Honoring our retirees as they begin new chapters

It’s the time of year when we honor and say goodbye to all of our retirees during the Michigan State University (MSU) retirement reception and banquet on Tuesday, April 12. I want to give one final shout-out to our MSU Extension colleagues who have made their marks on our organization and Michigan.

Elaine Bush joined MSU Extension in 1987 as a 4-H program assistant in Benzie County, and then spent many years in Manistee County as a 4-H agent, county Extension director and finally, as an Extension educator. Throughout her career, she enjoyed working with clientele, local government officials and organizational leaders. Coordinating the MSU Extension Firewise outreach program was one of her career highlights. Elaine enjoyed working with national Extension staff involved in disaster education as the point of contact for Extension Disaster Education Network.

Gerald (“Jerry”) May’s educational programs included environmental issues relating to livestock production concentrating on air quality concerns for livestock producers, rural residents and agency staff who work directly with livestock producers. He focused on odor issues related to livestock production, selecting sites for livestock facilities and the National Air Quality Site Assessment Tool. He also provided quality assurance education programs for pork producers on a regional basis. Jerry’s greatest pride and enjoyment came from relationships he developed working with farm employees and owners, state agency staff, 4-H youth and his Extension colleagues.

Jane Herbert joined Extension in 1996 as a water quality educator responsible for design, development, coordination, promotion, teaching, evaluation and budgeting of regional and statewide water quality programs and activities. In 2008, she became the lead educator for the MSU Extension inland lake shoreline restoration programing and was a founding member of the Michigan Natural Shoreline Partnership that developed the Certified Natural Shoreline Professional program. She provided leadership for a series of natural shoreline workshops and train-the-trainer sessions to equip natural resource professionals to educate lakefront property owners.

Patricia (“Pat”) Dignum began her career as a 4-H educator in Kent County and later moved to Montcalm County. In Kent and Montcalm counties, she provided educational programming and oversight of 4-H Youth Development, along with volunteer and leadership trainings for community partners. In Kent County, she also developed afterschool programs in science and nutrition for urban elementary schools and at-risk secondary students. In recent years, as a supervising educator, she provided support to the 4-H staff in 10 counties.

Theresa Silm has devoted her life to 4-H and youth. After graduating with a B.A. in child development and elementary education from Michigan State University, she accepted a position as a 4-H program associate in Clinton County in 1977. She later became the 4-H youth agent. She has provided both youth programming and family education, and has worked with community partners to develop programs, curriculum and trainings for children and teens.

Wanda Roberts began as the Grand Traverse County 4-H Extension agent in 1990. In her role, Wanda facilitated meaningful partnerships with community organizations to provide educational programming for community members, especially youth. As supervisor of local 4-H program coordinators, she was also dedicated to mentoring and helping her colleagues be successful. Following her passion for financial literacy, Ms. Roberts served for five years as a financial educator with the Financial and Homeownership Education Team. She was instrumental in creating a partnership with Michigan’s Department of Insurance and Financial Services in investor education. She also served as the co-chair of the national Financial Security for All eXtension Community of Practice. She is a member of the Michigan Association of Extension 4-H Youth Staff and the National Association of Extension 4-H Agents.

I also want to take time to honor and remember Thomas (“Tom”) Schneider who unexpectedly passed away in Laos earlier this year while doing what he loved. For the past 13 years, he would travel to Laos to train local indigenous hill tribe members who in turn provide an education to the local children as a step in helping build a sustainable local economy. He joined Extension in 1977 as an Extension 4-H youth agent in Oakland County. In 1988, he became an Extension program leader responsible for developing the new property donation to MSU and managing the Tollgate Extension Center located in the heart of Novi, Michigan. Throughout his career, Tom committed himself to helping young people and adults achieve success in their lives. Tom was a strong advocate for the staff he supported and worked with, serving on numerous committees related to staff development and leadership. As a co-creator of the MSU Extension Facilitator Excellence training, he was instrumental in helping professionals across Michigan and the country improve their group facilitation skills in support of community and youth development efforts. Tom is survived by his wife, Brenda, and daughter, Jennifer. We join them in remembering how he changed our lives.

To all of our retirees, thank you again for all of the important work that you’ve done for Michigan residents and your service to our organization. You have made a difference in all of our lives.

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