Tag Archives: hoke smith

Michigan Legislature honors MSU Extension

Thursday marked the 100th anniversary of President Woodrow Wilson’s signing of the Smith-Lever Act, which established the Cooperative Extension Service (and with it, the Michigan Cooperative Extension Service, now known as Michigan State University Extension). U.S. Sen. Hoke Smith of Georgia and U.S. Rep. A. F. Lever of South Carolina authored the Smith-Lever Act to expand the “vocational, agricultural and home demonstration programs in rural America” by bringing the research-based knowledge of the land-grant universities to people where they live and work.

Our Michigan Legislature is expected to adopt two resolutions that honor MSU Extension. Yesterday, May 8, the Michigan Senate adopted Senate Resolution 143. It recognizes the significance of the Smith-Lever Act to the establishment of Cooperative Extension nationwide and encourages people to observe and celebrate the centennial with a focus on launching an innovative and sustainable future for Cooperative Extension. Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker was the lead sponsor of the resolution in the Michigan Senate, and was joined by co-sponsors Darwin Booher, Jack Brandenburg, Michael Green, Goeffrey Hanson, Michael Kowall, John Pappageorge and John Proos.

Rep. Roger Victory is the lead sponsor on a similar resolution in the House of Representatives, and the House members are expected to vote on the resolution next week. I’m grateful for the support we receive from our Legislature as well as from Michigan residents.

We’ve spent 100 years delivering programs to help people improve their lives, and you as educators, specialists, support staff, volunteers – whatever your contribution ‒ have been a part of that history. We will continue to extend university-based research and knowledge to Michigan residents. You can be proud of our past, our present and the future that MSU Extension will create.

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Making connections in Washington, DC

PILD Conference left to right: Phil Durst, Tom Coon, Seaman Knapp (Iowa, Texas, and USDA), Lynnae Jess, Rep. Asbury Lever (South Carolina), Bindu Bhakta, Sen. Hoke Smith (Georgia), Deanna East, Bev Przystas, and Sharon Jeffery.

MSU Extension delegation at the Public Issues Leadership Development (PILD Conference, along with a few retirees – left to right: Phil Durst, Tom Coon, Seaman Knapp (Iowa, Texas, and USDA), Lynnae Jess, Rep. Asbury Lever (South Carolina), Bindu Bhakta, Sen. Hoke Smith (Georgia), Deanna East, Bev Przystas, and Sharon Jeffery. The conference took place April 6-9 in Alexandria, Va. near Washington, D.C.

I had the good fortune of spending some time with colleagues from Michigan State University Extension at the Public Issues Leadership Development (PILD) Conference in the Washington, D.C. area this week. The conference offers workshops and features speakers on the federal side of the partnership that makes up Cooperative Extension. It also provides opportunities to meet with leaders in the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA) who support and work with Cooperative Extension programs across the country. The capstone to the conference was visiting Congressional offices to meet with elected members of Congress and their staff members to help them learn about what we do in MSU Extension to help people improve their lives.

This year’s conference had a good dose of history in recognition of the centennial of the Smith-Lever Act, which established the federal partnership with land-grant universities and county government to form our uniquely American institution. We even had life-size cut-out figures representing Seaman Knapp, Congressman Asbury Lever and Senator Hoke Smith. Knapp pioneered the concept of farm demonstration agents, which gave rise to Extension agents, and Lever and Smith were the co-sponsors of the Congressional Act, which carries their names. Lever was from South Carolina and Smith was from Georgia. The seven Spartans at the conference couldn’t pass up a photo opportunity with Knapp, Smith and Lever.

I was joined by Bindu Bhakta, Phil Durst, Deanna East, Sharon Jeffery, Lynnae Jess and Bev Przystas, each representing his or her professional Extension association.


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Celebrating the past by telling the stories of those we serve

The year 1914 was a momentous one in the history of the United States and the world, one whose impacts still resonate today. The Panama Canal opened for business as an important conduit of commerce, contributing to the development of global economic connectivity. The Model T assembly line opened in Dearborn, Michigan, signaling a large step in manufacturing technology. Norman Borlaug, an agriculturalist and humanist whose work led to the “Green Revolution,” was born on a farm near Cresco, Iowa. A Serbian assassin took the lives of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and Duchess Sophie, initiating the series of conflicts that became “The Great War.”

