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* Recipients represent outstanding performance from among 1,500 faculty and staff
across the state. * Soybean breeder Pengyin Chen receives Robert G.F. and Hazel Taylor Spitze Land
Grant University Faculty Award for Excellence. * Presentations include five John W. White awards for outstanding teaching, research
and extension service named in honor of the U of A System's first vice president for
ROGERS, Ark. – World-renowned work in soybean breeding and genetics as well as the
development of nitrogen soil testing for rice are among the accomplishments by faculty
and staff who were honored Friday (Jan. 9) by the University of Arkansas System Division
of Agriculture in partnership with the UA Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food
and Life Sciences. Ceremonies were held during a luncheon at the Embassy Suites Hotel
The award recipients represent some 1,500 faculty and staff members on
five university campuses, at research and extension centers and stations throughout
Arkansas and in Cooperative Extension Service offices in all 75 counties.
The Division of Agriculture includes the Cooperative Extension Service
and the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station. In addition to conducting research
and delivering information and educational services on agriculture and forestry, it
also promotes public health and nutrition; opportunities for youth, families and communities;
safe and secure food systems; and environmental sustainability.
The Robert G.F. and Hazel Taylor Spitze Land Grant University Faculty Award for Excellence
was presented to Pengyin Chen, professor of crop, soil, and environmental sciences.
Chen’s work in soybean breeding and genetics has combined traditional plant breeding
with cutting edge molecular methods. This has shortened the time required to release
new varieties. His program has identified 12 new genes resistant to diseases that
impact Arkansas soybean production. He is a Fellow of the Crop Science Society of
America and the American Society of Agronomy. He has also received the John W. White
Outstanding Research Award and the Gamma Sigma Delta Research Award.
Don Edgar, associate professor of agricultural education, communications and technology,
received the Bumpers College Alumni Society Outstanding Advising Award. He works with
students to decide with them not only a sequence of courses to fulfill degree requirements
but also how best to get them where they want to be in life. Edgar has also received
the Outstanding Early Career Award for the American Association of Agricultural Education
and the Gamma Sigma Delta teaching award.
John W. White awards
John W. White awards for outstanding teaching, research and extension service are
named for the U of A System's first vice president for agriculture when the Division
of Agriculture was made a statewide unit of the U of A System in 1959.
The John W. White Outstanding Teaching Award, jointly awarded by the Division of Agriculture
and Bumpers College, was presented to Jennie Popp, professor of agricultural economics
and agribusiness. Popp integrates research topics into teaching wherever possible.
She works with students in class, on independent projects, special problems and activities.
For several years she led the university’s service learning class in Belize to help
establish a school, community garden and market. She has received the campus Faculty
Gold Medal, the Bumpers College Jack G. Justus Award for Teaching Excellence, the
International Education Award and the Honors College Distinguished Faculty Award.
The John W. White Outstanding Research Award went to Gisela Erf, the Tyson Professor
in Avian Immunology in the Department of Poultry Science. She has built a strong research
program addressing both basic and applied aspects of innate and adaptive immune system
development and function in poultry. Erf’s research has addressed a great need for
development of vaccines and other effective preventative and therapeutic approaches
to poultry diseases. Her research has been recognized with a Young Investigator Research
Award from the Pan American Society for Pigment Cell Research and the University of
Arkansas Alumni Association’s Faculty Distinguished Achievement Award for Research
Shane Gadberry, associate professor of animal science, received the John W. White
Outstanding Extension State Faculty Award. He has developed one of the nation’s most
progressive and respected ruminate nutrition educational programs. His program includes
working with youth and county agents for in-service trainings, research, publications,
grants and electronic communications. Gadberry has conducted numerous meetings to
assist cattle producers to aid in selecting the correct types and amounts of supplemental
feed to ensure cattle performance at the least cost. He has also received the Extension
Excellence Innovation Award and the Extension Excellence Issue Team Award.
