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2014-15 Alumni Award Recipients

James and Janet Johnson
James and Janet Johnson

Jim and Janet Johnson, of Roanoke, Virginia, were honored at a ceremony on March 20 as the 2014-15 inductees into the Virginia Tech College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Hall of Fame.

Jim Johnson (‘60 B.S. Animal Science and ’67 M.S. Extension) spent his professional career at Virginia Tech. He retired as director and associate professor emeritus of Virginia Cooperative Extension and has remained active in Extension by heading up networking activities for Virginia Tech retirees.

Janet Johnson’s career was also spent at Virginia Tech after she obtained degrees from Purdue and Cornell Universities. She is dean emeritus of the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences and has been active in the Department of Human Nutrition, Foods, and Exercise since her retirement. In 2011 she served on the committee to plan the celebration of the department’s 50th anniversary.  She was also actively involved in shepherding the department’s move from the College of Human Resources and Education into the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

Together the Johnsons served as members of the college’s Campaign Steering Committee for the Virginia Tech: Invent the Future campaign.  They were major donors to the initiative and hosted multiple events to assist the development office in its efforts to fundraise. 

The Johnsons are also members of the Ut Prosim Society, the university’s most prestigious donor society. Their philanthropy has made a mark on numerous areas of campus and funded four endowments. The Johnsons have supported 4-H and Virginia Cooperative Extension through annual gifts to local programs, service on advisory boards, and support of 4-H Educational Centers.

“The Johnsons have given many gifts to the college, but perhaps the best gift has been their spirited connection to Virginia Tech all these years,” said Alan Grant, dean of the college. “They truly deserve to be inducted in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Alumni Hall of Fame for their commitment and dedication to the university.”

The Johnson’s have not only been extremely giving of their time and gifts in their retirement years, they have also not shied away from leadership roles.  Janet Johnson has served as president and board member of the Virginia Tech Faculty Women’s Club as an advisory board member who was primarily responsible for bringing the Peacock-Harper Culinary Collection to Virginia Tech, and as chair of the Montgomery County 4-H administrative board. She is an interpreter at historic Smithfield Plantation and chaired the Gobble D’Art Program for the Blacksburg Partnership, the organization responsible for placing HokieBirds around Blacksburg. In addition, she also served as Rotary district governor and member of a separate local club.

Jim Johnson has also served numerous leadership roles. He was president and charter member of his Rotary club and is on the boards of New River Community College, the University Club of Virginia Tech, and the YMCA at Virginia Tech. He is an honorary member of the Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce. Both Johnsons have also served in leadership roles on the board of the New River Friends of the Roanoke Symphony Orchestra.

In 2013, the Johnson’s were awarded the Ruby C. McSwain Outstanding Philanthropist Award by the National Agricultural Alumni and Development Association. The award honors individuals who have demonstrated sustained giving to agricultural initiatives including agriculture in higher education, extension, or land-grant universities.

Katrina Piercy
Katrina Piercy

Lt. Katrina Butner Piercy, of Gaithersburg, Maryland, received the Outstanding Recent Alumni Award during the Virginia Tech College of Agriculture and Life Sciences’ alumni awards ceremony on March 20.

Piercy earned her Ph.D. in Human Nutrition, Foods, and Exercise in 2010 and currently serves as the physical activity and nutrition advisor to the Department of Health and Human Services in the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion in Rockville, Maryland. She is part of the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps.

She was a subcommittee lead for the development and promotion of the most recent edition of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and designs My Plate guidelines, two online resources used by presumably millions of Americans seeking information about leading healthy lifestyles. Piercy is unique in her field as she has cross-training in nutrition and physical activity.

Piercy serves as a mentor and preceptor to students participating in the visiting scholar program at the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. She led, at the request of the acting surgeon general, the annual Physical Fitness Test Project for the almost 7000 members of the Public Health Service.

“Lt. Piercy is a great example of how the graduates of the college have positive impacts in their fields,” said Alan Grant, dean of the college. “Her work in establishing policy in her capacity with the Department of Health and Human Services is extremely important in combating important societal challenges like the obesity epidemic.”

Piercy has already had an immense impact in the field nationally and contributed substantial service to professional societies where she holds membership, including the District of Columbia Metro Dietetic Association.

