The Apex Award presented by the Department of Agricultural Economics is in recognition of those individuals with a strong connection to the department who have made outstanding contributions in their fields. It is the highest honor given by the department and represents the convergence of accomplishment in the lives of our honorees.
The 2023 Apex Award ceremony will take place on Friday, April 21 at 9:30 a.m. as part of the Purdue Ag Econ Department's Snyder Memorial Event morning session.
APEX AWARD INDUCTEES LISTED BY YEAR:
Augustine Sangson Langyintuo
Jane Ade Stevens
Scott N. Mitchell
Gerald and Joan Gentry
Elizabeth A. Bechdol
Elena I. Ianchovichina
Jeffrey L. Hale
Levi & Norma Huffman
Vicki A. McCracken
Filipe de Almeida Ravara
Dale & Lisa Koester
After graduating from Purdue University, Gustavo worked for GRUMA managing the Corn Operations. He then worked for Mead Johnson Nutrition procuring raw materials for North America.
In 2011, Gustavo joined Abbott Laboratories, where he currently serves the position of Director of Global Procurement and leads two different global groups. One group sources dairy ingredients worldwide and the second manages global ingredient qualifications for Abbott nutritional products.
Gustavo also is currently the co-chairs of the Ingredient Board, and it is a member of the Executive Board of International Dairy Foods Association.
Gustavo currently lives in Columbus, Ohio with his wife and three daughters.
In May of 1998, Christina earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Plant Science from the Department of Botany and Plant Pathology in the Purdue School of Agriculture. She continued on at Purdue, completing a Master of Science Degree in Agricultural Economics in December of 2000, receiving an Outstanding Master’s Thesis Award for Professional Excellence from the American Agricultural Economics Association, working with her advisor Dr. Marshall Martin.
Since completing her studies at Purdue, Christina has helped transition her family farm to focus solely on grain production, phasing out a Farrow to Finish Hog Operation. She also facilitated a structural reorganization of grain and equipment facilities to lay the groundwork for future farm expansion and generational transition. Christina is passionate about her local community and preserving both Farmland and Nature acreage. She was on the Board of Directors at a local community bank, The Farmers State Bank, for approximately 10 years, helping local businesses and residents obtain banking services close to home. Additionally, Christina is a member of the Tippecanoe County Park and Recreation Foundation Board, serving as a bridge between agricultural interests in the community and a need for preservation, acquisition, and improvements of Natural areas in the community. The Foundation works in conjunction with The Tippecanoe County Park Board.
It is Christina’s goal to help foster a sense of community between local residents and farmers, helping each group to mutually benefit the other, preserving and respecting Indiana’s Heritage while helping to feed the world through Modern Agriculture.
After graduating in 2006 with a doctorate in Agricultural Economics, Dr. Brinkman moved to Washington DC to work with USDA APHIS as an economist in their Policy Analysis and Development unit, where she is still employed. Dr. Brinkman is responsible for conducting economic and policy analyses that focus on Regulatory Impacts on Small Business Entities, Program performance measurement, and special studies. She provides expert advice on socio-economic issues to program managers, senior leaders, and policymakers. She is a mission-driven economist with expertise in various areas and over 15 years of experience with the Federal Government. The position with APHIS has been both challenging and rewarding. Dr. Brinkman has had the opportunity to work on various issues that are critical to the mission of the Agency, which is to protect the health and value of American Agriculture and natural resources.
Before Purdue, Dr. Brinkman completed my Bachelor of Science degree in Agricultural Economics (May 1993) and Master of Science degree in Agribusiness Management (December 1998) at Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical University in Huntsville, Alabama.
Dr. Brinkman has been an active member of the American Applied Economics Association. She has chaired two sections of the organization – the Committee on the Status of Blacks in Agricultural Economics and the Committee on Women in Agricultural Economics.
John provides regulatory counsel to companies and trade associations on USDA and FDA matters. Much of his practice involves advising meat and poultry processors and animal food manufacturers on USDA-FSIS and FDA regulations pertaining to food safety and food labeling. John also represents farmers and food manufacturers in administrative enforcement matters. In addition, he provides outside general counsel services to several of the leading food and agricultural trade associations.
John is proud of the role that he and his firm’s team played in representing the lead plaintiff in the post-settlement stage of the Keepseagle case, a class-action lawsuit that sought redress against USDA for discriminating against Native Americans in farm lending programs. This work resulted in an additional $76 million in direct payments to class members and $260 million to establish the Native American Agriculture Fund.
John earned his Master of Science in Agricultural Economics from Purdue in 2007.
Growing up on a farm, Amy Mrozinski always had a passion for agriculture. Starting at a very young age, she would bake chocolate chip cookies every Saturday morning for the people coming to the farm looking for the next ram or ewe to add to their Suffolk flock. This is where her love for food and hospitality was born. Amy was a 10 year 4-H member and Valedictorian of her high school class and earned a full ride scholarship to Purdue. Initially, she was a Food Science major; but during her sophomore year, Amy took Ag Econ 331 and continued to gain experience as a TA for the class. She found her passion for sales and her professional career was changed forever.
