Category Archives: Accolades

Theresa Thompson named Elizabeth and James E. Turner Jr. ‘56 Faculty Fellow

Theresa Thompson, associate professor of biological systems engineering in the College of Engineering and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Virginia Tech, has been awarded the Elizabeth and James E. Turner Jr. ’56 Faculty Fellowship in Engineering by the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors.

Elizabeth and James Turner created the Turner Fellowships in 2011 with a $1 million gift to recognize faculty excellence. James Turner is a 1956 agricultural engineering alumnus who is the retired president and chief operating officer of General Dynamics. He is also a former rector of the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors, and in 2004 received Virginia Tech’s highest honor, the William H. Ruffner Medal.

Recipients hold the title of Turner Fellows for a period of five years.

A member of the Virginia Tech faculty since 2004, Thompson has developed a leading research and teaching program in ecological engineering with a focus on stream and wetland systems.

Her research focuses on determining fundamental processes in streams and wetlands and using that knowledge to develop methods and tools to improve stream and wetland restoration design, or restoring lost ecological services to society. She has received several external grants to support her research, and she has published numerous papers and given several keynote invited presentations on her work at national and international conferences.

Thompson has served as president of the American Ecological Engineering Society. As a member of the Stream Restoration Committee of the American Society of Civil Engineers, she co-authored a paper that defines the body of knowledge required for any professional practicing stream restoration design.

She brings her prior work experience and research to the classroom and emphasizes “real world” problems and hands-on experiences.

Thompson is the assistant department head for undergraduate studies and oversees all aspects of the educational program. Student enrollment has tripled under her leadership.

She received her bachelor’s degree and Ph.D. from Virginia Tech and a master¹s degree from North Carolina State University.

Posted in Accolades | Tagged | Leave a comment

Tyler Wegmeyer named 2016 Virginia Farmer of the Year

Virginia Cooperative Extension has recognized Tyler Wegmeyer of Wegmeyer Farms in Loudoun County, Virginia, as the 2016 Virginia Farmer of the Year. He joins nine other state winners as finalists for the overall award, which will be announced on Oct. 18 at the Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Ag Expo farm show in Moultrie, Georgia.

Wegmeyer operates a diversified 250-acre fruit and vegetable farm. The farm consists of three u-pick strawberry locations, four u-pick pumpkin locations, a vegetable CSA, and a large separate agritourism farm. In addition to direct consumer sales, he also sells wholesale to grocery store chains and nursery retailers along the East Coast.

His agriculture leadership roles  include serving on the boards of the Virginia Strawberry Association, Southern States Cooperative, Loudoun County Heritage Farm Museum, and as the past president of the Loudoun County Farm Bureau.

“We are so pleased that farming operations like Wegmeyer Farms call Virginia home,” said Bobby Grisso, associate director of agriculture and natural resources for Virginia Cooperative Extension. “Tyler Wegmeyer has a unique perspective he can draw from his experience as both a policymaker and a farmer.”

Wegmeyer traded in his urban office for strawberry fields in 2013 when he decided to farm full time. Previously, Wegmeyer farmed part time and had a 15-year career in agricultural policy in Washington, D.C., where he served most recently as director of congressional relations at the American Farm Bureau Federation. In addition, he was a strategic marketing project manager at John Deere, staff director for the House Committee Agriculture’s Subcommittee on General Farm Commodities and Risk Management, and a member of the staff of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry.

“Our mission with all our farm locations is to engage with people and offer a memorable family experience that will educate and create a positive awareness of  agriculture,” said Wegmeyer. “Good agriculture policy starts with consumers understanding a little bit about what it takes to grow food.  We have a passion for agriculture, and for us, it’s much more than just producing a high-yielding crop.  We aim to make a difference in the public’s perception of how food is grown.”

Wegmeyer utilizes the latest technology and conservation practices in all aspects of his business to protect the environment directly and indirectly. Tablets and smartphones take payment, track inventory, map fields, market their produce, and act as a  portable office. Strawberry and other water sensitive vegetable crops are drip irrigated and the pumpkin wholesale fields, along with corn and soybeans, are no-tilled into cover crops using a roller-crimper.

He also uses the latest nozzle technology to enable crop-protection products to work the best they can. Besides yearly soil sampling, weekly plant tissue samplings are pulled to achieve optimal nutrient management. Most of the technology Wegmeyer uses is transparent and visible to the public, especially in u-pick fields. This visibility creates opportunity for dialogue with customers.

