Oklahoma State University is honoring six individuals whose embodiment of the ideals and mission of the university’s Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources has provided significant benefits to their career fields, their communities, the people of Oklahoma and OSU.
“One of the best compliments a person can receive is to be told you made the world a better place for your family and the families of others,” said Tom Coon, OSU vice president of agricultural programs and dean of the division. “Each of our 2019 honorees has done that.”
The honorees will be officially recognized during Oct. 25 ceremonies on OSU’s Stillwater campus.
David Waits of Stillwater and Kathy Noltensmeyer of Edmond have been named 2019 recipients of the division’s Champion Award. The award recognizes individuals who are not graduates of the OSU College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources but who have brought distinction to the division and demonstrated a continuing interest in and commitment to agricultural sciences and natural resources.
Waits started SST Software in 1994. During the 1970s and 1980s, Waits was a farmer who saw a need for more precision in agriculture. He went on to earn degrees in economics and geography at OSU. His skills as a farmer, coupled with his education, paved the way for SST Software’s creation and direction, applying satellite sensing and geographic information systems to agricultural operations, helping to revolutionize the farming industry. Waits’ appreciation of the university’s land-grant mission has been expressed through philanthropy and support of several OSU colleges, general university scholarships, the Edmon Low Library, the Rancher’s Club and Cowboy athletics. He served as president of the OSU Research Foundation from 2013 to 2018.
A 1966 graduate of OSU’s College of Arts and Sciences, Noltensmeyer and her late husband Leo – both of whom grew up on farms – had long been impressed by advances in technology and the positive benefits research has provided to agricultural producers and related agribusinesses. In 2015, she established the Leo and Kathy Noltensmeyer Endowed Graduate Fellowship in Precision Agriculture, aimed at attracting top-tier graduate students to further key research necessary for continued enhancements of precision agriculture technology. In 2016, she established the Leo and Kathy Noltensmeyer Endowed Research Professorship that will ultimately be upgraded to an endowed chair at OSU.
Austin Kenyon, Clint Roush, Tererai Trent and Susanne Wasson have been named 2019 recipients of the division’s Distinguished Alumni Award. The award recognizes graduates of the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources who have contributed significantly to society, and whose accomplishments serve as a model for current and future students.
A 1961 OSU horticulture graduate, Kenyon has fostered a strong partnership with OSU through Greenleaf Nursery, the highly successful and influential agribusiness of which he was president from 1977 to 1988 and one of the largest wholesale container nurseries in North America. In addition to his interests in the horticulture and nursery industries, Kenyon is passionate about his Brangus cattle. His work as a cattle breeder is recognized as having contributed to the genetic excellence of America’s Brangus herd. Kenyon also was a leader in the cutting horse industry until a few years ago, and has enhanced the experience of students involved in the OSU Equine Program with donations of saddles and equipment. A proud OSU athletic season ticket holder since 1974, he has served the university as an OSU A&M regent and OSU Foundation trustee.
Roush is a fourth-generation Arapaho farmer and rancher known for being a steward of the land. An agricultural economics alumnus who earned his bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees at OSU, his diverse career includes 14 years teaching agricultural finance, farm financial planning, business management and strategic farm planning at OSU and Southwestern Oklahoma State University. His work on the risk committees of U.S. AgBank and CoBank, and ultimately on the merger of the two, improved the long-term interest of stockholders, farmers and ranchers. Roush also was instrumental in the merger of three Farm Credit entities that became Farm Credit of Western Oklahoma. Roush received the 2016 Governor’s Outstanding Achievement Award in Agriculture.
Trent is one of the world’s most acclaimed voices for women’s empowerment and quality education. The founder of Tererai Trent International, this renowned educator and motivational speaker is perhaps best known as the individual Oprah Winfrey called her “favorite guest of all time.” Rooted in humble beginnings, Trent grew up in a cattle-herding family in rural Zimbabwe, where cultural practices and a war that liberated her country from colonial rule charted the course of her life. She earned her bachelor’s degree in agricultural education and master’s degree in plant pathology at OSU in 2001 and 2003, respectively.
A 1988 OSU agricultural economics graduate, Wasson has had an impressive career with Dow AgroSciences, now Corteva. A champion of mentorship and diversity in the workplace, she is involved in numerous civic and community organizations, and has served as the National FFA Organization Sponsor’s Board chairperson and on the board of directors for CropLife of America. Wasson is a self-described “champion of the division’s innovative research, teaching and Extension programs,” including ongoing efforts to provide state-of-the-art research and teaching facilities. In 2012, she and her sister Diana established the OSU J. Robert Wasson Scholarship in Agriculture to honor their father, who was a rancher from Poteau, Oklahoma.
OSU’s Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources is comprised of the college and the university’s two state agencies: The Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service and the Oklahoma Agricultural Experiment Station system. All three are key components of OSU’s state and federally mandated teaching, research and Extension land-grant mission.