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2018 Corinne Alexander Spirit of the Land-Grant Mission Award presented to Douglass Jacobs

Jacob doug portraitDouglass Jacobs, the Fred M. van Eck Professor of Forest Biology and Associate Head for Extension in the Department of Forestry and Natural Resources (FNR), was honored as the tenth recipient of the Corinne Alexander Spirit of the Land-Grant Mission Award.

First given in 2008, the award was recently named after Corinne Alexander, who died unexpectedly in January 2016. Alexander was a professor in the Department of Agricultural Economics, known for her energy, curiosity, passion, and genuine love for people.

Annually, a Purdue University faculty member in the College of Agriculture, Health and Human Sciences or Veterinary Medicine receives this honor. The award committee identified Jacobs as an ideal candidate by his display of “excellence in integrating and promoting the core missions of discovery, engagement, and learning.”

Jacobs joined Purdue FNR in 2001. Over 17 years, Jacobs expanded his impact and accomplishments. He specializes in the restoration and reforestation of trees. Jacobs identifies issues in forests and the forest industry. The efforts – rooted in Indiana – reach across the Midwest, and even to Hawaii. Several facets of Jacobs’ research have been developed into Extension initiatives, addressing issues in cultivation processes and improving the outlook of regional forest regeneration. 

“I develop a set of stakeholders or end users who are experiencing problems, and then I design a set of research questions and programs around that,” Jacobs explains. 

Karen Plaut, the Glenn W. Sample Dean of the Purdue College of Agriculture, describes Jacobs’ work as outstanding and has seen how it is “making a difference in the hardwood tree industry in Indiana as well as across the country.”

Jacob holding award with a group of adults smiling to the camera

On November 30, a ceremony was held to present Jacobs with the award, which included $10,000 to support his program. Additionally, Jacobs received an honorarium of $1,500 from the Robert and Zelma Swaim Endowment.

After receiving the award, Jacobs gave a presentation entitled “Listen First! Integrating Across the Land Grant Mission to Address Issues in Natural Resources.”

The speech covered a range of topics including Jacobs’ journey to Purdue, exponential nutrient loading of tree seedlings, nursery subirrigation, and efforts to resurrect the American chestnut population.

In his presentation, Jacobs mentioned how national funding to efforts in forestry research and development has significantly decreased. There is now only one Extension specialist per 3.1 million acres of forest in America.  With the future in mind, Jacobs aims to teach his peers and students how to do more with less.

“One thing I’ve learned after 17 years here at Purdue is the importance of leaving a legacy, largely in terms of our undergraduate and graduate students. That’s not something I think you inherently understand when you start out as a faculty member. That’s something that comes in time after you see some of your students go out and do amazing things in the real world. For me, this has really become the most inspiring part of what I do here: seeing students that are excited about the land grant mission and go on to have awesome careers.” 

“In my opinion” Jacobs concluded, “the spirit of the land grant is no stronger than at Purdue University and specifically within the College of Agriculture.”

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