Since its inception in 1990, the Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year Award has evolved into the most-prestigious honor in the Southeast and nation with 225 agribusiness leaders being honored for their “excellence in agriculture.”

Ten states participate in the program: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia. In the previous 26 years of the award, more than $1,044,000 has been awarded to state and overall winners.

Each state winner receives $2,500 and an all-expense-paid trip to Expo along with various other prizes. The overall Southeastern winner receives $15,000 and other prizes from the sponsors.

Posted in Accolades, Extension Updates | Tagged , | Leave a comment

David Bevan receives Diversity and Inclusion Service Award

David Bevan, a professor of biochemistry, was recognized with the Diversity and Inclusion Service Award. Bevan is the co-principal director of the Department of Biochemistry’s Initiative to Maximize Student Development, one of the most diverse academic programs at the university. David goes out of his way to make the college and welcoming environment for all.

Posted in Accolades | Leave a comment

Lee Daniels receives Award for Excellence in Applied Research

Lee Daniels received the Award for Excellence in Applied Research at the annual CALS picnic.

Daniels is the Thomas B. Hutcheson Jr. Professor of Soil Science in the Department of Crop and Soil Environmental Sciences. He was awarded for his significant contributions for restoring disturbed land into environmentally and agriculturally valuable resources, which has a tremendous positive impact to every citizen in the state and extends throughout the U.S. and the world.

His research is primarily focused on rehabilitation of disturbed lands, such as mining, urbanization, and road building, and the relationship between the pre-disturbance conditions, the disturbance methods, the rehabilitation strategies, and the post-disturbance land-use potentials.


Posted in Accolades | 1 Comment

Benjamin Corl named interim head of Department of Dairy Science

Benjamin Corl, associate professor of dairy science, has been named interim head of the Department of Dairy Science in the Virginia Tech College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Corl follows Mike Akers, the Horace E. and Elizabeth F. Alphin Professor of Dairy Science, who recently stepped down after 12 years as department head to focus on research.

“This is an opportunity to build upon the foundation laid by those who have gone before me and try to build on the robust legacy in the department,” said Corl. “I look forward to working with the college leadership to advance the department and the college.”

No stranger to Virginia Tech, Corl received his B.S. in biochemistry in 1997 from the Department of Biochemistry, located in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the College of Science. He received his Ph.D. in animal science from Cornell University in 2003. Corl returned to Virginia Tech in 2005 as a faculty member after a two-year post-doctoral appointment at North Carolina State University.

Corl’s research focuses on milk synthesis in the mammary gland of dairy cows. Currently his lab studies the local regulation of milk production by studying factors that influence the number and activity of mammary epithelial cells in glands. He examines how this local control can be used to increase the efficiency of milk production, and how it is mediated within the mammary gland.

Corl received the Cargill Animal Nutrition Young Scientist Award for outstanding research in the area of Dairy Cattle Production at the 107th Annual Meeting of the American Dairy Science Association in 2012.

He is a member of the American Dairy Science Association.

Posted in Accolades, Administrative Updates, College Updates | Tagged | Leave a comment

Kim Niewolny receives Andy Swiger Land-Grant Award

Kim Niewolny, an associate professor in the Department of Agricultural, Leadership, and Community Education, personifies the Andy Swiger Land-Grant Award award by enthusiastically and creatively promoting agriculture education through Extension and outreach efforts.

She has grown the Virginia Beginning Farmer and Rancher Coalition Program through prolific work with Virginia Cooperative Extension. Niewolny leads this multi-organizational and interdisciplinary coalition program to develop whole-farm programming and curriculum for farm start-ups in the commonwealth. Niewolny has led numerous professional meetings and trainings throughout Virginia to ensure that there will not only be a next generation of farmers, but that they will succeed in their endeavors to feed the commonwealth and the world.


Posted in Accolades | Tagged | Leave a comment

Karen Barnhart – April Employee of the Month

Congratulations to the April Employee of the Month – Karen Barnhart! She is the human resources and benefits administrative assistant in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Human Resources office.   

