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2015-16 Alumni Award Recipients

Richard Saack, Dean Alan Grant, and Paul Siegel

Richard Saacke, Professor Emeritus of Dairy Science, and Paul Siegel, University Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Animal Science, both of Blacksburg, Virginia, were honored on April 1 as inductees into the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Hall of Fame.

Saacke joined the faculty of Virginia Tech in 1965, devoting his career to excellence in research, teaching, and mentoring graduate students in the field of bovine reproductive physiology and artificial insemination. 

A native of Newark, New Jersey, he completed his education at Rutgers University and Pennsylvania State University.  He spent the first part of his career as an extension dairy specialist at the University of Maryland and then on the faculty in the Department of Dairy Science at Penn State.

His introduction to his chosen field came under the guidance of an innovative researcher who laid the foundation for modern artificial insemination in the United States. Findings from his master’s thesis are still in use today and his doctoral research employed electron microscopy to show detailed ultrastructural characteristics of bovine sperm.

Saacke’s research program can be credited with many firsts in the area of bovine reproduction. His lab was instrumental in leading the artificial insemination industry through the transition from unfrozen, cooled semen to frozen semen.  His work led the transition from glass ampoules to French straws for semen storage and the guidelines he developed for freezing sperm continue to be an integral part of the AI industry today.

His guidance of 23 graduate students through his laboratory continues to have a global impact on the dairy and livestock industries. Outside of the lab, nearly 3,500 undergraduate students were impacted by his physiology of livestock reproduction class. 

He and his family continue to this day to have a positive impact on students in the college by providing philanthropic support through the Richard G. & Ann L. Saacke Undergraduate Scholarship.

“For me Dr. Dick Saacke is the very definition of ‘professor,’ ” said Professor and Department Head Mike Akers. “From his imposing presence and his scholarly manner, I think he was destined to his career.  He has an uncanny ability to draw in colleagues, students, and producers to share his love and enthusiasm for his research and interests.  During his career he made those around him want to be better, to be worthy of his standard.  I can think of no better legacy,” said the Horace E. and Elizabeth F. Alphin Professor of Dairy Science.

Paul Siegel joined the faculty in 1957 and has devoted his career to advancing poultry education and research. 

He received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Connecticut and completed his graduate degrees at Kansas State University.  Siegel carries the distinction of University Distinguished Professor Emeritus for his scholarly achievements in poultry science that attracted national and international attention with a focus on the role of genetics on nutrition, disease, immunology, physiology, and behavior documented in over 400 published works.

The high- and low- growth chicken lines he began developing in the 1950s benefit not only the poultry industry, but the larger scientific community. Researchers have experienced breakthroughs in genetic studies of animal domestication, gene identification found to regulate appetite, and find clues about human health disorders such as obesity and anorexia nervosa using his line of White Plymouth Rock chickens.

He is an active proponent of further enhancing the learning experience of students and the reputation of the Poultry Research Program at Virginia Tech as one of the best in the nation.  Dr. Siegel has significantly advanced the quality of poultry education and research through his mentorship initiatives and lifetime commitment to the training and development of poultry industry professionals, leaving a tremendous academic legacy by teaching more than 2,000 students and directing more than 50 masters theses and doctoral dissertations throughout his tenure; and

He has been inducted into the American Poultry Industry Hall of Fame by the American Poultry Historical Society, the industry’s highest honor, for devoting more than 60 years to researching and teaching poultry science, in addition to holding key leadership roles in national and international industry organizations and winning numerous awards.

Siegel is a valued member of the university community, being recognized as a member of the Pylon Society and the Hokie Club, as well as serving as Faculty Senate President, Past President of the Virginia Tech Chapter of the Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society, graduate commencement speaker, and member of several university committees.

In acknowledgement of his service, generosity, and academic legacy, and in recognition of past and future benefits to the university, the poultry research center was renamed as the Paul B. Siegel Poultry Research Center in 2010.

 “Paul is a tremendous individual and colleague.  His legacy in science is well documented but his biggest impact may be in the development of human capital,” said David Gerrard, head of the department of animal and poultry sciences. “He has directly or indirectly mentored so many individuals in poultry sciences that it is virtually impossible to find someone in the industry that cannot trace their educational roots to Siegel and Virginia Tech.”

