AUBURN, Ala.—Nine successful and influential professionals who hold degrees from Auburn University’s College of Agriculture have been selected as winners in the college’s 2015 alumni awards program.
The honors, formally presented in a ceremony Thursday, April 16, include eight departmental Outstanding Alumni Awards and a college-wide award for exceptional service to and support of the College of Agriculture at Auburn. The recipients include:
- Chuck Penry of Washington, D.C.—Penry, the Department of Agricultural Economics and Rural Sociology’s top alumnus for 2015, received his B.S. in agricultural business and economics from Auburn in 1986. Now employed as the vice president of government relations for Tyson Foods Inc., Penry previously served as an Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries assistant commissioner, a U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee staff member and vice president of legislative affairs for the National Rural Electric Association, where he was recognized among the nation’s top 10 lobbyists on energy issues.
- Stephen Donaldson of Cullman—After receiving his bachelor’s degree from Auburn’s Department of Animal Sciences in 1987, Donaldson completed a master’s in ruminant nutrition from the University of Georgia and then returned to Alabama as extension livestock specialist with the Limestone County Extension Office. Today, he manages and operates Donaldson Farms, a 125-head cow-calf and 2,400-sow operation in Cullman, and manages a regional feed supply and feed milling business. He is widely respected as an authority on animal nutrition and serves as a consultant to the Alabama Farmers Cooperative’s Feed Division.
- Raymond Hoyum of Alpharetta, Georgia—Hoyum, this year’s top alumnus in the Department of Crop, Soil and Environmental Sciences, received his master’s in agronomy and soils from Auburn in 1973 and his Ph.D. in ’76. An award-winning marketing executive with more than three decades’ professional experience in the agricultural products industry, Hoyum currently is president of Advantage International and chairman and CEO of Monfort’s Education Fund for Youth Art, a nonprofit organization that provides cultural art learning experiences for the nation’s youth.
- Walter Mahaffee of Corvallis, Oregon—Mahaffee is the outstanding alumnus in the Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology. He completed his master’s in plant pathology at Auburn in 1991 and his Ph.D. in ’96 and accepted a position as a research plant pathologist with the USDA Agricultural Research Service’s Horticultural Crops Research Lab in Oregon. He continues in that role today, with a research focus on foliar diseases of plants, including hop. Mahaffee is also a courtesy associate professor in Oregon State University’s Department of Botany and Plant Pathology.
- Gene Kim of Washington, D.C.—Kim, the honored alumnus from the School of Fisheries, Aquaculture and Aquatic Sciences, received his master’s in fisheries and aquaculture in 1998 and obtained his Ph.D. from The Ohio State University. He currently holds one of the top aquaculture positions in the federal government as national program leader in aquaculture for the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture and also chairs the Interagency Working Group on Aquaculture in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.
- William Barrick of Mobile—Barrick received his bachelor’s and master’s from the Department of Horticulture in 1968 and ’70, respectively, and his Ph.D. from the University of Michigan. He spent 19 years with Callaway Gardens in Pine Mountain, Georgia, ultimately as executive vice president and director of gardens, and is now in his 16th year as executive director of Bellingrath Gardens and Home in Theodore. A highly respected leader in the field of public horticulture, Barrick also is the 2015 recipient of the American Horticultural Society’s Liberty Hyde Bailey Award for his outstanding lifetime contributions to horticulture.
- Roddy Sanders of Gordo—The Department of Poultry Science’s outstanding alumnus, Sanders graduated with a bachelor of science degree in 1990 and today is director of live operations and secretary-treasurer of Tuscaloosa-based Peco Foods Inc., the nation’s eighth-largest poultry producer. A former president of the Alabama Poultry and Egg Association Board of Directors, Sanders was instrumental in developing the industry-university partnerships that led to construction of Auburn University’s Poultry Science Building, and he helped garner support needed to construct the Poultry and Animal Nutrition Center in north Auburn.
- Kiley Harper-Larsen of Canal Point, Florida—Harper-Larsen is the 2015 outstanding alumnus in the Agricultural Communications program at Auburn. She received her B.S. in the program in 2005 and later completed her master’s at the University of Florida. She now is the business development and technical sales manager for PrimusLabs, co-owner of NK-Lago Farms LLC and a noted expert in food safety. In 2013, she was presented the Excellence in Agriculture Award from Florida Farm Bureau’s Young Farmers and Ranchers.
- Sutton Gibbs of Marion Junction—Gibbs, a 1987 Auburn agricultural business and economics graduate, is the College of Agriculture’s 2015 Alumni Service Award recipient. Gibbs is extremely active in the Auburn University Agricultural Alumni Association, having served terms as the organization’s first vice president, second vice president and president. She has been employed by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service for 25 years and serves as district conservationist for west Alabama.
Nominations for the 2015 alumni awards were submitted by departments and units within the College of Agriculture. The final selection was made by a committee that included the dean, associate deans, department heads and unit directors.