995, and has served on the Executive Steering Committee of the Indiana Food and Agriculture Innovation Initiative since 2013. Orr served on the Board of Directors and the Foundation Board of the American Society of Animal Science (ASAS), and served as the Chairman of the Board of Directors, and on the Executive Committee as the Chairman-Elect and Past Chairman of the American Feed Industry.
His community service record is extensive. Orr has served on the Board of Directors of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce since 2007, and is currently serving a three-year term on the Hamilton County Extension Board. He was the President of the Alpha Gamma Rho (Delta Chapter) Alumni Corporation at Purdue from 1997 until 1999, and is a current member of the Rural Areas/Small Town Commission for Thriving Communities. Additionally, he is a founding member of the Executive Steering Committee of AgriNovus Indiana.
Orr has earned multiple awards and honors for his contributions. In 1982 he received the Distinguished Hoosier Award, presented by Indiana Gov. Robert Orr. In 1999 he was selected as a Purdue Old Master, and also in 1999 he was recognized as a Distinguished Agriculture Alumnus by the Purdue College of Agriculture. Orr received the Brothers of the Century National Award from the Alpha Gamma Rho Fraternity in 2004, and in 2006, he was recognized as a Distinguished Animal Science Alumnus from Penn State University. Orr was selected to address the Midwest Swine Nutrition Conference as the keynote speaker in 2006. In 2008, he was recognized by Penn State University as an Outstanding Alumnus. In 2014, he was named a Fellow of the American Society of Animal Science. The Purdue Animal Sciences Department named him as a Book Harmon Leadership Fellow, also in 2014. In 2015, Lt. Gov. Sue Ellspermann recognized his career achievements with the AgriVision Award.
Craig Newman is a native of Veedersburg, Indiana, where he was raised on a corn, soybean and hog farm. He graduated from Purdue in 1971 with a B.S. in agricultural business management. After graduation, Newman began his career with Procter and Gamble, where he worked as a field sales representative in the health and beauty market, and eventually was promoted to District Sales Representative, and then to Unit Sales Manager. After nearly eight years in that role, he changed careers, taking a position at Akin Seed Company in southern Illinois in 1979 as the operations manager. That same year, Akin Seed began selling under the AgriGold brand name. Newman just recently retired as the President and CEO of AgReliant Genetics, parent company of the AgriGold brand.
When he first began working for Akin Seed as general manager, Newman was instrumental in the development and implementation of the new AgriGold brand. In the mid-1990s, Newman also became the general manager of Callahan Seeds when it was purchased by Group Limagrain of Chappes, France. In 2000, he became the Vice President of Sales and Marketing for AgReliant Genetics, which was a joint venture formed by Group Limagrain, and KWS, a German company. Both companies recognized the need for a strong leadership foundation in order for AgReliant to become successful, and Newman became a part of that foundation as a leader, and as an industry professional. Today, AgReliant ranks as the third largest corn seed company in North America. Over the past thirteen years, its eight seed brands have cumulatively grown their sales volume by over 300 percent, with almost 7% market share in North America, in part due to Newman’s leadership and vision. He is described by one of his colleagues as "a tireless supporter of expanding the role of technology and innovation in field crop agriculture, worldwide.”
Newman's participation in industry organizations is as impressive as his professional success. He served as the President of the Illinois Seed Dealers Association in 1990 and 1991. For the American Seed Trade Association (ASTA), he has served on the Executive Committee and the Board of Directors. Newman has held positions as ASTA Second Vice Chair and Central Region Vice President. Additionally, he has served on multiple committees and divisions within ASTA, including Seed Advocate, Corn and Sorghum Seed Division Member, Soybean Seed Division Member, Membership Committee Past Chair, International Executive Committee Member, Legislative and Legal Concerns Committee Member, Management Skills Committee Member, and Future Seed Executives Mentor. In 2013, he was elected Chairman of the ASTA Board of Directors. Through his work with the ASTA Board of Directors, he implemented a strategic plan developed over two years by ASTA membership, with the key focuses including strengthening intellectual property rights, expanding seed producers’ intellectual business opportunities and working to make ASTA a high-value resource for the seed industry. As chairman, Newman was instrumental in bringing the ASTA National Conference to Indianapolis. A colleague writes, “Hosting the top minds and most influential executives in the seed industry is an honor Indiana can directly attribute to Craig Newman’s leadership.”