Anh Tran wins the outstanding recent alumni award in 2016

Anh Tran, of Roanoke, Virginia, received the Outstanding Recent Alumna Award during the Virginia Tech College of Agriculture and Life Sciences recent alumni awards ceremony. 

Tran earned her B.S. in biochemistry in 2006 and is currently a senior research associate with Novozymes Biologicals Inc. in Salem, Virginia.  Her work has resulted in the award of a patent and a publication in the prestigious international journal Biochemistry. Since 2010, Tran has been responsible for overseeing the critical process of disposing of hazardous waste materials generated by operations at their Salem location and is co-chair of the company’s community relations committee. 

She also serves as the Virginia Tech alumni representative to Novozyme's Research and Development Recruiting Team and has regularly participated in activities of benefit to biochemistry majors at Virginia Tech. For many years she has visited campus to make presentations to student clubs and in BCHM 4074 Career Orientation in Biochemistry regarding opportunities, expectations, and preparation for careers in the biotechnology industry. Numerous students from Virginia Tech have been able to participate in valuable educational and career-building internships, some of which have progressed to full-time positions with Novozymes following graduation.

“Since graduating from Virginia Tech, Anh has been extremely generous in volunteering her time and efforts to help current students learn about and prepare themselves for transitioning to the status of young professional. Students find Anh to be not just knowledgeable, but enthusiastic, genuine, and approachable.  Always willing to go the extra mile, Anh has advised many of our students and assisted several in obtaining jobs and internships,” said Peter Kennelly, professor and former department head of biochemistry.

Susan Sumner, Amanda Marx, and Dean Alan Grant

Amanda Marx, a senior majoring in food science and technology from Oakton, Virginia, was recognized as this year’s Outstanding Ambassador for her leadership and service to the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Ambassador program and to the college.

Within her major, she is active in the Food Science Club, the Food Science and Technology Product Development Team, and has participated on one of the Disney Product Development teams.

She has completed an independent study on Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points with George Flick, Emeritus University Distinguished Professor. HACCP is a management system in which food safety is addressed through the analysis and control of biological, chemical, and physical hazards from raw material production, procurement and handling, to manufacturing, distribution, and consumption of the finished product.

Marx is a member of the university crew team and was a member of the Corp of Cadets for three years.  She emerged as a leader in the college as the current President of CALS Ambassador Program and a member of the College Advising Committee.

According to Susan Sumner, associate dean of academic programs, “Amanda is the smile that immediately welcomes future students. Her love for her major and college are instantly heard in her explanation of why she decided to come to Virginia Tech.  Amanda’s three years as a member of the Corp of Cadets only reinforced her leadership qualities and Ut Prosim spirit.”

David Winston and Dean Alan Grant

David Winston of Radford, Virginia, was recognized with the Outstanding Faculty Service Award for his outstanding contributions to the college and the Department of Dairy Science.  He is a two-time alumnus of the dairy science department, completing both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in 1987 and 1998 respectively. 

Winston serves as the 4-H Youth Dairy Scientist in the Department of Dairy Science and is an expert in animal management systems and youth development. In his role, he serves as a member of the Virginia Cooperative Extension 4-H Positive Youth Development Program Team and on the Council for Youth Development.  Nationally he represents Virginia 4-H as a planning committee member for National 4-H Dairy Conference. Since 2002 he has coached four National Champion 4-H Dairy Quiz Bowl Teams.

Beyond his impact on the youth of Virginia, he teaches courses in dairy science and industry, dairy information systems, and graduate seminar.  He also leads the department’s scholarship committee awarding more than $80,000 annually. A significant portion of the scholarship funds are raised during the annual Hokie Cow Classic Golf Tournament which he plays a significant role in planning and executing. 

He has served as the Virginia Tech Dairy Club advisor for 19 years.  Advising the Dairy Club is not for the faint of heart. Seventy-five members strong, they are one of the most active clubs in the college, if not at the university.  The club is known by every Hokie football and basketball fan for their milkshakes – one would be hard pressed to find a member of the CALS community who hasn’t stopped by on their way through the concourses of Lane Stadium and Cassell Coliseum to say hello and purchase their milkshake before they run out.  The club honored Dave in 2006 by dedicating their annual yearbook, the Milky Way, in his name. 

