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Purdue Ag Alumni Association honors six with Certificate of Distinction

Six noted graduates and contributors associated with the Purdue University College of Agriculture have been named as recipients of the Agricultural Alumni Association’s highest honor - the Certificate of Distinction.

The Certificate of Distinction is presented annually to professionals who have contributed significantly to agriculture, forestry or natural resources through career accomplishments, organizational involvement, community service and other activities.

Certificate of Distinction recipients will be recognized at the Purdue Ag Alumni Fish Fry, Feb. 3 in the Elements Financial Blue Ribbon Pavilion at the Indiana State Fairgrounds, 1202 E. 38th St., Indianapolis.

This year’s winners are:

* Katherine Armstrong; Zionsville, Indiana.

When Dow AgroSciences decided that seeds and traits warranted major investments of research and dollars, Katherine Armstrong was chosen to head a new research and development department - Trait Product Development.

“Katherine was the obvious candidate,” says a retired vice president of Dow AgroSciences who worked with Armstrong for nearly two decades. “She embraced a daunting task. She successfully attracted outstanding talent from both inside and outside the company, developed novel capabilities and technologies, and delivered scientific as well as pipeline contributions that fully met or exceeded expectations. Much of Katherine and her team’s impact is just now starting to make its way into the hands of growers.”

Armstrong helped strengthen the long Purdue-DowAgroSciences relationship. The DAS-Purdue Joint Steering Team, now in its 11th year, has a goal of boosting the partnership between the two entities in research, teaching, and Extension. Armstrong was co-leader of the committee from 2008 to 2014, and she oversaw a steady flow of resources from DAS to the College of Agriculture, supporting both applied and basic Plant Sciences research, especially by graduate students. DAS specialists helped Purdue design the Indiana Corn and Soybean Innovation Center, which opened in 2016 and is the first field phenotyping facility in North America.

“The relationship stands the test of time,” a DAS executive says. A recently announced discovery of a novel soybean gene that confers resistance to a particular pathogen is one result of the collaboration. “Due to the clear outcomes for both Purdue and DowAgroSciences, Purdue embraced this university-industry connection, which now serves as a model for relationships with other universities as well. The strategy she set continues to thrive.”

* John Frischie; Kentland, Indiana.

A longtime educator in Newton County, Frischie has influenced the lives of many students and local residents by creating opportunities in entrepreneurship areas, such as FFA career development activities and adult education classes in agribusiness management, farm computing and mechanics.

He moved to Kentland in 1969, after completing his bachelor’s degree in agricultural education and serving a junior-year internship at Seymour High School, an experience that “was a foundation for my years as a teacher,” he wrote in 2012. His tenure with South Newton School Corp. began with 28 years as an ag education instructor and chairman of the vocational department. He was named Indiana Young Farmer Agribusiness Teacher of the Year in 1976 and Indiana Agriculture Teacher of the Year in 1997.

From 1997 to 2003, Frischie was director of secondary education and technology, and for two years he was an administrative assistant for the corporation. In 2016 he received the Hall of Fame Award bestowed by the Kentland Area Chamber of Commerce.

Frischie has been a member of the Kentland Rotary Club since 2006 and served as president from 2010-11. He is currently assistant governor coordinator and trainer for District 6540, which includes 54 clubs in northern Indiana, and a member of the administrative council.

As one nominator wrote, “One needs only to view his list of accomplishments and leadership responsibilities in his community to understand that John can get things done and gather community support for those efforts.”

* Paul Marsh; Naperville, Illinois.

As portfolio manager, chief underwriter, principal in the Agricultural Investments Division of Prudential Mortgage Capital Company, Marsh is recognized, in the words of a former co-worker, as “one of the most respected farm mortgage lenders in the nation, whose counsel is frequently sought not only by senior management but also by outside groups.”

Marsh earned his bachelor’s degree in agricultural economics from Purdue in 1972. A decade later, he was a regional manager, supervising farm managers for the Northern Trust Co.’s farm management. He joined Prudential in 1986.

In recent years, soil productivity and land conservation issues have been a focus. In 2016, he presented a report at the inaugural Soil Health Institute’s meeting in Louisville, Kentucky. He’s been associated with the Farm Foundation since 2010, and was on the Economics Task Force of the Soil Renaissance Project from 2014 to 2016.

A former Purdue classmate notes that Marsh has always worked to achieve the highest academic, professional and personal standards.

“Many graduates achieve great heights in their careers,” the classmate wrote in nominating Marsh for the Certificate of Distinction, “but Paul Marsh has always gone above and beyond and that is what makes him so worthy of receiving this award.”