Pictured left to right: Patsy Neice, Karen Barnhart and Dean Alan Grant

Pictured left to right: Patsy Neice, Karen Barnhart and Dean Alan Grant

Barnhart’s nominators praised her work ethic and attitude saying she “is always cheery and helpful. If she does not have an answer for you, she will find out and get back with you. She stays current on personnel updates in the university and is always willing to explain if necessary to the departmental HR staff.”

Barnhart has even sent email notices to the departments to let them know about research extended appointments and PeopleAdmin training sessions (to name a couple) being available and where to register for the classes.

As the April Employee of the Month, she received a plaque and gifts from the college, has her photo displayed in the case in Hutcheson Hall, and will be eligible to be considered for the 2015-16 Employee of the Year award.

Other 2015-2016 Employee of the Month Award Recipients include:

  • March – David Dunaway, agricultural technician, Eastern Virginia Agricultural Research and Extension Center
  • February – Cynthia Beatty, scholarship coordinator, CALS Office of Academic Programs
  • January – Stephanie Slocum, Dean’s office support specialist, CALS Administration
  • December– Jeff Burr, greenhouse manager, Department of Horticulture
  • November – Robin Williams, federal project coordinator, CALS Research
  • October – John Mason, research specialist senior, Eastern Shore Agricultural Research and Extension Center
  • September- Denise Dodd, database specialist, Department of Entomology
  • August- Ryan Mays, research specialist, Department of Entomology
  • July- Sammi Kent, unit administrative assistant, Greensville/Emporia Virginia Cooperative Extension office
Posted in Accolades | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Years of service award winners recognized

A number of our outstanding faculty and staff members were recently recognized for their many years at Virginia Tech at the 2016 Annual Service Recognition Program.

Ann Hutchens is one of those on the list, and she has been in the college for 45 years. Hutchens’ first job here was with Virginia Cooperative Extension in the Chemical, Drug, and Pesticide Unit, in what was then called the Extension Division. She has held different titles over the years and is currently a program support technician.

Hutchens has worked in each of the three mission areas – Extension, academics, and research. She has seen office technology evolve from the earliest version of an electronic typewriter, mimeograph machines, and dictation machines bigger than iPads, to how things are today where everyone has their own phone line and there are photocopy machines instead of the mimeographs.

While she has been involved in many aspects of the college, she really enjoys her current work in Latham Hall and working so closely with the research area. Hutchens enjoys being able to see what students and researchers are working on in the lab and how it will be used in the future. 

More than 780 employees were recognized earlier this year with over 13,890 years of service to Virginia Tech. We thank everyone who was recognized at the program for their hard work and dedication over all these years. 

Posted in Accolades | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Alexander Niemiera receives William E. Wine award for teaching excellence

Alex NiemieraAlexander X. Niemiera, professor for the Department of Horticulture and assistant dean of student programs in the college, has received the university’s 2016 William E. Wine Award.

The William E. Wine Award was established in 1957 by the Virginia Tech Alumni Association in memory of William E. Wine, Class of 1904, who was a former rector of the Board of Visitors and Alumni Association president. Following a college-level selection process of candidates nominated by students, faculty, and alumni, each college may put forth one nominee. From this group, three faculty members are selected annually. Each Wine Award winner receives $2,000 and automatic induction into the Academy of Teaching Excellence.

In addition to teaching  five routine courses per year, Niemiera has taught seven other courses for the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. He consistently receives above average SPOT evaluation scores from students who often describe his dedication to his students and the material.

See the full story on Virginia Tech News.

Posted in Accolades | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Theodore Ellmore receives Staff Career Achievement Award

Theodore EllmoreTheodore Ellmore, retired programmer in the Department of Crop and Soil Environmental Sciences, has received the university’s 2016 Staff Career Achievement Award.

Ellmore retired from the university in February 2015 after 43 years of service.

Created in 2011 to recognize retiring staff members, the Staff Career Achievement Award is presented annually to as many as five individuals who have distinguished themselves through exemplary performance and service during their university careers. Nominees must have worked a minimum of 10 years at Virginia Tech. Each recipient is awarded a $1,000 cash prize.

Ellmore began as a laboratory and research technician, running various assays on forage materials, but was a man of many talents. As the university moved into the technological world, Ellmore became a self-taught computer technician, which resulted in his role changing to information technology specialist. He served as the department communications and network liaisons, webmaster, and photographer.

See the full story on Virginia Tech News.

Posted in Accolades | Tagged , , | Leave a comment