“We have a world-class program at Virginia Tech and our graduates are equipped to take on the difficult challenges of policy and industry,” said Department Head and Associate Professor of Human Nutrition, Foods, and Exercise Matt Hulver. “Her professional accomplishments are a testament to her hard work and the outstanding training students have here.”

James Rockwell
James Rockwell

James Rockwell, a senior majoring in environmental horticulture and agribusiness management, from Stevens City, Va., was recognized as the 2014-15 Outstanding Ambassador for his leadership and service to the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Ambassador program and to the college.

As a CALS Ambassador, Rockwell serves as an advocate for the college to both current and prospective students and their families, assisting with open houses and other related recruitment functions.  He also assists with several alumni events each year. Rockwell serves as president of the horticulture club, as a departmental assistant in the areas of student development and faculty support, and as a teaching assistant to the 80 students each semester registered for the floral design program.  

Last summer, he secured a highly-competitive production greenhouse internship at Longwood Gardens and a Perennial Plant Association Conference Travel Grant to enable his attendance at the 2014 Perennial Plant conference in Cincinnati. Recently Rockwell was awarded the 2015 GPN/Nexus Intern of the Year Scholarship. As part of this honor, he will have a feature-length profile with photo on the cover of the January 2015 issue of GPN and an expense-paid trip to the AmericanHort Short Course next July in Columbus, Ohio. Rockwell has also been awarded a “Great Gardens of the World Triad Fellowship.”

After graduation, as a Triad Fellow, he’ll spend four months working at each of three partner Gardens in the UK, Japan, and at Longwood Gardens in the US.  Through his involvement in the college, Rockwell illustrates to our prospective students the many exciting opportunities that a major in our college can provide.

Dan Eversole
Dan Eversole

Dan Eversole of Blacksburg, Va., was recognized with the 2014-15 Outstanding Faculty Service Award for his outstanding contributions to the college and the department of animal and poultry sciences. Eversole joined the faculty at Virginia Tech in 1984 as an associate professor and has been an active faculty member ever since.

Within the department his contributions are outstanding and have spanned his career at Virginia Tech.  Just to name a few that are ongoing in addition to his teaching responsibilities: he serves as the scholarship and faculty honorifics chair, as the Director of Beef Cattle Programs, is a member of the CALS Steering Committee for the relocation of the dairy facility, serves as an academic adviser in the department’s central advising office, is the faculty adviser for the VT Beef Leadership Council, supervises, coordinates, and directs the Hokie Harvest Sale which in the last 19 years has involved 1424 students and totaled more than $2.M in animal sales, and he officiates Block and Bridle Stockmen's and Livestock Judging Contests.

Eversole’s contributions also reach beyond the department.  He has represented our college on numerous university committees such as the University Curriculum Committee, he organizes and coordinates the State Livestock Judging Contest for the VA FFA Organization, and he assists in officiating State FFA and 4-H competitions annually.

Eversole has served on numerous national cattle association boards, led national and state industry groups, and is a trainer and certifier for the Beef Quality Assurance program.  He has been involved in several community organizations such as 4-H, FFA, and athletic boosters, just to name a few.

Eversole’s commitment to the university and the contributions he has made throughout his career have greatly benefited a multitude of students and the livestock industry as a whole.

Cary Gordon “CG” Thornhill
Cary Gordon “CG” Thornhill

Cary Gordon “CG” Thornhill, of Boston, Virginia, was selected as the 2014-15 Outstanding Alumnus in International Programs for significant service and contributions to the areas of international agriculture and the life sciences and the college.

A graduate of animal science in 1975, Thornhill is the president and general manager of T.K. Exports, Inc., a world leader in the export of high quality livestock genetics.  He has 25 years of experience in procurement, assembly, health preparation, transporting, documentation, and exportation. He has developed livestock markets throughout the world and has managed shipments to more than 45 countries.

Thornhill is also a former president of the U.S. Livestock Exporter's Association (LEA) and has received their award of merit for service to the U.S. livestock export industry. He has participated in many national and international forums to promote the export of livestock genetics and was honored as Exporter of the Year by the Virginia Agri-Business Council.