Newman’s dedication to the agriculture industry extends to the investment of tomorrow’s agriculturalists, researchers and leaders. He has been an influential mentor for many young professionals and college students interested in careers in the seed business. He was also influential in the development of the AgReliant Genetics Graduate Student Endowment. Totaling $1 million, this endowment was created to provide funding for graduate students conducting research in plant breeding, soil science, genetics, and other agronomic areas of study.
Outside of the seed industry, Newman is a member of the Board of Directors for Advanced Microelectronics, and the Board of Directors of the Old National Bank. He serves on the Parish Council of St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Mt. Carmel, Illinois, where he also works to works to raise funds for philanthropies and educational programs, causes very important to the Newman family.
In 2015 Newman was named a Distinguished Agriculture Alumnus by the Purdue College of Agriculture.
Larry Nees is a native of Poland, IN and graduated from Purdue University in 1975 with a B.S. in turf management. After graduation, he began working in the Office of the Indiana State Chemist where he has spent his entire career, now serving as Indiana State Seed Commissioner. He has a long record of state and national industry leadership and volunteer organizational involvement for which he has received numerous awards.
In the Office of the Indiana State Chemist, Nees began as a state seed inspector and worked in the field for one year. Over the next two years, he served as the assistant in the seed commissioner’s office. Since 1978, he has been in charge of administering the seed law enforcement program and has been director of the State Seed Testing Laboratory. In this position Nees is an advocate for consumers, which includes farmers and homeowners, protecting consumer interests by assuring that high quality seed, correctly labeled seed is sold in Indiana. One colleague wrote of Nees, “He has stood the test of time because he is efficient, effective, and he is fair.” These are some of the qualities that have led to his success, and gained him the respect of his industry colleagues. In fact, he has been a source of counsel to his peers across the country as they administer seed programs in their respective states.
Although he advocates for the consumer, Nees has built a strong rapport with seed companies as being fair in upholding the seed law in the state of Indiana. He understands both sides of the regulatory and commercial relationship, and is known for being open and understanding with the goal of coming to mutually rewarding solutions, according to a colleague. A seed company representative who has worked extensively with Nees praised these traits, “[He] always made me feel like he was working for us and not just laying down the law.” Nees has gone above and beyond the duties of his role, working to provide education on the law, so that people are fully aware of it and understand it. He has championed needed changes to the Indiana State Seed Law through the Indiana General Assembly to keep pace with an evolving Indiana seed industry. The industry he serves is vital to Indiana's agriculture economy, as Indiana is currently a net exporter of seed, its companies producing far more high quality seed than can be sown on Indiana acres.
Nees has assumed numerous leadership roles in the industry, and is heavily involved in multiple industry organizations at the state and national levels. He served the Association of American Seed Control Officials as President two different times; was both 2nd Vice President and 1st Vice President; and was Secretary for seventeen years. He participated in numerous committees, and sat on the Board of Directors. Currently, he acts as elder statesman for the association due to his tenure and experience as a seed control official. Additionally, he is on the Board of Directors for both the Seed Testing Research Foundation and the Association of Official Seed Analysts. For the Indiana Seed Trade Association, he serves as Ex-Officio Director and is a part of the Seed Testing and Labeling Committee. For the Indiana Crop Improvement Association, he is a valued member of the Seed Lab Advisory Committee. Nees is a co-contributor to the AASCO Handbook on Seed Sampling, which is used across the U.S. by seed companies and seed control officials. Additionally, he is the author of Indiana Seedsman’s Handbook, A Guide for Distribution and Labeling of Seed in Indiana. Because of Nees’ expertise, he has had much influence on the Recommended Uniform State Seed Law (RUSSL), and has served as a moderator and a speaker at the Illinois/Indiana Seed Conditioning Workshop and the Corn Belt Seed Conference.
Nees has served since 2000 as a director of the Purdue Agricultural Alumni Association. For many years prior to that, he had served on the program committee for the Purdue Ag Fish Fry. Since 2012, he has served as treasurer of the board of directors.
His passion for improvement extends to community organizations as well. Nees is a past chair and a current member of the West Lafayette First United Methodist Church finance committee, and served on the building committee when the church relocated from the Village to a site west of town. He was a member of the United Way allocation committee from 1994 until 1997, and served on the task force to evaluate school facilities in the Lafayette School Corporation.