After graduating with a degree in Food Industry Marketing and Management, Amy became a Territory Sales Manager for Philip Morris. She enjoyed sales but something was missing – food! To pursue her passion for food and sales, Amy took a role as Assistant Sales Manager at Fairmont Foods of Minnesota with responsibility for a variety of customers such as Schwan’s, Omaha Steaks, and Godfather’s Pizza. But still, something was missing – hospitality! So, Amy expanded her professional experience into the foodservice industry as a Distributor Sales Representative with Martin Brother’s Distributing in Iowa. And again, her professional career was changed forever. This incredible industry combined sales, food and hospitality while providing Amy an opportunity to stay close to agriculture. Amy refined her professional focus to the dairy foodservice industry at Dean Foods as the National Account Manager for the Gordon Food Service account and DFA (Dairy Farmers of America) as Director of National Accounts, managing customers such as Jersey Mike’s Subs and Sysco. Now, Amy is the Director of Sales-West for Grande Cheese Company in Fond Du Lac, WI, where she leads the sales team in growing the independent pizzeria business. She is also a certified pizzaiola through Tony Gemignani’s International School of Pizza.
Amy credits her professional success to her dad, who provided a childhood rooted in the value of agriculture; her mom, who always said yes to time in the kitchen cooking for family and friends; and Dr. Downey and Amy Cochran, who never stopped supporting her passion for sales!
Dr. Jason Brown is an Assistant Vice President and Economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City. In this role, he leads the regional and commodities research of the Bank and also conducts research on issues related to regional economic growth, emerging industries, and structural change in industry and labor markets. Brown also regularly briefs the Kansas City Fed’s President and CEO, a member of the Federal Open Market Committee, on regional economic conditions in the 10th Federal Reserve District.
Prior to joining the KC Fed, Brown was an economist at the USDA Economic Research Service in Washington D.C. Before graduate school he worked for Cargill at several grain and farm input operations in Northwest Indiana. He earned his PhD in agricultural economics from Purdue University in 2009, where he was a recipient of a USDA National Needs Fellowship.
Dr. Brown conducts research on issues related to regional economic growth, emerging industries, natural resource development, and structural change in local economies. His research has been published in several academic journals and in USDA and Federal Reserve publications.
He and his wife, Taylor, and their six children live in Lenexa, KS.
Dr. Jason Grant is an Associate Professor and Director of the Center for Agricultural Trade at Virginia Tech where he teaches graduate microeconomics and international trade in the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics. His current research relates to non-tariff measures, bilateral and regional trade agreements including the proposed mega-regional trade deals and renegotiation of existing agreements, and trade disputes. His research more specifically focuses on empirical projections of the impact of non-tariff measures on bilateral trade patterns and new investigations of agricultural trade policies at the firm level.
He was the recipient of the American Agricultural and Applied Economics Association’s Honorable Mention award for Outstanding AJAE Journal Article in 2013 for his work on the effects of WTO membership on international agricultural trade and a recipient of the 2014 European Agricultural Economics Association’s Quality of Policy Contribution Award for his work on international trade agreements.
Brian C. Briggeman is a Professor and Director of the Arthur Capper Cooperative Center (ACCC) in the Department of Agricultural Economics at Kansas State University. His research on agricultural finance, cooperative management, and macroeconomics has been published in leading academic journals and industry publications. Dr. Briggeman also provides expert commentary on agricultural and rural related issues to local, national, and international audiences. As ACCC Director, he leads and delivers educational programs for farmer cooperative CEOs, CFOs, employees, and directors. Dr. Briggeman also teaches agricultural finance and cooperative management to undergraduates and advises a number of graduate students.
Prior to joining Kansas State University, Dr. Briggeman was an economist with the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City; an assistant professor in the Department of Agricultural Economics at Oklahoma State University; and a business analyst with Farm Credit Services of America. He holds a bachelor’s degree in agribusiness from Kansas State University, an M.S. degree in agricultural economics from Texas A&M University, and a Ph.D. degree in agricultural economics from Purdue University.
Denny Bell is a 1979 Purdue University graduate of the Department of Agricultural Economics where he majored in Farm Management. He managed his family farm in Parke County, Indiana, until his entrepreneurial spirit led him into design and development of innovative farming products. He is a man of many companies, patents, inventions and honors:
- 1986, Protech Weed Weapon, a ridge-till cultivator, which was later sold to Landoll Farm Equipment.
- 1988, Agri-Logic Solution Systems, an agricultural software company.
- In 1990, Farm Industry News named Denny's Instant Survey Mapping software Product of the Year.
- Instant Yield Maps, a yield mapping software, which he later licensed to Ag Leader.
- 1995, Denny sells Agri-Logic to FPI - Fluid Power Industries, which later sells to Case-International Harvester.
- Pocket Survey was one of the first GPS mapping software progams to run on a handheld. This was offered as part of Microsoft's initial Windows CE (compact edition).
- 1997, Denny starts Soil-Max Manufacturing marketing Gold Digger tile plows.
