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Purdue Alumni Couple Funds Forestry Internship Program

Vince Milnes (BS Industrial Management 1988) grew up spending time on the family farm in BrownA barn, farm land and forest land on the Milnes Family Farm County, Indiana, owned by his grandparents John and Wilma Milnes. Eventually when his parents lived on the property, Vince helped his father farm the land part time. Both experiences helped shape Vince’s love for the property he and his wife Jennifer (BS Retail Management 1988) now call home and their desire to see it survive into the future.

“My grandparents were a couple that was totally self-sufficient. They had beef cattle, they had a dairy cow, they had chickens and rabbits and every now and then they would have a pig. They also had a huge garden,” Vince recalled. “They would can goods and pretty much all of their needs were taken care of on this farm. They worked very hard, but they lived a very simple, and I think very satisfying life.

“My dad was an engineer for RCA for a lot of years, but we always farmed part time. We worked hard, but I was always there with Dad and I loved the time that I spent with him and I loved being outside. That gave me an appreciation for the country setting that we live in.”

While Vince and Jennifer now live on the 260-acre farm, which has been in the family since the 1940s, their lives and careers took them many miles away before they circled back to Indiana in 2020.

Their story begins at Purdue in the 1980s.

“We had so much fun at Purdue,” Jennifer said. “For me, I grew up in Greencastle, a small town, so going to Purdue, and just being on that huge campus and experiencing what life was like in a much more diverse culture was great fun. And also, just being able to go and pursue the interest I had for retail but still being in Indiana, closer to home was a perfect fit for me.Vince and Jenn Milnes sit in front of the forest land on their property in Brown County, Indiana

“We had the great fortune of graduating at a time when job opportunities were plentiful, especially for Purdue graduates. This was way before we ever had technology, so we signed up on job boards through the Career Center. We did a lot of interviews and we were blessed to have many job offers. Vince’s job offer landed us in California, a place we never thought we would live.”

For the first 10 years after graduation, Vince worked for a large printing company, relocating every two years to a different part of the country. He started as an industrial engineer, but eventually served as a production manager and a plant manager before he decided he was ready for a career change.

“I always had an interest in becoming a financial advisor, so I left my career in the printing industry,” Vince said. “I started from scratch and became a financial advisor, which I did with Edward Jones for a little over 20 years. Then, I became a regional leader where I was responsible for multiple offices until they asked me to come into the home office as a general partner. Every time we moved with the roles that I was in, Jenn just continued finding opportunities in the staffing industry and she did that for almost 30 years.”

In the early months of 2020 before the pandemic hit, the couple decided to retire and make the move back home to Brown County to be near Vince’s mother, Freida, who had just turned 86.

“It is a beautiful part of the state and I’ve always had a passion for it and loved it here,” Vince explained. “Being born and raised here, it was easy to have an interest in conservation and an appreciation for the beauty of the hills, the trees, the wildlife and everything that comes with it.”

Now, through the Milnes Family Forestry and Natural Resources Summer Intern Program, the land, and allA view of the fields and forest on the Milnes Family Farm that it has to offer, will become a training ground for Purdue Forestry and Natural Resources students to gain applied land management and research-based experiences.

“The Milnes’ donation will provide long-term support for our existing forestry internship program,” Mike Saunders, a professor of ecology and natural resources, said. “This will also likely allow the Milnes FNR Internships to serve as an alternative to Summer Practicum for forestry training, specifically targeting double majors, nontraditional and other students.”

Purdue FNR is actively recruiting for three forestry intern positions for the summer of 2024. Interns will rotate among projects, properties and supervisors - ranging from the FNR woodland staff to department faculty members - throughout the summer. Students will engage in a wide range of tasks related to forest management, tree improvement and habitat management. They will supplement existing research, extension and management efforts on FNR managed properties and cooperating properties, like the Milnes family farm and those engaged with the Hardwood Tree Improvement and Regeneration Center (HTIRC).

Vince and Jennifer Milnes conceived the idea for their internship program endowment after visiting the 700-acre farm of Ted Jones, the son of the founder of Edward Jones, and his wife, Pat. The Jones established partnerships with the University of Missouri and the Missouri Prairie Foundation for the purposes of prairie restoration, youth conservation education and research.The Milnes Family Farm with a piece of antique farm equipment, a field and forest land

“I thought, maybe on a smaller scale, there was a way we could do something like that here,” Vince said. “We wanted to do something that would honor my parents (Jim and Freida). We loved the idea of opening up our farm or land so that some research could be done, but also so that students could experience learning here through an active, hands-on learning experience. It means a lot to us because I suspect that they will never forget the experience that they have here, what it meant to them and what they learned from it. My mom is very excited about the idea and she feels that if my dad were here today, he would love it and be very pleased. We are thrilled to do it and I suspect we will be getting more out of it than Purdue or the FNR students.”

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