Nees has received numerous honors, including several capstone awards from the organizations he has served. In 1991, the Indiana Crop Improvement Association awarded him its highest honor, the Crop and Soils Merit Award. He also received the Honorary Member Award from the Indiana Seed Trade Association in 2005, and in 2015 he was honored with the Distinguished Service Award from the Association of American Seed Control Officials.
John T. Costello is a native of Stratford, Connecticut. He graduated from Purdue University in 1952 with a B.S. in forestry, after serving his country in the U.S. Navy from 1945 until 1946 as an aircraft carrier radar operator on the USS Philippine Sea near the end of World War II. After graduating, he began a career in the forestry industry that lasted until his retirement. He is described as being the common thread in the executive leadership of the Indiana Department of Natural Resources for more than three decades. In addition to the positions he held in his professional life, Costello has also been involved in multiple organizations dedicated to serving Indiana’s natural resources and wildlife industry.
From the time he began his career until his retirement, Costello showed dedication in his stewardship of public lands and natural resources in both Illinois and Indiana. In 1962, he left his position as Regional/Farm Forester to become the District Forester for the Illinois Department of Conservation (now the Illinois Department of Natural Resources). He held this title until 1987 when, after fourteen years of service to the forestry industry of Illinois, he became the Assistant State Forester for the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (IDNR). In 1969, he was promoted to State Forester, and in 1972 he was named as IDNR Deputy Director, a position he held for twenty-nine years until his retirement in 2000. As deputy director, Costello’s realm of leadership was expanded to include state parks, museums, reservoirs, recreation, acquisition, preservation, reclamation, and more. Not only is he well-respected and esteemed as an accomplished forester, but also as a leader whose ability to listen and work with people allowed him to remain steadfast in navigating IDNR policy, even through the most conflicting of interests and challenging of topics. It is this ability that led him to be successful as an IDNR executive liaison for both the IDNR Advisory Board, and the Natural Resource Commission. One nominee describes Costello, “He was able to work with everyone regardless of political or ideological viewpoint to effect necessary changes that were beneficial to the state’s resources.” He was instrumental in the passage of the Property Manager’s Act, which professionalized land management in Indiana. Additionally, he played a crucial role that led to the successful passage of the Indiana Trails Act and the Indiana Natural and Recreation Streams Act. Since their implementation, both pieces of legislation have resulted in an improved quality of life for Hoosiers and visitors.
It is truly Costello’s talent as a communicator and problem-solver to which most nominators accredit his success. When describing his attributes as a professional, his colleagues mention the calm and patient manner with which he deals with people and situations on a daily basis, and the fortitude that earned him the respect of everyone he worked with. One nominator, who describes Costello as a mentor, says, “His guidance, patience, and support are an important reason why the IDNR that exists today is so successful.” His ability to see the bigger picture allowed him to work with individuals of different mindsets. As deputy director, he worked under six governors and seven IDNR directors.
Costello's leadership extends to professional and community organizations as well. He was a member of the National Association of State Foresters, the Society of American Foresters, the Illinois Technical Forestry Association and Xi Sigma Pi, the international honor society for forestry and related sciences. During his time in Illinois, he was active in the Boy Scouts of America, serving as regional coordinator and training scout leaders and actively establishing new troops. In Indiana, he was instrumental in organizing the Hoosier Buffalo Riders, a roundtable of persons interested in conservation and natural resources that advised IDNR on how best to keep natural resources from disappearing, or going the way of the buffalo. The Buffalo Riders instituted an awards program to recognize those with achievements in natural resource conservation. Costello is extremely involved with in St. Susanna Catholic Church in Plainfield where he and his family attend. He is in leadership in the parish council, school board, and men’s club. He also coaches Catholic Youth Organization (CYO), and serves as a lay minister in the church. Regarding his professional and community service, one colleague wrote of Costello, “He has been and is an outstanding example of what Purdue graduates have done for the citizens of Indiana.”
Costello’s honors include twice receiving meritorious service trophy awards from the Boy Scouts of America for his work in southern Illinois. He has been named a Sagamore of the Wabash on four occasions, most recently by Governor Frank O'Bannon in 2000. Twice, he was officially cited by U.S. Senator Richard Lugar. In 2000 he was named Indiana Power and Light Company (IPALCO) Enterprises Environmental Steward of the Year.