- Denny starts Gradient and develops Intellislope, a revolutionary way to use RTK CPS to easily tile fields and optimize the tile grade and depth.
- 2011, Soil-Max Stealth tile plow, which greatly reduced tractor drag and improve grrade control. Denny sells Gradient and Soil-Max companies to Ag Leader technology.
- 2013, Top Producer named Denny Bell as one of 30 Leaders Who Made a Difference in production agriculture during the past three decades.
AUGUSTINE SANGSON LANGYINTUO
Dr. Augustine Langyintuo is a Senior Agribusiness Specialist with the Trade and Competitiveness Global Practice of the World Bank Group. Before joining the World Bank in July 2013, he worked as the Head of Policy & Partnerships Program of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), and served as Senior Policy Officer for two years. Prior to joining AGRA, Augustine worked as an Economist/SocioEconomics Team Leader in the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) 9. While at CIMMYT and AGRA, he supervised post-graduate students from various universities in Africa and North America. Augustine headed the Socio-Economics Unit of the Savanna Agricultural Research Institute (SARI) in Ghana while lecturing Natural Resource Economics, Farm Management and Accounting and Computing and Programming at the University for Development Studies (UDS), Ghana.
Augustine has over 100 scholarly publications in several international peer review journals and conference. He currently serves as an Associate Editor of the African Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics and reviews for several international Journals. Augustine is the current President of the African Association of Agricultural Economists (AAAE). He is a founding Member and Executive Board Member of the Foundation for Rural Education, Empowerment and Development (FREED). Augustine also serves as a Member of the Advisory Board of the UNDP Report on Inclusive Business and their Ecosystems in Africa.
His degrees include his PhD (Agricultural Economics) – 2003; Purdue University, West Lafayette, USA; MSc (Agricultural Economics) – 1993; Reading University, Reading, UK; PGDip (Agricultural Economics) – 1992; Reading University, Reading, UK; BSc (Hons) Agriculture – 1987; University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, Ghana.
James Straeter has successfully grown a single store operation into a seven-store group with New Holland. He is the owner of seven patents, most of which are in the bio-energy sector. He is native to Southern Illinois and worked at his father’s farm equipment dealership throughout his college career. Before owning his store group, he had other roles leading to his current position. From 1973 to 1976, Straeter worked for New Holland as a combine specialist. From that role he moved to position of Territory Sales Manager from 1976 to 1983. He also had the opportunity to become a New Holland Retail store manager, 1984 to 1987, before moving to his present role. Jim is also active in the community by serving as a member of the local Rochester Optimist Club. He works with the “Pumpkin Project” which is a program where the club raises and sells pumpkins each year to raise money to support the youth in his community. In 2013, Straeter was awarded one of 40 medals presented at Agritechia in Germany with over 400 competing entries. He received a Silver Medal for his patent of his Cornrower.
Dr. Robert Tse creates and implements innovative strategies to benefit California’s regional and rural economies. He integrates policies, resources and initiatives through federal, state, local government and public-private partnerships. He is the USDA lead for the Strong Cities – Strong Communities, (SC2) White House pilot initiative in Fresno. He is the State Broadband Coordinator for USDA CA Rural Development. He is an advisor to the San Joaquin Valley Partnership Board, Sacramento Regional Technology Alliance (SARTA) Ag Start, Sacramento Capital Region Metropolitan Export Plan, and board member of the Los Angeles Food Policy Council and Industrial Partnership of the Sacramento State College of Engineering and Computer Science. He has served as the Deputy Director for International Trade in the Governor’s Office of Economic Development and as Deputy Secretary for Trade Development with the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA). He represented CDFA on the Governor’s California Recovery Task Force on the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act from 2009-10. He was the Director of Trade for CDFA and is a 17- year veteran of the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS). Robert Tse holds a Doctor of Jurisprudence degree from Boston College Law School, a Master of Science degree in Agricultural Economics from Purdue University, and Bachelor of Arts degree in American History from Brown University
Sarah Vacek is currently leading the launch of Monsanto’s soybean quality traits products, including Vistive Gold, and has held numerous roles focused on sales and marketing throughout her career. Prior to joining Monsanto, Sarah’s experience focused on marketing communications and included a focus on public relations in agribusiness when she ran her own communications business. At Monsanto, she’s held roles with progressive responsibilities in both sales and marketing. Her sales experience included territory sales for Asgrow/DEKALB brands and as an Area Business Sales Manager for Channel brand. Her Monsanto marketing experience has covered diverse industries from swine genetics to dairying to Roundup. Through these roles Sarah gained an appreciation for marketing direct-to-user as well as marketing through more complex distribution models. She has earned her Bachelors of Science in Agricultural Economics from the University of Missouri (1996) and a Masters of Business Administration from Purdue University (2001).
JANE ADE STEVENS
SCOTT N MITCHELL
Gerald and Joan Gentry
Patricia "Patty" Stroup
ELIZABETH A BECHDOL
ELENA I IANCHOVICHINA
JEFFREY L HALE
Levi & Norma Huffman
Vicki A. McCracken
Filipe de Almeida Ravara
DALE & LISA KOESTER