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2011-12 Alumni Award Recipients

Hall of Fame: The Bennett Family
The Bennett Family

Virginia Tech’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences recently inducted the Bennett family into its Hall of Fame for their outstanding service to the college, university, and the agricultural and life sciences communities. Knoll Crest Farm, Inc. is recognized as one of the top seedstock producers in the beef cattle industry.  It was started by James’ father in 1929 and the operation has remained in the family with James and his three sons (Paul, Brian, and Jim) as lifetime owners and operators of the 3,000 acres of land in Red House, Virginia.

James brought one of the first registered herds of Hereford cattle to Virginia in 1944 and initiated their purebred cattle operations.  In 1981, they introduced Gelbvieh cattle, and then ten years later, they added Angus to the herd.  Knoll Crest Farm, Inc. has placed several bulls of each breed in artificial insemination studs and sold females to other breeders throughout the country and overseas.

In 1972, the Bennetts developed the Red House Bull Evaluation Center, which was under contract with Virginia Tech until 1998, to performance test bulls owned by other purebred breeders for the Virginia Beef Cattle Improvement Association.

James has served on the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors, the Virginia Cooperative Extension advisory board, the Southern Piedmont Agricultural Research and Extension Center advisory board, the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services board, as president of the American Polled Hereford Association, and as chairman of the National Beef Improvement Federation board.

Paul has served as president of the Virginia Beef Cattle Improvement Association, president of the Virginia Cattlemen’s Association, and president of the National Beef Improvement Federation. He also serves on the advisory committee of the National Beef Cattle Evaluation Consortium, the Virginia Angus Association Board of Directors, and the Virginia Cattlemen’s Foundation.  He has spoken to numerous classes and student organizations in both the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine and has hosted many students at the farm.

Brian and Jim are on several local advisory committees including FFA, 4-H, and Virginia Cooperative Extension.    The family has been recognized by the National Beef Improvement Federation as “Seedstock Producer of the Year”.

Outstanding Recent Alumnus: Mark Cline
Mark Cline

Virginia Tech’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences recognizes alumni Mark Cline as its Outstanding Recent Alumni of the year for distinguishing himself since graduation.

Cline —who received his bachelor’s degree in Animal and Poultry Sciences in 1999 and then his master’s degree in 2002 and his Ph.D. in 2005 in the same field —was also recognized this year by the Animal and Poultry Sciences department as its outstanding alumnus. His ability to lead and his service to Virginia Tech stand out.

A professor at Radford University since 2002, Cline has a stellar record of excellence in teaching, research and service. Cline has an exemplary history of securing grant funding, generating significant and important research scholarship, and mentoring students for subsequent success in top graduate and professional programs. The fact that he does all this while teaching up to 18 credit hours per semester make it all the more admirable.

Cline has a passion for teaching and brings an original and innovative approach to his classroom that emphasizes critical thinking and understanding instead of rote memorization.

In 2008, Cline received the Radford University Foundation Distinguished Creative Scholar Award, the highest honor bestowed by the university for original research. In 2011, he was awarded the College of Science and Technology’s Excellence in Teaching Award. He has developed significant new insights into understanding appetite regulation and is developing a nationally recognized program in obesity research. He has published 38 peer-reviewed research articles in the past five years, all with undergraduates students as co-authors.

Ambassador: Jason Levy
Jason Levy

Jason Levy, a senior in Food Science and Technology, was recognized with the Outstanding Ambassador Award. Levy has been one of the most enthusiastic ambassadors since the program stared in 2001. Levy has chaired meetings, organized brown bags lunches on generational diversity in the classroom and even endured long hours on exercise equipment at McComas Hall to get the perfect photo for marketing materials. His enthusiasm helps motivate his fellow ambassadors to be better leaders. Levy is also conducting undergraduate research, serves as a peer leader to freshman and is a member of the Food Science Club, the Food Product Development Team and the Triathlon Club.

Faculty Service: Alex White
Alex White

Alex White, who earned his bachelor’s from Virginia Tech in 1985 in Agricultural Economics and his Ph.D. in the same field in 1995 is now an instructor at the university. White was given the Outstanding Faculty Service Award.

He is the David M. Kohl Junior Faculty Fellow and the first director of the Kohl Agribusiness Center, which creates experiential learning opportunities for our students. He is an exceptional teacher who encourages students to put their academic training to work by developing models that they can deliver at extension and industry workshops. White is an advisor and mentor to students in a variety of extracurricular activities, including AgEcon/NAMA Club, Veterinary Business Management Association, Block and Bridle, VT Running Club, Collegiate Beef Leadership Council, and Alpha Gamma Rho. He is actively sought to provide training on business and financial management at local workshops and national forums.  He is an adjunct professor for the national Farm Credit University and is a member of the agricultural advisory board of First Bank and Trust Company.

