In last week’s Spotlight, I shared some brief information about nine of our 17 new Michigan State University Extension retirees. As promised, here are the other eight.
Extension educator Roberta Osborne began her career with MSU Extension in 1980. She has served 15 counties as agricultural agent, dairy and livestock agent, county Extension director and agriculture educator. She worked extensively with nutrient management planning, training programs and research with crops and animals. She was responsible for planning and delivering holistic programs in all aspects of dairy production, including funding, nutrition, sustainability research and techniques to improve quality. In recognition of her contributions to the dairy industry, she received the Epsilon Sigma Phi State Team Award in Sanilac in 1986. In addition to her dairy management work, she specialized in livestock with an environmental focus. She provided small ruminant education and researched parasite management practices. She co-chaired the manure team, where she established training programs for Extension agents and producers. She also worked on water sustainability research and farmland preservation and management, winning Branch County Farm Bureau recognition for her work in writing the farmland preservation ordinance for Branch County and creating a land use plan for the entire county that saved $20,000.
Senior district Extension educator Charles Pistis was selected to be the first Sea Grant agent for southwestern Michigan in 1977. In 1994, he was appointed the Ottawa County Extension director, holding that position until 2007, when he was appointed the Michigan Sea Grant Extension state program coordinator. He provided planning, implementation and evaluation of Sea Grant Extension programs educating citizens, communities, businesses, public officials and organizations on critical issues such as coastal zoning, marina management, fisheries, shoreline erosion and pollution. He also provided leadership for the Sea Grant team in fish contaminants, aquatic nuisance species, sport fisheries, charter fisheries, recreational boating and marinas. He led several initiatives to adapt, slow and prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species, establish Michigan bottomland preserves, expand Michigan’s commercial fishing industry and provide water safety education. He has received many awards such as the Michigan Boating Industries Association Lighthouse Award in 2008 and 2004. He received the MSU Extension Distinguished Staff Award in 2002, and the MSU Cooperative Extension Service Director’s Award for Excellence in Performance in 1986. He received several Michigan Council of Extension Associations Awards for Program Excellence for his Coast Watch and rip tides research and education programs.
In 1990, Extension educator Mary Robb began her career with Extension as home economist for Montcalm and Ionia counties. Contributions include “Building Blocks,”a newsletter for families, and Foster Grandparents that involved 75 grandparents working with children. She collaborated with other educators to reach inner-city students through after-school programs establishing community forums to identify family needs and challenges. She became the Kent County leadership and community development educator and collaborated with the Kent County Health Department and Grand Rapids Public Schools to develop the School Health Project and the Families in Touch program. As the county Extension director for community and leadership development in Muskegon County, she established the value and relevance of Extension; she oversaw professional development, established herself as a county expert in group facilitation, and connected with local organizations to collaborate and provide funding for programs. She worked with the MSU Agricultural Product Center to deliver workshops for businesses and designed the Product Center curriculum, reaching more than 100 entrepreneurs. She was awarded the Government Encouraging Entrepreneurs Awardfrom the Chamber of Commerce of the West Shore Governmental Affairs Committee.
Extension educator Warren Schauer served for 32 years in Extension, creating and implementing programming focused on financial analysis, farm business succession and estate planning, and youth market livestock record keeping. He was involved in Telfarm accounting as well as in Annie’s Project that strengthened women’s roles in farm enterprises. He also served as an agricultural innovation counselor. He was responsible for collaborating and organizing effective educational efforts such as Bay de Noc beef producer feeder cattle marketing and the Bay de Noc Garden Conference, as well as dairy, wind energy and bioenergy programs. He communicated with the community through his weekly news column and monthly radio program, reaching northeastern Lower Michigan, the Upper Peninsula and Delta County. He was also widely involved in international Extension efforts, such as his collaboration with the Citizens Network for Foreign Affairs in Mozambique and his work in the Ukraine, teaching farm management principles, business skills, credit and accounting. He also participated in the Caribbean agricultural Extension project in St. Lucia, collaborating with local universities and agencies to establish extension demonstration districts, develop farm management accounting materials and provide training. In 2011, he received the National Association of County Agricultural Agents (NACAA) Distinguished Service Award serving over 10 years, the Distinguished Service to Agriculture Award from the Growing UP Ag Association in 2008 and the President’s Citation from the Michigan Association of Agricultural Agents in 1985.
