Auburn College of Agriculture salutes alumni of the year

PHOTO: The Auburn University College of Agriculture’s 2019 Alumni Award recipients included, from left, Bryan Word, Shannon Weaver, Mike Leonard, Alice McLaughlin, Dr. Calvin Johnson, Annette Bitto, John Woodruff and Johnny Grace.

Eight successful professionals who hold academic degrees from Auburn University’s College of Agriculture are the college’s 2019 Outstanding Alumni Award winners. The honorees include one college-wide Distinguished Alumnus Award recipient and seven individuals who represent and were selected by their respective academic units.

The college established the awards program in 2014 to recognize alumni whose outstanding professional accomplishments over the course of their careers have brought distinction to the college and university and had a significant impact on society.

Following are the 2019 award winners and the departments they represent.

JOHN M. WOODRUFF — 2019 Distinguished Alumnus Award

Woodruff is an internationally recognized soybean and oilseed crop expert who earned B.S. and M.S. degrees in agronomy and soils from Auburn in 1964 and ’66, respectively. He joined the University of Georgia faculty as extension soybean agronomist in 1972 after graduating with a doctorate degree in agronomy from Virginia Polytechnic Institute. He retired He dedicated his almost-40-year career to helping farmers in Georgia and surrounding states improve their soybean yields and profits and to addressing hunger and malnutrition in developing countries.

ANNETTE BITTO — Department of Agricultural Economics and Rural Sociology

Bitto (M.S., ’01, rural sociology) received a doctorate degree in rural sociology from Iowa State University in 2005 and joined John Deere Financial in Des Moines as a credit risk analyst. She moved to North Carolina in 2009 for a regional sales position with John Deere Ag and Turf and in 2011 was named territory manager for Ag and Turf’s eastern sales division in Marietta, Georgia, serving John Deere dealers in Georgia and South Carolina. The Elberta, Alabama, native is active in the College of Agriculture’s ag alumni mentor program.

DR. CALVIN JOHNSON — Department of Animal Sciences

Johnson (B.S., ’83, animal and dairy sciences) is in his sixth year as dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine at Auburn University. He graduated with his veterinary medicine degree from Auburn in 1986, received his PhD in pathology and biotechnology from North Carolina State University in 1992 and was on the University of Florida faculty for 11 years before returning to Auburn in 2003 as a professor. He was head of the vet school’s pathobiology department and acting dean before being named dean. His research emphases are veterinary immunology and the pathogenesis of feline immunodeficiency virus infection in cats.

JOHN MCFERO “JOHNNY” GRACE III — Department of Biosystems Engineering

Grace (B.S., ’94, M.S., ’96, agricultural engineering) spent the first 16 years of his post-master’s career as a research engineer with the U.S. Forest Service in Auburn, during which time he completed his Ph.D. from the North Carolina State University. He moved to the agency’s Southern Research Station in Tallahassee, Florida, in 2012 and currently serves as program manager/coordination lead and general engineer. His research through the years has significantly improved the influence of forest operations and management on soil and water quality across the southern U.S.

SHANNON K. WEAVER — Department of Crop, Soil and Environmental Sciences

As assistant state conservationist for technology with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service in Auburn, Weaver (B.S., ’88, agronomy and soils; B.S., ’90, agricultural engineering) works closely with College of Agriculture soil scientists to help implement practices and technologies that promote soil health, quality, conservation and productivity. She started working with NRCS as a soil conservationist in ’86 while still an undergraduate, and with NRCS she has remained. She was promoted to assistant state conservationist in 1997 after earning her master’s in civil engineering from Auburn.

DAVID “MIKE” LEONARD — School of Fisheries, Aquaculture and Aquatic Sciences

Leonard (MS, ’08, fisheries science) is vice president of government affairs for the American Sportfishing Association in Alexandria, Virginia. As such, he is lead advocate for the entire recreational-fishing industry, from tackle manufacturers to occasional anglers, and keeps his finger on the pulse of state and federal policy decisions that affect or could affect noncommercial fishing. He joined the association as a policy fellow immediately following his Auburn graduation and then served as director of ocean resource policy before advancing to his current job in October 2018.

BRYAN WORD III — Department of Horticulture

Word (BS, ’00, horticulture/ornamental design) went straight to work as a project manager with Birmingham-based Blackjack Horticulture after graduating from Auburn and today is president and owner of the full-service landscape company. In addition to his success as a businessman and entrepreneur, he is among the horticulture department’s most loyal and involved alumni. From sharing career advice and sponsoring department events to hosting interns and helping students train for competitions, he regularly volunteers his time, expertise and resources to support and encourage current students. He also is active in state and local landscape organizations and his church.

ALICE LEE MCLAUGHLIN — Department of Poultry Science

Throughout her 27-year career in the food industry, McLaughlin (B.S., ’91, food science) has focused on food quality and safety and currently is vice president of food safety and quality assurance with Pilgrim’s Pride in Warner Robins, Georgia. Before joining Pilgrim’s six years ago, she was with Keystone Foods, Foster Farms and Smithfield. A strong supporter of Auburn and the poultry science department, she actively recruits students as interns, trainees and full-time employees and is an ag alumni mentor. In addition to a bachelor’s, she holds an MBA from Albany State University and an M.S. in food safety from Michigan State University.


Related Articles