White exemplifies Virginia Tech’s motto, Ut Prosim –That I May Serve.

International Programs Award: Joachim Schleich
Joachim Schleich

Joachim Schleich, a 1997 graduate of Virginia Tech with a Ph.D. in Agricultural and Applied Economics, was recognized for his outstanding contributions to international programs. Schleich is a leader in tackling the challenge of climate change and heads the energy and climate policy unit at the Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research in Karlsruhe, Germany, which combines science, technology, economics and sociology to solve global issues. Schleich is a renowned policy expert on climate change and was instrumental in designing the world’s largest and most successful emissions trading system. A pilot study he directed in Germany and Austria that utilizes smart meters can save households $100 annually.
Schleich collaborates with Virginia Tech’s Agricultural and Applied Economics faculty to enhance the university’s international contributions and reputation.

Alumni Leadership: Heather Cox
Heather Cox

Heather Cox has been an active alumna since she graduated from Virginia Tech with a bachelor’s degree in Human Nutrition, Foods and Exercise in 1997 and received a master’s degree in the same field in 2008. She was recognized this year for her outstanding alumni leadership.

Cox was a leader during HNFE’s 50th anniversary celebrations, including planning a 5K race that had more than 200 entries and a large contingent of student and faculty volunteers.

Cox develops relationships with current students in the dietetics program that continue after they graduate as she helps guide them down a career path.  She also brings successful alumni back to the campus to meet students and talk about potential careers. By mentoring not only current students at the college but former ones in the job market, Cox highlights the indispensable role alumni play at Virginia Tech.

Departmental Alumni Awards
Agricultural and Applied EconomicsJames PearsonB.S. 1987Lavonia, GA
Agricultural and Extension EducationEdward OsborneB.S. 1975, M.S. 1979Gainesville, FL
Agricultural TechnologyJean-Louis LefortA.A. 1994Hinche, Haiti
Animal and Poultry SciencesPaul BennettB.S. 1983Red House, VA
BiochemistryChristopher PrivalleM.S. 1979Durham, NC
Biological Systems EngineeringHal Bailey,  Sr.B.S. 1985Fincastle, VA
Crop and Soil Environmental SciencesDavid WhittB.S. 1972Aylett, VA
Dairy ScienceStephen NickersonM.S. 1976, Ph.D. 1980Athens, GA
EntomologyBrian BretM.S. 1982, Ph.D. 1985Roseville, CA
Food Science and TechnologyCorey BerendsPh.D. 1996Omaha, NE
HorticultureMickey HayesB.S. 1964Blacksburg, VA
Human Nutrition, Foods and ExerciseCatherine WotekiM.S. 1972, Ph.D. 1975Washingotn, DC
Plant Pathology, Physiology, and Weed ScienceMason CarterB.S. 1955, M.S. 1957Fort Collins, CO
Departmental Recent Alumni Awards


Agricultural and Applied EconomicsLindsay Potts ReamesB.S. 2004, M.P.A. 2006Amelia Court House, VA
Agricultural and Extension EducationGeorge Andrew SeibelB.S. 1985, M.S. 1986, Ed.S. 2005Roanoke, VA
Agricultural TechnologyJesse MartinA.AG. 2004Dayton, VA
Animal and Poultry SciencesMark ClineB.S. 1999, M.S. 2002, Ph.D. 2005Radford, VA
BiochemistryJames BiedlerB.S. 1996, Ph.D. 2005Blacksburg, VA
Biological Systems EngineeringJoshua FaulknerB.S. 2003Maidsville, WV
Crop and Soil Environmental SciencesChristina NewmanB.S. 2007, M.S. 2010Silver Springs, MD
Dairy ScienceJana HutchisonB.S. 2001Beltsville, MD
EntomologyWilliam DimockPh.D. 2004In Memoriam
Food Science and TechnologyAngela HartmanB.S. 2001, M.S. 2003, Ph.D. 2006Kalamazoo, MI
HorticultureBrian JacksonPh.D. 2008Raleigh, NC
Human Nutrition, Food and ExerciseSean HeffronM.S. 2005New York, NY
Plant Pathology, Physiology and Weed ScienceRob RichardsonB.S. 1996, M.S. 1997, Ph.D. 2002Raleigh, NC