Retirees’ contributions highlighted

Every spring, Michigan State University holds a luncheon for recent faculty and academic staff retirees and invites back previous retirees for the luncheon. All of the retirees were invited to a reception prior to the luncheon, hosted by the MSU Extension Director’s Office and Epsilon Sigma Phi (ESP). I’d like to share some brief information about each retiree with you here in the Spotlight.

 Alden M. Booren, Departments of Food Science and Human Nutrition and Animal Science, AgBioRearch and MSU Extension. One of the outstanding services of Dr. Booren to the university was the extensive renovation of the meat laboratory under his direction. It’s now the focal point for MSU meat science teaching, research and Extension programs, and attracts millions of dollars in extramural funding. Over the years, he has built a national and international reputation in his area of meat science, taught thousands of students, and through his research, has improved meat food science and safety to the benefit of all. Through his Extension activities, he has helped the Michigan and U.S. meat industry to be successful. Among his numerous awards is the 2010 Outstanding Service Award from the American Association of Meat Processors. Filling Al’s shoes is one of the challenges we face in these difficult budgets, but with leadership from both of Al’s Department Chairs, Drs. Janice Swanson and Fred Derksen, we’re finding new ways to serve meat processors in Michigan.

 Stephen B. Harsh, Department of Agricultural, Food, and Resource Economics, AgBioRearch and MSU Extension. Dr. Harsh became known internationally as one of the first researchers to pioneer and further the use of information technology in agriculture. Known for his scholarly based outreach programs for agricultural industries, he has provided steady leadership in coordinating and training Extension educators. More recently, his efforts have focused on renewable energy, particularly wind energy. He has collaborated with U.S. and European colleagues on scientific articles and organizing international conferences. Although his classes were challenging, Dr. Harsh had a wide reputation of being a caring teacher. Dr. Harsh is a past recipient of MSU’s Distinguished Faculty Award, the Alexander von Humboldt Fellowship, the John A. Hannah Award for Extension Excellence, USDA Superior Service Award, and has chaired sessions of the Salzburg Seminar. Dr. Harsh served on the MSU Athletic Council, college and university curriculum committees, University Academic Council, and as director of the College Computer Services and Budget Office. Dr. Harsh also has given tremendously as a volunteer for the Chief Okemos Council of the Boy Scouts of America, and I’m confident he’ll continue serving in many ways in retirement.

 Janice K. Hartough, MSU Extension – Southwest Region. Since 1972, Janice has taken on a variety of administrative and leadership roles in Extension, including county Extension director for Barry County, area Extension home economist, and Extension coordinator for the Kettering Dialogue and Deliberation Initiative. Her work in helping develop the Kettering initiative, including the implementation of related training programs and strategic plans, was indispensable. Janice has presented adult learning sessions and workshops at state, national and international levels, and has been an active member and leader in Epsilon Sigma Phi, the honorary society of Extension professionals. She possesses the qualities of a great leader that created effective relationships with public officials, and community and state agencies.

 Ralph W. Heiden, MSU Extension – Agriculture/Agribusiness Institute. Ralph started his career at MSU in 1987, working in the Department of Horticulture as a coordinator for the Master Gardener Volunteer Program (MGVP). In the spring of 1989, He joined MSU Extension as a county Extension horticulture agent in Jackson County. Highly respected in the MGVP, he taught several statewide conference events, served as keynote speaker at several community group meetings, and maintained a valuable working relationship with Partnership Park, a small gardening project in the Jackson community. Ralph has been at the forefront of the use of technology to enhance the MGVP, including work in website management as well as portal development and training. He has been responsible for forming collaborations with several agencies, among them the Department on Aging, Jackson Conservation District and the Dahlem Center. He has been a strong voice for MSU Extension in local media outlets, particularly the Jackson Citizen Patriot for which he writes monthly articles.