He has been a presenter for numerous trade fair seminars for livestock in China, Turkey, Brazil, Taiwan, Venezuela and Russia on United States breeding cattle and has served as a member of several task forces and committees addressing better shipping practices for livestock on ocean vessels. Thornhill has sponsored several educational seminars for US Livestock Genetics in several countries, several trade fairs to help promote US Bovine genetics, and numerous teams to visit and learn firsthand about United States production techniques and veterinary practices in dairy and beef cattle

He has established the following endowments at Virginia Tech:  the Thornhill Professorship for Agricultural Trade, the Thornhill Scholarship for Animal Science, the Thornhill Scholarship for Alpha Gamma Rho Brothers of which he was the president and founding member, and the Gary L. Minish Livestock Judging Foundation.  He was also an initial contributor to the VALOR program. In support of his local community, he had established the Gordon Thornhill Excellence in Youth Foundation to promote local sports and agriculture programs and the Thornhill Family Scholarships for local graduates continuing their education at colleges and universities.

James Saunders
James Saunders

James Saunders, ‘85 animal science, of Piney River, Va., was recognized with the 2014-15 Outstanding Alumni Leadership Award for the leadership he has provided to Virginia Tech, the agricultural industry, and his community. Saunders is a partner of Saunders Brothers, Inc. a wholesale nursery, orchard, and farm market.

For many years, Saunders has returned to campus to speak to classes in several of college’s departments. He served on the Virginia Tech College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Alumni Board of holding several executive offices including president.  He was also a board member of the Virginia Tech Alumni Association Culpeper/Madison chapter in the late 80’s. He and his wife are members of the Caldwell Society, a university giving society indicating their commitment to and support of many programs across the university

The list of industry organizations that Saunders has served is quite extensive. To highlight a few, he has served as: chairman of the Virginia Agribusiness Council and received their leadership award in 2010, chairman of the Virginia Angus Association Board of Directors, and as a board member of the American Boxwood Society, the Virginia Beef Cattle Improvement Association, and the Culpeper Soil and Water Conservation District.  He has also provided leadership to a multitude of community organizations, 4-H, FFA, youth athletics, and his church.

Outstanding Departmental Alumni Award Winners
Outstanding Departmental Alumni Award Winners
Agricultural and Applied EconomicsMichael EwingB.S. 1980Stevens City, VA
Agricultural, Leadership, and Community EducationWilliam Jay JackmanPh.D. 1991Versailles, KY
Agricultural TechnologyRC SheetsA.AG. 1991Glade Spring, VA
Animal and Poultry SciencesLinda MartinM.S. 1984Galloway, OH
BiochemistryBirgit AlberPh.D. 1995Columbus, OH
Biological Systems EngineeringMark BennettB.S. 1985, M.S. 1997Fredericksburg, VA
Crop and Soil Environmental SciencesJay BellB.S. 1980Shoreview, MN
Dairy ScienceRichard WilkesB.S. 1973Chesterfield, VA
EntomologyDonald MullinsPh.D. 1972Blacksburg, VA
Food Science and TechnologyDavid RasmussenB.S. 1996, M.S. 1999Pepper Pike, OH
HorticultureBill FosterB.S. 1982Victor, NY
Human Nutrition, Foods and ExerciseBrenda RoheB.S. 1966Charlotte, NC
Plant Pathology, Physiology, and Weed ScienceTim BrennemanPh.D. 1986Tifton, GA
Outstanding Departmental Recent Alumni Award Winners
Outstanding Departmental Recent Alumni Award Winners


Agricultural and Applied EconomicsJohn DillardB.S. 2005Arlington, VA
Agricultural, Leadership, and Community EducationChaney MosleyPh.D. 2012Nashville, TN
Agricultural TechnologyDavid BennettA.AG. 2007Forest, VA
Animal and Poultry SciencesClifford WilliamsonB.S. 2008Culpeper, VA
BiochemistryChevon ThorpePh.D. 2012Christiansburg, VA
Biological Systems EngineeringBrad MataninB.S. 2005, M.S. 2007Rockville, MD
Crop and Soil Environmental SciencesLindy Colson TuckerB.S. 2011Kenbridge, VA
Dairy ScienceMichael Chase ScottB.S. 2004, M.S. 2006Ferrum, VA
EntomologyBrian EisenbackPh.D. 2008Johnson City, TN
Food Science and TechnologyKevin HollandPh.D. 2009Selah, WA
HorticultureSonya Lepper WesterveltB.S. 2005Arrington, VA
Human Nutrition, Food and ExerciseKatrina Butner PiercyPh.D. 2010Gaithersburg, MD
Plant Pathology, Physiology and Weed ScienceStacy Simon SlijepcevicPh.D. 2007Washington, DC