UF/IFAS thanks supporters during inaugural Dinner of Distinction

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A number of people will be honored for their contributions to UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences and the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences at the inaugural Dinner of Distinction, to be held at the Florida Museum of Natural History the evening of Friday, Oct. 19.

The awards banquet is a new addition to CALS’ TailGATOR weekend, which serves as both a celebration of alumni achievements and a welcome for incoming and future students. During the banquet, UF/IFAS officials will also honor state Sen. J.D. Alexander (R-Lake Wales) and state Rep. Denise Grimsley (R-Lake Placid) for their legislative efforts in support of UF/IFAS.

The 2012 Dinner of Distinction award recipients include:

Horizon Award

James DeValerio, who received a bachelor’s degree in forestry at UF in 1981 and a master’s in agricultural education and communication in 2010, has been a UF/IFAS Bradford County Extension agent since 2006, specializing in agriculture and community resource development. DeValerio, of Starke, has been involved with the sustainable and organic farming programs delivered at UF’s annual Small Farms and Alternative Enterprises Conference.

Brian Estevez earned a bachelor’s degree in animal sciences in 2004 and his master’s in agricultural education and communication in 2007. He has worked for UF/IFAS Suwannee County Extension since 2008, serving as the county’s 4-H/youth development agent. Estevez, of Live Oak, has been instrumental in creating new summer day camps and developing award-winning meat-, farm- and animal-judging teams. In addition, he has introduced young students to the UF campus, and shown them career options in agriculture.

Award of Distinction

Thomas Richard Barber Jr. earned a bachelor’s degree in animal sciences in 1961. He is a fourth-generation farmer and rancher in Marion County, producing peanuts, watermelon and cattle, among other commodities. Barber, who is from Ocala, is active in the Florida Peanut Producers Association and has been a member of the National Peanut Board. He is a member of the UF/IFAS SHARE council and has received many honors, including memberships in the Florida Agricultural Hall of Fame, the Marion County Agricultural Hall of Fame and the UF/IFAS North Florida Research and Education Center Hall of Fame. He was named Sunbelt Ag Expo Farmer of the Year and Marion County Friend of Extension.

Wayne H. Smith, of Melrose, earned his bachelor’s degree in agronomy in 1960 and became an assistant professor with UF/IFAS in 1964 in the School of Forest Resources and Conservation. He later served as director of the school and has continued to serve UF/IFAS after his retirement. He and his wife, Mitzi Austin, established an endowment for an SFRC faculty position and he serves on the fundraising committee for the Austin Cary Memorial Forest Learning Center.

SHARE Volunteer of the Year

Ernest A. Sellers Sr., of Live Oak, has strong ties to agriculture. He was active in 4-H while growing up and was a member of the 1954 Florida state 4-H dairy judging team that placed first at the International Dairy Show in Chicago. He was part of a team that represented the U.S. in the Caribbean International 4-H dairy contest in Jamaica in 1955. He earned a degree in agriculture from UF in 1959 and a UF law degree in 1962. As an attorney, he has represented farmers in agricultural product litigation at the federal and state level and considers it an important part of his practice.

Outstanding 4-H Alumna

Colleen McCreary, of San Mateo, Calif., is a top officer in Zynga Inc., the company responsible for online games such as Farmville and Words with Friends, and previously worked for Electronic Arts and Microsoft. McCreary has longstanding ties to 4-H, serves on the National 4-H Council’s Board of Trustees and, earlier in her career, served as a program assistant at the National 4-H Youth Conference Center in Chevy Chase, Md. As a child she was a member of Brevard County 4-H and later served as 4-H State Council treasurer, and now lives in the San Francisco Bay area.


4-H Lifetime Achievement Award

Raymond and Karola Passage, of Spring Hill, Fla., are longtime supporters of 4-H, both in Florida and in their home state of Michigan. Mr. Passage is a member of the Hernando County Extension Advisory Committee and previously was a Michigan 4-H Foundation trustee for 13 years, as well as a co-chairman of the foundation’s Vision 2021 campaign. The couple has strong ties to agriculture, as well: He is a former board member of the National Food Processors Association and the Michigan Food Processors Association. He is a retired director of global agricultural operations for Gerber Products Company.



Writer: Mickie Anderson, 352-273-3566, mickiea@ufl.edu

Contact: Ruth Hohl Borger, 352-392-2411, rborger@ufl.edu


Posted: October 18, 2012

Category: UF/IFAS
Tags: Alumni, Award, CALS, Distinction, Horizon, TailGATOR

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