 Richard H. Leep, Department of Crop and Soil Sciences. Dr. Leep joined the MSU Department of Crop and Soil Sciences in 1976, after spending 2 ½ years as an MSU County Extension educator. He has provided educational and technical assistance to Extension educators and farmers across the state, in the areas of alfalfa management, alternative forage crops and general forage crop pasture management. In recognition of his contributions as an Extension forage specialist, Dr. Leep has received numerous awards and honors, including the most coveted award of the forage industry, the 2010 American Forage and Grasslands Society Medallion Award for outstanding service to the national and international forage industry.

 May Mong, MSU Extension – Health and Nutrition Institute. In 1994, May Mong joined the Extension staff as a home economist in Genesee County. She provided educational trainings on promoting healthy eating habits, planning meals and combating obesity in young adults. Throughout her career, May had the ability to be flexible in adjusting the focus of programming and working with multiple county partners. She was dedicated to building effective relationships within the community in order to meet the community’s needs, serving diverse audiences and being a powerful advocate for the university and for Extension.

 Barbara L. Mutch, Department of Community, Agriculture, Recreation and Resource Studies and MSU Extension. Barbara has been part of MSU since 1980, focusing on community development, public health, food security, and access and availability. Through her leadership of Better Kid Care, a project funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and the Family Independence Agency of Michigan, she helped to establish the Saginaw Family Childcare Network and to lead other communities toward similar organizations. Barbara served on a Michigan Food Policy Council Task Force as a liaison to the Michigan Nutrition Network, Michigan State Nutrition Action Plan, Vital Aging Team and Connecting Michigan Families. In 2003, she helped found the C.S. Mott Group for Sustainable Food Systems in MSU’s Department of Community, Agriculture, Recreation and Resource Studies, where she was an outreach specialist. In 2007, she developed the Choices Conference for nutrition professionals to help participants consider nutrition within a community food context. In 2008, she moved to the Michigan Nutrition Network where she helped guide its growth into new areas of nutrition education.

 Joanne E. Pihlaja, MSU Extension – Health and Nutrition Institute. Joanne joined MSU Extension in July 1989, working in Gogebic and Iron counties as an Extension home economist. Most recently, she has been working with the Health and Nutrition Institute, as a regional Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – Education (SNAP-Ed) coordinator. Joanne maintained excellent working relationships with state partners and colleagues throughout her career with Extension. Because of those relationships, she was able to obtain funding needed for Extension programs, even during difficult economic times. She demonstrated increased efficiency, through training and education, implementing various learning materials for instructors.

 George W. (“Bill”) Robb, MSU Extension – Agriculture and Agribusiness. Bill Robb joined MSU Extension in 1976 as an Extension dairy agent in St. Clair and Macomb counties. After serving the dairy industry in eastern Michigan for four years, Bill served as Mason County Extension director and then Allegan County Extension director. Appointed district dairy agent in 1995, he assisted farmers in six southwestern Michigan counties. In 2005, he held the regional dairy Extension educator position serving the West Central Region. He was interim county Extension director in Ottawa County in 2008, and he continued to serve the dairy industry as a regional educator until his retirement in 2010. He was active in the Michigan Extension Agricultural Educators Association, serving the association as an officer and playing a key role in the association’s successful hosting of the national convention. He received both the Achievement Award and Distinguished Service award from the National Association of Agricultural Agents. He also served as president of the Michigan Council of Extension Associations. Bill was part of the first group of Extension educators to earn promotion to Senior Educator status, a designation initiated in 2008 that is reserved for Extension employees who have distinguished themselves from their peers in their educational programming and contribution to the organization.

 Linda M. Rossberg, MSU Extension – Upper Peninsula Region. Linda joined MSU Extension in 1978 as a 4-H program assistant. In May 1980, she became a three-county Extension home economist and in 1989 became the Marquette County Extension director. Linda received a national award for financial management from the National Association of Extension Home Economists. She provided the leadership to develop a mediation center serving Marquette and Alger counties. She trained volunteer mediators as well as served as a volunteer mediator in the alternative dispute resolution method. She served as the mediation center director until 2001 and still serves on the Board of Directors. Her skills as a mediator led to numerous requests from agencies to conduct conflict resolution workshops for their staff members and boards of directors.