The John W. White Outstanding County Extension Educator Award winner was Robert Goodson,
a Phillips County extension agent. He has been active in row crop verification and
began publishing results of demonstrations he oversaw. His demonstration book has
become a much sought publication for area producers that also includes yearly crop
reports, weather records, each crop’s economic aspects and Phillips County’s state
rankings. Participation in extension education programs for producers has increased
markedly under Goodson’s supervision.
The John W. White Outstanding Team Award was presented to a group of faculty who comprise
the N-STaR (Nitrogen Soil Test for Rice) Research and Extension Team. N-STaR is a
scientific method that allows the measurement of the soil’s ability to apply nitrogen
to plants. The method has been refined and tested and consistently proven to enable
the calculation of the proper fertilization rate. The proper fertilization rate from
use of N-STaR has a large impact with multiple benefits – higher yields, reduced input
costs and less environmental concerns. The rice verification program, which presents
growers with real-world examples of proper crop management techniques, was first used
in the implementation strategy. Team members, all in the Department of Crop, Soil,
and Environmental Sciences, are Trent Roberts, assistant professor; Jeremy Ross, associate
professor; Rick Norman, professor; Nathan Slaton, professor; Charles Wilson, professor
and Rice Research and Extension Center director; Jarrod Hardke, extension rice agronomist,
and Ralph Mazzanti, rice verification coordinator.
The Division of Agriculture Non-Classified Support Personnel Award went to Alan Beach,
a program technician at the Northeast Research and Extension Center in Keiser. Beach
has been the primary contact person for all cotton research at the center since 2008.
He has also helped to coordinate much of the cotton research at the Judd Hill Cooperative
Research Station and has assisted with cotton research at the Lon Mann Cotton Research
Station. Beach also assists in organizing and coordinating the Arkansas Cotton Variety
Test and works closely with the cotton breeding program.
The Agricultural Experiment Station Classified Support Personnel Award was presented
to Melinda Dunlap, an administrative specialist in the Department of Agricultural
Economics and Agribusiness. Her primary responsibility is to support the department’s
undergraduate program by maintaining its records in addition to supporting the Agribusiness
Club. She also coordinates freshman summer orientation during which she advises more
than 40 students. Dunlap assists students with degree planning, troubleshoots registration
problems, helps develop class schedules and annually updates the undergraduate catalog
among other responsibilities. She has worked for the university for 20 years and completed
her B.S. degree in education on campus in May.
The Cooperative Extension Service Classified Support Personnel Award went to Burnita
Hearne, an administrative specialist in the Crittenden County extension office. She
began her career in the office in 1976 as a temporary clerical assistant and worked
her way to administrative support specialist before retiring in 2005. She returned
in 2011 to serve in her present position. She has been responsible for leading clerical
staff, providing program support to five extension agents and managing day-to-day
operations. She was honored as the Delta District employee of the quarter in 2011
and received the District and State Support Staff of the Year awards for 2014.
The Division also recognized several faculty for patents that were issued on their
projects. The faculty and their patented projects are:
• Compositions and methods of enhancing immune responses
Walter Gay Bottje, Poultry Science Department
Kimberly Cole, Poultry Science Department
Mandy Cox, Poultry Science Department
Billy Hargis, Poultry Science Department
Young Min Kwon, Poultry Science Department
Sherryll Layton, Poultry Science Department
• Versatile multichannel capillary biosensor system
Yanbin Li, Biological and Agricultural Engineering Department
• Lactic acid bacteria and their use in swine direct-fed microbials
Charles Maxwell, Animal Science Department
• Bioactive pentapeptides from rice bran and use thereof
Navam Hettiarachchy, Food Science Department
• Blackberry plant named ‘APF-77’
John R. Clark, Horticulture Department
Cotton cultivars UA-48 and UA-103
Fred Bourland, Northeast Research and Extension Center
Media Contact: Mary Hightower
Dir. of Communication Services
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service