Dairy Club President Elizabeth Davis says, “His guidance and advice as an advisor has helped strengthen the club. He always makes himself available to students no matter if they need help with school, clubs, business, or life. He's dedication is to be admired.”

Winston serves in leadership roles within a multitude of regional and national professional organizations such as the North American and Southern Regional Intercollegiate Dairy Challenges, which allow dairy science students to apply theory and learning to a real-world dairy while working as part of a team.

Dave served many years on the College’s Diversity Council where he held positions of leadership and organized discussion groups and events.  He continues to represent the college on university committees and task forces for diversity initiatives at the university

In 2008, he received the Diversity Enhancement Award established in 2006 by the CALS Diversity Council to recognize outstanding diversity accomplishments of faculty, staff, and students in the college. He is also an immensely valued member of the CALS Alumni Organization board of directors serving as dairy science’s department representative.

When he isn’t busy helping develop young minds and serving the institution, he is a volunteer docent at Glencoe Museum house in Radford. He also assists with special events organized by the Radford Heritage Foundation.

“It has to be a source of great pride when David hears, ‘I came to Virginia Tech and majored in dairy science because of David Winston,’ ” said Department Head and Horace E. and Elizabeth F. Alphin Professor of Dairy Science Mike Akers. “Throughout his career he has had a positive impact on literally hundreds of students formally in his college classes and though a myriad of youth 4-H, FFA, and judging activities.   I think of David as the Johnny Apple Seed of Dairy Science.  His impact has been wider and further reaching than he will probably ever really appreciate.”

Ozzie Abaye and Dean Alan Grant

Ozzie Abaye, of Blacksburg, Virginia, was selected as the Outstanding Alumna in International Programs for significant service and contributions to the areas of international agriculture and the life sciences and the college.

Abaye is a professor in Virginia Tech’s Department of Crop and Soil Environmental Sciences. She completed her doctorate in the department in 1992.  She teaches courses across the curriculum from freshmen through senior level. While she finds teaching undergraduates extremely rewarding, what she values the most is her interaction with advisees. According to Abaye, success in academic advising relies on developing a strong, mutually respectful relationship between student and advisor in which she strives to foster independence and personal responsibility.    She also coaches the Crops Judging Team and is an advisor to the Agronomy Club.

Abaye’s research program, which strongly supports her Extension efforts and emphasizes developing and maintaining a strong working relationship with Extension agents, focuses on alternative crops and the incorporation of animals into sustainable systems. Part of her work also assesses the potential of co-grazing small ruminants with beef cattle to improve animal performance and increase the utilization of marginal pasturelands.

For the last 12 years she has been involved in research and outreach in several African countries through collaboration with the Office of International Research, Education, and Development. For the past five years, she has been involved with the U.S. Agency for International Development-funded and Virginia Tech-led project Education and Research in Agriculture-Senegal. She has made countless trips to Senegal since 2011 and her activities have been instrumental in the increasing use of course syllabi by university professors, introduction of mungbean as an alternative food crop, conservation agriculture research, empowering women’s groups, development of a community center for the village of Toubacouta, and launching a 4-H-style program for Senegal.

“Ozzie Abaye weaves together classroom teaching, experiential learning, advising, and international research and outreach into an integrated whole which represents both her vocation and avocation,” said Professor and Department Head Tom Thompson. “She has involved students in international learning through study abroad trips to Australia, Ecuador, Nepal, and Senegal. Back on campus, she is “Dr. Ozzie” to dozens of current and former students. As one CSES graduate said, “She brings her students into her home and makes them part of her life.  We are all her children and she still treats me as such, 15 years after my graduation.”

Scott Stevens and Dean Alan Grant

Scott Stevens, of Fincastle, Virginia, ’92 animal science, was recognized with the Outstanding Alumni Leadership Award for the leadership he has provided to Virginia Tech, the agricultural industry, and his community.

Stevens is the general manager of the Rockingham Co-Op, Troutville Branch, which serves a seven-county area. He has served on the Virginia Tech College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Alumni Organization Board of Directors since 2005 holding various leadership roles during that time.

“Since graduation, I strive to live the University motto, Ut Prosim. I have always attempted to serve others, by putting our community's needs first and leading by example,” said Stevens. “I am a dedicated Hokie and attempt to explain the importance Virginia Tech plays in our local economy and how the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences has impacted the livelihood of our ag producers in the greater Roanoke and surrounding counties. I am forever grateful for the foundation my education at Virginia Tech provided for me and attempt to exhibit that passion each and every day.”

