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Ken Foster announced as the 2023 Hovde Award recipient

The 2023 Frederick L. Hovde Award of Excellence in Educational Service, made possible through the support of Indiana Farm Bureau Inc., was presented to Ken Foster, professor of agricultural economics, on Dec. 15, celebrating his leadership, which has left an exceptional impact on rural communities across the state. 

Inspired by his own professors’ and mentors’ outreach and experience in the Peace Corps, the Purdue alumnus came back to the College of Agriculture as a professor to focus on teaching, research and outreach activities. During his 33-year career, Foster has made an impact on Indiana farmers and beyond through leading the establishment of the Center for Commercial Agriculture and serving as executive director of the Purdue Farm Policy Study Group. He also secured seed funding to launch the Food Entrepreneurship and Manufacturing Institute (FEMI), supporting the rural Indiana economy and emerging food entrepreneurs. 

Bernie Engel, the Glenn W. Sample Dean of Agriculture, praised Foster for his long history of outreach to Indiana’s rural communities. 

“From his early work educating pork producers on contract production challenges to his leadership in establishing the Center for Commercial Agriculture to bring advanced farm management information to farmers, Ken has had a profound impact,” Engel said. “His deep dedication to the College of Agriculture and its land-grant mission makes him an ideal recipient of the Hovde Award.” 

After Karen Plaut, former College of Agriculture dean, was appointed to the role of executive vice president for research for the university in January 2023, she asked Foster to serve as interim dean of the college. 

“What sets Ken apart is his selflessness and willingness to step outside his comfort zone for the greater good. Ken served as department head for both Agricultural Economics and Food Science previously and, on short notice, stepped up as interim dean,” Plaut said. “He has always worked tirelessly on behalf of the college to keep the commitment to the land-grant mission front and center.” 

Foster said receiving the award has been a humbling experience, thanking those who paved the way and inspired him. 

“Purdue has done a lot for me as a student and throughout my career, and the people of Indiana supported a scholarship that made it possible for me to go to college,” he said. "Receiving the Hovde Award and knowing what it stands for is extremely rewarding because it means that I was able to repay a debt that I owe to Purdue, Indiana Farm Bureau and the people of Indiana.” 

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