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OSU Agriculture will honor recipients of the 2021 Champion of OSU Agriculture Award during a ceremony Oct. 18. (Photo by Todd Johnson, OSU Agricultural Communications Services)

OSU Agriculture to honor six individuals with Champion award

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Media Contact: Mandy Gross | Senior Manager of Strategic Communications and Special Projects | 405-744-4063 |

Oklahoma State University is honoring six individuals who have demonstrated a continuing commitment to agricultural sciences and natural resources.

Martha Burger, Arlan Richardson, Brenda Sidwell, sisters Joyce Taylor and the late Barbara Pass, and Marta White have been named recipients of the 2021 Champion for OSU Agriculture Award. The honorees will be officially recognized during the OSU Agriculture Honors ceremony Oct. 18.

“Each of the honorees make us proud, and we want to celebrate their achievements,” said Thomas G. Coon, vice president for OSU agricultural programs. “They embody the ideals and mission of OSU Agriculture and support our rich tradition and history of improving the quality of life for Oklahomans through science-based research.”

Established in 2011, the Champion for OSU Agriculture Award recognizes individuals who are not graduates of the university’s Ferguson College of Agriculture but who have brought distinction to the OSU Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources.

The Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources is comprised of the Ferguson College of Agriculture and two state agencies: OSU Extension and OSU Ag Research.

Learn more about each honoree below or visit OSU Agriculture Honors online.

Martha Burger, Oklahoma City

Burger received bachelor’s degrees from OSU’s College of Arts and Sciences and the University of Central Oklahoma along with a Master of Business Administration from Oklahoma City University. She had a long career at Chesapeake Energy, where she retired as the senior vice president of human and corporate resources in 2013. In June 2018, Burger became the first female president of Oklahoma City University in its 114 years.

Rob Terry — department head for OSU’s Department of Agricultural Education, Communications and Leadership — nominated Burger for her exemplary leadership and passion for supporting students.

“Although Martha did not not attend OSU’s Oklahoma City campus or participate in FFA, she felt inspired to make a substantial scholarship donation to support these organizations," Terry wrote in his nomination letter. "She was so impressed with the FFA students that she landed on it as a passion area for funding scholarships.”

The Martha Burger FFA Leadership Scholars Fund was established for Oklahoma State FFA officers and national officers to provide financial support to these leaders who are unable to work during their years as officers as they travel to meet with local chapters and attend leadership training events.

Arlan Richardson, Oklahoma City

Richardson received his bachelor’s degree from Peru State College in Nebraska and his doctoral degree in chemistry from OSU. He currently serves as a senior research career scientist at the Oklahoma City VA Medical Center, as well as an adjunct professor for OSU’s Center for Veterinary Health Sciences.

As a leading authority on the effects and process of aging, Richardson also is the director of the Oklahoma Nathan Shock Aging Center and holds the Donald W. Reynolds Endowed Chair of Aging Research Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.

John Gustafson — department head for OSU’s Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology — nominated Richardson and emphasized his strong connection to the department by the establishment and continued funding of the Dr. Arlan Richardson Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Undergraduate and Graduate Research Scholars Endowment fund.

“Professor Richardson has become a quintessential example of an OSU science graduate program success,” Gustafson wrote in the nomination packet. “He is richly deserving of recognition as a champion, as he has consistently brought accolades back to our department and division and actively supports our department’s multiple missions.”

Brenda Sidwell, Goltry, Oklahoma

A two-time graduate of OSU in business and public administration and marketing education, Sidwell owns and operates Sidwell Insurance Agency in Goltry, where she assists producers throughout Oklahoma and Kansas with crop insurance and is an advocate for agriculture.

Sidwell and her late husband, Raymond, funded scholarships to support OSU’s Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, international students and study abroad opportunities in the Ferguson College of Agriculture. Following Raymond’s passing, Sidwell worked with the OSU Foundation to make his dream come true of updating the North Central Research Station in Lahoma, Oklahoma, and the facility was named in Raymond’s honor.

Cheryl DeVuyst and Jeff Edwards, department heads for OSU’s Department of Agricultural Economics and Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, respectively, nominated Sidwell for this honor.

“Brenda and the Sidwell family have long been highly regarded members of Oklahoma’s agricultural and agribusiness communities and recognized as progressive and proactive agriculturalists," DeVuyst and Edwards wrote.

Joyce Taylor and the late Barbara Pass, Stillwater

Sisters Taylor and Pass both are graduates of OSU. The sisters went their separate ways after completing their bachelor’s degrees. Pass continued her education at OSU earning two master’s degrees, and Taylor participated in the ROTC program and earned her master’s degree at Kansas State University, while stationed in Fort Riley, Kansas.

Nominated by Justin Quetone Moss and Lou Anella of OSU’s Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture, both agreed The Botanic Garden was the most cherished place on campus for the sisters.

“For many years, they served as volunteers and eventually became ambassadors of the garden. They worked together at the garden every Tuesday and spent countless hours as volunteers," Moss and Anella wrote in their nomination letters.

Before Pass’s death, she organized the Barbara K. Pass Endowment for The Botanic Garden through her estate, which was the first endowment to support the program. In addition, the sisters honored their parents and recognized their father’s career and background in agronomy by establishing the Hartwill and Martha Pass Endowed Research Fund to support faculty and students in their research endeavors.

Marta White, Stillwater

White, a native of Czechoslovakia, received degrees from her home country and Indiana University. She left Czechoslovakia after Russian troops invaded her country in efforts to halt political reform and was granted political asylum and a green card.

White and her husband, Dennis, found their way to Stillwater, where they have philanthropic interests. Some of their greatest contributions have benefited the Ferguson College of Agriculture and the Department of Animal and Food Sciences with a focus on research, securing resources for faculty and creating funding to attract top graduate students from across the nation.

Dennis and Marta, loyal supporters of “all things” animal science, were the first donors to establish a chair in animal and food sciences, leading other donors to follow. The Dennis and Marta White Endowed Chair in Animal Sciences focuses on beef cattle research, and the couple has expanded their research support to fund graduate students with the Dennis and Marta White Animal Science Fellowship.

“I cannot think of a more deserving individual to be named a Champion than Marta White. She is one of the most giving individuals I have ever met," wrote Clint Rusk, the department head of the Animal and Food Sciences Department.

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