Ralph Booker is a native of Plymouth, Indiana. He graduated from Purdue University in 1971 with a B.S. in agricultural economics, and later earned his M.S. of public administration in 1983 from Indiana University. He began his career as 4-H Extension Educator in 1973 in Parke County, a role he maintained until 1977 when he became County Extension Director in Brown County, Indiana. In 1988, Booker was named County Extension Director of Marshall County, Indiana, the position from which he retired in 2003. Since retiring from Purdue Extension, Booker has continued his community service as the Marshall County Plan Director and Zoning Administrator/Plymouth Plan Consultant. Booker served in the U.S. Army Reserves from 1972 through 1999, retiring as Lieutenant Colonel.
As a Purdue Extension educator, Booker was responsible for a considerable number of successful ventures that significantly benefitted the counties that he served. While in Brown County, he developed and administered the county budget, developed and conducted the county agriculture education program, and secured funds to start the first county park. Booker also developed the county’s fairgrounds, upgrading from a single outdoor livestock arena to a new livestock facility, 4-H and open class building, and a new Extension office. His contributions to Marshall County during his time as County Extension Director were particularly noteworthy. In 1990, he started the Ag Day Program for third grade students within the county, a model that is used by many counties across the state to educate elementary school students about agriculture and food production. Booker has also been instrumental in securing multiple grants, and utilizing them to improve the county as a whole. A National Science Foundation grant was secured to provide the first free internet access in Marshall County to over 800 clients. Additionally, he served on a committee that secured a $5M grant from the Lilly Foundation that was used by the Marshall County Community Foundation for a broad community initiative that started Crossroads Academy, a technical education center; Heart and Hands, a non-profit organization to teach English as a Second Language (ESL), and ultimately other classes serving the Latino community; and childcare training at Ancilla College, where he also taught a basic agriculture course. Booker supervised the coordination of Crossroads Academy, and hired and supervised its first director. This academy is a center dedicated to serving the residents of Marshall County, and hosts classes for high school and college students as well as adults for the Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE) designation, along with other computer applications. Booker managed all of this while also being responsible for supervising four Extension program areas, which include 4-H and Youth, Consumer and Family Sciences, Agriculture, and Leadership and Community Development. One nominator summarized his view of Booker in his letter of support, “Ralph is, in my view, the consummate professional in anything he undertakes.”
Booker has demonstrated a steadfast commitment to providing educational and training opportunities to every stakeholder group he has served. From teaching the Dairy Option Pilot Program for USDA and starting the Dairy Excel Management Course, to his class on QuickBooks at the Crossroads Academy, it is evident that he believes in the importance of agricultural education as well as technology, and is a strong advocate of lifelong learning.
After retiring from his career in Extension, from October 2004 to July 2005 Booker served as the Marshall County Public Health Coordinator. His responsibility in this position involved writing the Mass Prophylaxis Plan for the county, which is a plan to treat all healthy individuals in the event of a massive disease or bio-terrorism outbreak. From 2004 until 2012, he served two terms as a Marshall County Councilman. Booker currently holds a position as Marshall County Plan Director and Zoning Administrator/Plymouth Plan Consultant, and played a crucial role in completing the county comprehensive plan and updating county zoning ordinances. His expertise has even led him outside of the county to assist other communities with updating their comprehensive plans and ordinances, answering questions and advising them on zoning. Booker continues his commitment to technology and education by serving on the Marshall County Technology Squared committee, which is an agriculture and technology economic development initiative that promotes job creation. He also chairs the Marshall County Life Long Learning network.
Booker has served in many state and national leadership roles. He served as the President of the Agriculture Section of the Indiana Extension Agents Association (IEAA) from 1992-1993, and as IEAA President from 1996-1997. In 2000, Booker served as Agricultural Economics National Chair of the National Association of County Agricultural Agents. He served as the Plymouth Rotary Club President from 1994-1995, and is currently still involved in the local club, representing agriculture interests.
Booker has been recognized with numerous awards, including the IEAA Innovator Award in 1996, the National Association of County Agricultural Agents Distinguished Service Award in 2000, and the Beck's Hybrids Beyond the Fence Award for Public Official of the Year in 2007.