In Washington, D.C., Congress and President Woodrow Wilson established the Federal Trade Commission and the Federal Reserve System and they even declared Mother’s Day an official federal holiday. President Wilson spent much of the year trying to keep the United States out of the conflicts that were escalating in Europe. But among all of those activities, there was one more piece of legislation that passed that is particularly important to us, the Smith-Lever Act. On May 8, President Wilson signed this legislation authored by a Georgia senator (Hoke Smith) and a South Carolina congressional representative (Asbury Lever), creating the Cooperative Extension System. Like the Panama Canal, the Ford production line along the Rouge River and the contributions of science to feeding the world’s people, the Cooperative Extension System remains in existence today. More importantly, it continues to address the needs of families, farms, businesses and communities by helping them to apply knowledge from the latest scientific research to the challenges they face each day.

In the year ahead, we want to take advantage of the opportunity to celebrate our legacy – 100 years of Cooperative Extension in Michigan – and the future that we will create from that legacy. In some respects, a moment like this gives us an opportunity to reflect upon and celebrate the many Extension professionals who have preceded us and given us an organization that is unique in the way it translates the assets of a great university into practical knowledge that changes people’s lives. It also gives us an opportunity to reflect upon and celebrate the people we and our predecessors have served. In trying to find ways to celebrate our legacy while projecting that legacy forward, I would like to suggest a special project that we could carry out in 2014.

Quite simply, the point of the project would be to focus on the stories of the people we serve today as a way of telling the story of Michigan State University (MSU) Extension. I will be sharing more details about the project on our MSU Extension webinar on Monday, Dec. 16. I encourage you to join us for that webinar so we can benefit from your thoughts and insights about how we can conduct this project. I will also welcome volunteers who are eager to help us carry out this project. As we prepare for 2014, let’s consider this the beginning of a year of celebration that can help extend knowledge and appreciation for our 100 years of service to the people of Michigan.

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Starting a new century

On May 8, 1914, President Woodrow Wilson signed legislation that extended the land-grant university concept beyond university campuses to reach into communities across the United States. That legislation is one that created the Cooperative Extension System (CES) as a partnership between the federal government, state governments and county governments. That legislation continues today as the key authorization legislation for the work of Michigan State University Extension. The legislation, the Smith-Lever Act of 1914, carries the names of its two primary sponsors, Senator Hoke Smith of Georgia and Representative A.F. Lever of South Carolina. The act’s stated purpose was “. . . to aid in diffusing among the people of the United States useful and practical information on subjects relating to agriculture, uses of solar energy with respect to agriculture, home economics, and rural energy, and to encourage the application of the same, there may be continued or inaugurated in connection with the college of colleges in each State, Territory, or possession . . .”

The Extension Committee on Organization and Policy (ECOP), which serves as the governing body of the land-grant university Cooperative Extension System, has commissioned an ad hoc committee to plan celebrations of the Smith-Lever Centennial in 2014. At the Galaxy IV Conference in Pittsburgh last week, several sessions and a reception took place to launch the year-long celebration. Some of the highlights of the national celebration can be found at the 100 Years of Extension website and will include a Capitol Hill Reception in the U.S. Capitol Visitors Center in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, March 5 (hosted by Senator Debbie Stabenow of Michigan). This is scheduled to occur at the conclusion of the Council for Agricultural Research, Extension and Teaching (CARET) Conference so that citizen delegates to that conference can celebrate the centennial with senators, representatives, congressional staff, administration officials and stakeholders of the national CES network. Then on Thursday, May 8, ECOP will host a convocation of speakers to celebrate the history of Cooperative Extension and to articulate visions for the next century of Cooperative Extension. You can also follow the celebration on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Extension100Years

Although it’s great to have celebrations in our nation’s capital, it seems just as important to celebrate the centennial of Smith-Lever at the state and county levels as well. With that in mind, I’d like to invite your thoughts on how we might celebrate this milestone event. I’m particularly interested in highlighting some of the history of Cooperative Extension in Michigan with our future vision for MSU Extension in the next century. Please take some time to reflect on how we might celebrate Smith-Lever locally and statewide in the first five months of 2014. Share your thoughts with others, and if you’d like to share them more widely, please do so through my blog. Thanks for giving this some thought and for sharing your great ideas with the rest of us. I welcome recommendations from staff, retirees and stakeholders!

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