* Ray Moistner; Fishers, Indiana.

Since January 2000, Ray Moistner has been executive director of the Indiana Hardwood Lumbermen’s Association, a trade association that now boasts 375 member firms and draws more than 1,000 people to its annual convention. “It has become the largest state hardwood trade association meeting,” says a lumber company executive, “and a must-attend for those who work in the hardwood industry around the world.”

The IHLA is the nation’s second-oldest lumber association and its membership includes residents of more than 30 states and several foreign countries. A statewide “hardwood strategy” will analyze business opportunities available based on the supply chain and identification of specific locations best suited for expansion and new manufacturing, along with the determination of domestic and global demand. Moistner is helping develop this strategy, which, “when completed will be a first for the hardwood industry, not only in Indiana but in the U.S.,” according to a state agricultural official.

Moistner’s communication skills are on display at hearings (Hardwood Export Council), board discussions (State Department of Agriculture, Purdue Agriculture Dean’s Advisory Board), and in letters to the editor (recently, in support of harvesting at Yellowwood State Forest). Hardwood lumber’s primary markets include furniture and fixtures manufacturers, and previous positions with builders groups have helped Moistner become “knowledgeable about their needs and purchasing practices. This has allowed him to take a comprehensive approach to mutually satisfying the needs of all components of the hardwood-related industry,” a colleague says.

* James E. Monger; Lafayette, Indiana.

After earning his marketing degree from Purdue in 1984, Monger began a 33-year career with Cargill Inc. Now a West Lafayette-based regional merchandising leader, Monger is responsible for Cargill’s commodity supply chain for more than 20 agricultural facilities east of the Mississippi River. He has traded multiple product lines on both coasts, managed people and assets, and been involved in acquisitions and divestitures for the nation’s largest privately held company.

Cargill provides platforms for employees to be involved in their communities and Monger has seized the opportunities. For the past four years, he’s led Cargill Cares, the company’s community relations and involvement committee.

At Purdue, Monger has helped secure financial support from Cargill for Purdue’s Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Related Sciences (MANRRS) chapter and serves as an active mentor for students in the program. “Many corporate sponsors provide important financial support for student activities,” Purdue Provost Jay Akridge, former Dean of the College of Agriculture, wrote in a letter supporting a Certificate of Distinction award for Monger, “but their personal engagement is limited. I believe it is impossible to overstate how important it is for underrepresented minorities in the College of Agriculture to interact with accomplished African-American professionals such as Mr. Monger.”

In Greater Lafayette, food insecurity is rising. Monger’s leadership “has transformed” the Food Finders Food Bank Inc. board, says CEO/President Katy Bunder. “He brings extraordinary insight in finance, human resources, board governance, and interpersonal relationships to our board and makes it a higher functioning board,” she says.

* Darrel Thomas; Greencastle, Indiana.

Darrel Thomas retired as Extension director and 4-H youth educator in Putnam County in 2001 after 31 years of service. But he was hardly ready to slow down. He joined the Putnam County Council in 2001 and has served as president since 2010.

“He works hard to ensure that all have a voice,” says William Dory, mayor of Greencastle, the county seat. “He listens and considers input from a wide range of individuals and organizations. He has mastered the nuances of the budget process for local government and has been willing to share his expertise with others in Putnam County and around the state.”

Thomas is also active with the Putnam County Community Foundation, which has established the Darrel Thomas 4-H Scholarship in his honor. He also established the Summer Program of Awareness and Recreation for Kids (SPARK) in 2000. More than 100 young people from Putnam County currently participate in the program.

“For over 30 years he quietly and humbly earned the respect of many, from all corners of the county,” Dory says. “Unknown to him, I have long considered him a role model for public service.”

Keynote speaker for this year’s Ag Alumni Association Fish Fry is Catherine Bertini, former executive director of the United Nations World Food Programme, a 2003 World Food Prize laureate, and one of the world’s leading experts on global food security.

Tickets are now available for $25 each and must be purchased in advance at Parking permits are also available for the lots adjacent to the pavilion. Cars without permits will be charged $5 to park at the fairgrounds and will not be guaranteed spaces near the building.

Round-trip bus transportation from Lafayette is available for $10. Reservations are required and space is limited.

Doors open at 10 a.m. to give early arrivals a chance to visit Purdue Agriculture Avenue, an exhibit space highlighting event sponsors, and faculty, staff and student organizations from the Purdue College of Agriculture. The program begins at 11:30 a.m. 

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