 Beverly J. Terry, MSU Extension – Southeast Region. In 1989, Beverly joined MSU Extension as a 4-H youth agent in Presque Isle County. She later served as an Extension community partnership coordinator, Livingston County Extension director, Oakland County Extension director and associate regional director in the Southeast Region. Beverly provided educational trainings and wrote newsletters, which focused on a variety of topics, such as substance abuse prevention, family nutrition and development of team-building skills. She built enduring partnerships with local county boards and administrators. Her outstanding relationship building resulted in additional funding for Extension programs. As an advocate for MSU and Extension, she challenged colleagues to broaden audiences and expand their effectiveness.

 Lois M. Thieleke, MSU Extension – Health and Nutrition Institute. In 1982, Lois joined MSU Extension as a home economist in Oakland County. She later served as an Extension associate program leader, acting Oakland County Extension director and acting St. Clair County Extension director. She provided educational training, and wrote and distributed wellness newsletters. Lois excelled in building effective teams with external organizations, colleagues, or those whom she supervised. She also was adept at building the capacity of team members. Highly respected in the Oakland County community, Lois is an excellent communicator, mentor and professional, and a tremendous advocate for the university and Extension. When I attended her retirement celebration in Oakland County last year, I was overwhelmed by the respect, admiration and dedication of staff members who had benefited from Lois’ supervision.

 Carol L. Townsend, MSU Extension – Greening Michigan Institute. After working for the MSU Center for Urban Affairs, Carol joined Extension in 1998. She served as an urban community development educator in Kent County, working closely with neighborhood organizations and the city of Grand Rapids in various community development educational programs. Carol worked with community leaders in establishing United Growth for Kent County, an initiative made possible with funding from the Frey Foundation designed to strengthen connections between Grand Rapids and surrounding rural governmental units. The initiative received national attention for its innovative approaches to bridging the urban-rural divide. She has mentored numerous MSU students in on-site job experiences through the MSU Urban Collaborators program. Carol has been dedicated to building the capacity of citizens and neighborhood associations and leveraging public dollars with private grants and sponsorships. She co-authored the “Building Great Neighborhoods” manual, which serves as a guide to urban neighborhoods statewide.

 Robert D. von Bernuth, School of Planning, Design and Construction (and College of Social Science). Dr. von Bernuth joined MSU as chair of the Agricultural Engineering Department, after seven years at the University of Tennessee. He led the transition of the department from agricultural engineering to biosystems and agricultural engineering. He helped establish the restoration ecology course in Fisheries and Wildlife and the comprehensive nutrient management course in Animal Science. He was a co-founder of the Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program (MAEAP) and was the first chair of the program. He later led the formation of the School of Planning, Design and Construction, and served as the founding director. He was deeply involved in the initiation of MSU Dubai, and as assistant dean in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, he led the college efforts there. He taught construction management courses in Dubai in 2009 and 2010. He has received the Distinguished Faculty Award in CANR and the Withrow Teaching Award in the College of Engineering. The Associated Schools of Construction named him Teacher of the Year. In retirement, Bob will continue to be involved in the Irrigation Association where he is an internationally known expert.

Mark R. Williams, MSU Extension – Southwest Region. Mark joined MSU Extension in 1975. Over the years, he has served in various Extension positions, including program associate, 4-H youth agent and Hillsdale County Extension director. His commitment to the Extension mission is evident through his roles in developing, planning and supporting 4-H programs. His work includes planning and developing various educational programs, coordinating and hosting training series, and presenting Extension programs to various community outlets. Mark was one of the organizing members for the Fisheries and Wildlife Area of Expertise team, and it was in that context that I first met him. He is a board member of the Michigan 4-H Foundation. He continues to engage in a weekly radio presentation and often submits newspaper articles pertaining to his work at Extension. Mark’s leadership continues to help people improve their lives in Hillsdale County, even in retirement.

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