“When I speak to new 4-H agents about the life and career that they have embarked upon, I always tell them to surround themselves with good people – people who you can count on, genuinely like to be around, and those who you know, no matter what, will have your back,” said Katherine Carter, Botetourt County Virginia Cooperative Extension agent. “ In my work with Botetourt 4-H, one of the best choices I ever made was to extend the invitation to be one of my “good people” to Scott Stevens.  Scott has served as a Botetourt County 4-H volunteer for over 15 years.  His service has included supporting numerous livestock shows and projects and the recently renewed Botetourt County Fair.  His responsibilities in these endeavors have ranged from never-failing financial support to the physical labor required. In addition, Scott has served as a judge for many 4-H competitions and is currently serving in his third consecutive term as chairman of the Botetourt County Extension Leadership Council.   Perhaps his favorite role, and the one for which I consider him irreplaceable, is as a male chaperone and adult volunteer for Botetourt County Summer Residential 4-H Camp.  For almost 10 years Scott has selflessly given a week each summer to travel to the W.E. Skelton 4-H Center and help with the efforts of keeping almost 400 campers and teens headed in the right direction for five days and four nights.  I know without a doubt that the campers are going to be cared for, supported, and encouraged by an outstanding role model. We were friends, all the way back to our college days here at Virginia Tech.  I knew then that Scott Stevens was “good people” but his devotion to Botetourt County 4-H, Botetourt County Extension, and the entire Hokie community grows and strengthens with each passing day.”

Outstanding departmental alumni award winners 2016
Department Name Class Location
Agricultural and Applied Economics Steven Critchfield B.S. 1980 Blacksburg, VA
Agricultural, Leadership, and Community Education Mike Rush Ed.D. 1984 Pierre, SD
Agricultural Technology Lynn Graves A.AG. 1995 Syria, VA
Animal and Poultry Sciences Ronnie Green B.S. 1983 Lincoln, NE
Biochemistry Robert Davie, III B.S. 1991 Blacksburg, VA
Biological Systems Engineering Bradford Douglas B.S. 1983 Leesburg, VA
Crop and Soil Environmental Sciences Bruce Beahm M.S. 1977 Hauge, VA
Dairy Science John Clay B.S. 1975, M.S. 1978 Raleigh, NC
Entomology Joseph Dickens M.S. 1972 Beltsville, MD
Food Science and Technology Leslie Smoot B.S. 1975, M.S. 1977, Ph.D. 1978 College Park, MD
Horticulture Thomas Saunders B.S. 1981 Arlington, VA
Human Nutrition, Foods and Exercise Brenda Davy B.S. 1989, M.S. 1992 Blacsk
Plant Pathology, Physiology, and Weed Science Lawrence Datnoff M.S. 1981 Baton Rouge, LA
Outstanding departmental recent alumni award winners 2016
Department Name Class Location
Agricultural and Applied Economics Elton Mykerezi M.S. 2007 St. Paul, MN
Agricultural, Leadership, and Community Education Jessica Travis M.S. 2010 New Smyrna Beach, FL
Agricultural Technology Wesley Chiles A.AG. 2012 Louisa, VA
Animal and Poultry Sciences Hima Bindu Vanimisetti M.S. 2003, Ph.D. 2006 Portage, MI
Biochemistry Anh Tran B.S. 2006 Roanoke, VA
Biological Systems Engineering Janette Wolf B.S. 2006 Antioch, TN
Crop and Soil Environmental Sciences Tim Woodward B.S. 2008, M.S. 2011 Radiant, VA
Dairy Science Rena Johnson B.S. 2006 Glade Spring, VA
Entomology Marc Fisher Ph.D. 2006 Carmel, IN
Food Science and Technology Renee Dupell M.S. 2011 Henrico, VA
Horticulture Mennen Middlebrooks B.S. 2012 Chesapeake, VA
Human Nutrition, Food and Exercise Kristen Chang B.S. 2010, M.S. 2011 Blacksburg, VA
Plant Pathology, Physiology and Weed Science Angela Post Ph.D. 2013 Stillwater, OK