Extension educator Sheryl Schrot joined Extension in 1989 as a 4-H Youth Development educator in Menominee County. She provided direction and leadership to the 4-H program through planning, organizing, implementing and evaluating youth development programs according to the needs of the county. She developed the vision and brought several agencies together to create the Bay Area Summer Enrichment Camp (BASEC), which provided weeklong sessions on visual and performing arts as well as environmental education. She received the 1994 Michigan Association of Extension 4-H Youth Staff (MAE4-HYS) Team Award for BASEC. She also participated in the 4-H Camp Molinare to provide overnight camping experiences for children living in low-income situations. She worked with public schools to develop a conservation curriculum and to create after-school programs. She also coordinated 4-H international exchanges with Mexico, Japan and Poland, and received the 2001 Michigan 4-H International Award. Her awards include Distinguished Service Awards from the MAE4-HYS and the National Association of Extension 4-H Youth Staff in 1995 and 2004, respectively.
Extension specialist Cynthia Straus began her 32 years of service to Extension as Alpena Extension home economist, later serving as associate program leader and Extension specialist for technology services. Other notable accomplishments include her leadership development programs and her collaboration with Canadian Extension, the Michigan Sea Grant program and regional staff members to organize the International Water Conference for which she received the Epsilon Sigma Phi Pal Project Award in 1986. She received the same award in 1990 for her work with the Water Quality Grant. Also in 1990, she received the Epsilon Sigma Phi Extension Team Award for her work in family and community leadership. She helped to develop food safety education and the materials database as a result of the national Grant for Food Safety Education. Awarded the presidency of the Agriculture Network Information Collaborative (AgNIC) organization, her technology work had a vast impact, beginning with her home maintenance and repair database, her implementation of the MSU Extension portal, and her role in organizing publications and education pieces into an accessible, digital format.
Extension educator Mary Swiderski worked with Extension 4-H from 1985 to 1990 and became a Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program‒Education (SNAP-Ed) educator in 1994. She taught healthy eating, nutrition, cooking and budgeting, especially for families living in low-income situations. Fifty to 60 people per year benefited from her nutrition programs. Her most notable accomplishments were a result of her creation of the Wellness Coalition, which brought together Michigan Extension, the Sault Ste Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians, Mackinac Straits Hospital, St. Ignace schools and the North Country Hiking Trail. Working with the coalition, she participated in implementing programs to improve the health of youth and their families by preventing weight problems and chronic health issues. The coalition reached out to schools to implement wellness policies and to create healthier menus as well as vending machines and fund-raisers. To promote physical and emotional well-being, the coalition set up programs such as Get Movin’ in May and Walk with the Principal to encourage physical activity, healthy eating habits and an active lifestyle. Additionally, she was responsible for putting together 20 television shows used in local schools. The shows emphasized healthy recipes, food safety tips and physical fitness activities. Additionally, she was named the 2011 Child Advocate of the Year by Mackinac County for her work as the Mackinac County child protection coordinator and her work with the Child Protection Roundtable.
In 1995, Extension educator Craig Thomas, came to Extension with a wealth of experience with Extension programs, agriculture and agribusiness from previous positions in California, Florida and Wisconsin. He became the dairy Extension educator for Huron, Lapeer, St. Clair, Sanilac and Tuscola counties, conducting education programs for agribusinesses, financial institutions, dairy producers and the public. His programs specialized in dairy production technologies and computerized accounting systems, financial planning and economics, and milking parlor management and design. He worked with dozens of dairy farms across the state to educate on performing budget analysis to assist them in obtaining financing for dairy expansions and modernizations, and to reduce costs. These efforts brought millions of dollars of new investments in dairy production facilities in Michigan. He received the John Hannah Award for Program Excellence in 2011 for his collaboration with now retired Extension educator Fred Hinkley on the 18-year program Agriculture Market Update. This agricultural marketing program reached out to crop, dairy and livestock farmers and other agriculture professionals, providing them with commodity marketing education.