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In celebration of its 40th anniversary, the Wisconsin Agricultural and Life Sciences Alumni Association (WALSAA) is honoring individuals who have made a difference not only for WALSAA, CALS or Farm and Industry Short Course, but in farms, classrooms, laboratories, businesses and other organizations all around Wisconsin. We are pleased to profile 10 of these extraordinary individuals in this edition of Grow. The additional 30 honorees are listed below. You can learn more about them at walsaa.org.

Susan Crane

Crane’s career has been marked by a deep belief in education and a passionate commitment to agriculture. Crane and her family run Crane Farms in Burlington, and she also works with We Energies as manager of special projects for wholesale energy and fuels. Crane was appointed by Governor Doyle in 2005 to serve on the Wisconsin State Fair Park Board, and she continues to promote awareness of and support for agriculture through her work with the CALS Board of Visitors and a number of other organizations.

Norval Dvorak BS’43 Agricultural Economics

Since earning his degree in 1943, Dvorak has devoted his life to educating others through his work with a number of committees and organizations, including Packerland Packing Co., Wisconsin/Minnesota Feeder Pig Marketing Cooperative, Midwest Livestock Producers Cooperative, Lake to Lake Dairy Cooperative and the Lakeland Egg Marketing Cooperative. Dvorak, 90, along with his wife, Jean Hird Dvorak, continues to educate people about the importance and value of agriculture. “It was a great time to be in agriculture,” he reflects, looking back on his career. “And the opportunities in the years ahead look even more promising.”

Corey Geiger BS’95 Dairy Science, Agricultural Economics

Geiger is the assistant managing editor of Hoard’s Dairyman, one of the nation’s oldest and most respected dairy publications. A past president of the Wisconsin Holstein Association and the National Dairy Shrine, Geiger remains active in both organizations along with the Badger Dairy Camp and Young Dairy Leaders Institute, as well as serving as superintendent of the National Collegiate Dairy Cattle Judging Contest. And that’s still not all. He’s also a devoted member of Alpha Gamma Rho and is active with CALS and the greater agricultural community.

Bob Hagenow BS’85 Dairy Science

After earning his degree, Hagenow worked for the National Brown Swiss Cattle Association for two years before beginning his career with Vita Plus Corporation, where he now works as a sales manager. Hagenow has been an instrumental contributor to Alpha Gamma Rho (Iota Chapter), WALSAA, the CALS Department of Dairy Science and a number of other organizations within CALS. “His involvement is unique and he is always true to his roots of agriculture and becoming a well-rounded individual,” says an associate.

Valerie (Breunig) Johnson BS’86 Agricultural Journalism/Agricultural Extension Education

Johnson is the new CEO of Habitat for Humanity of Dane County, where she develops partnerships that build communities and homes. She was previously executive director of the Worldwide Foundation for Credit Unions. Her volunteer work with United Way and on the board of directors for WALSAA and the Wisconsin 4-H Foundation keeps her involved with businesses and industry through many fruitful collaborations and projects. “Valerie bleeds Badger red,” says a colleague. “She is a tried and true advocate for CALS, its students and its alumni.”

Shelly Mayer BS’88 Agricultural Journalism

Mayer is a widely respected authority on dairy industry education. She has operated at the forefront of the industry for the past 15 years through her work with the Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin, serving as the organization’s executive director since 2001. She’s also a full partner with her husband in Mayer Farms. In addition, Mayer serves on the executive committee and as secretary/treasurer for the Center for Food Integrity along with serving her community as a 4-H dairy leader and through a number of activities in her church. Mayer’s colleagues describe her as “the heart and soul” of the Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin.

Sam Miller BS’84 Agricultural Economics

Miller serves as managing director and group head of agriculture banking for BMO Harris Bank. His agricultural community activities include serving as the vice president of the WALSAA Board of Directors as well as on the CALS Board of Visitors, the Wisconsin Dairy 2020 Council and the Dairy Business Innovation Center. He’s also a former chairman of the American Bankers Association’s ag and rural affairs committee. “While it is rare to find great leaders in any industry, Sam Miller’s combination of intelligence, insight, knowledge and passion for the dairy industry is both rare and admired by all of agriculture,” a colleague notes.

Bernie Staller BS’65 MS’66 Agricultural Education

Staller was an agribusiness instructor and a Future Farmers of America (FFA) advisor at Janesville-Parker High School for 11 years before moving on to the National FFA Foundation, where he has served as assistant executive director and executive director. He’s also served as the chief operating officer for both the National FFA Organization and the FFA Foundation. He has been honored with numerous awards highlighting his contributions and commitment to agricultural education. “Many individuals experiencing UW – Madison have been affected by Bernie’s involvement whether they realize it or not,” says a colleague.

Marjorie Stieve BS’91 Agricultural Journalism

Since graduating from CALS, Stieve has influenced many people through her work at World Dairy Expo, Capital Newspapers and, most recently, as an employee owner of Vita Plus Corporation, where she serves as marketing services manager. Stieve serves on the boards of directors of WALSAA, WDE Management and Community Support Network. She also has been engaged with the Association of Women in Agriculture, the National Agri-Marketing Association, the Wisconsin 4-H Foundation, Cows on the Concourse and numerous other organizations, events and causes. Colleagues respect Stieve for what they call her “nonstop dedication to agriculture.”

Robert Williams BS’76 Agricultural Education, MS’82 Continuing, Adult and Vocational Education

Williams recently celebrated his 40th year with the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection as the county fairs coordinator, where he works to ensure that the County Fair Board and Association has proper judging programs and complies with requirements to continue receiving state aid. Williams has demonstrated the same enthusiasm for WALSAA that he has for education—“a really personal commitment that makes those who interact with him realize that he is sincere and dedicated to the cause,” says a colleague.

More WALSAA 40 in 40 Impact Award Honorees

Lou Armentano
LaVerne Ausman
Roger Biddick (deceased)
Dale Boness
Dale Bruhn
William C. Bruins
Robert Bush
Tom Crenshaw
Rick Daluge
David Dickson (deceased)
Dorothy Farrell
Steve Fronk
Keith Hawks
Liz Henry
Daphne Holterman
Gail Janssen (deceased)
Bruce Jones
John “Jack” Kaltenberg
Pete Kappelman
Robert Kauffman
Alan Koepke
Jill Makovec
Larry Meiller
Larry Satter (deceased)
Tom Schomisch
Ronald Schuler
George Shook
William F. Tracy
Gale VandeBerg
Thomas Wright