THE ROAD TO SUCCESS
HAS A RICKS TWIST
By Steve Moser
Here is a quiz you can pass with flying colors:
What do the following have in common?
Dale M. Jonson (81) is an extension economist and
farm management specialist at the University of Maryland and has
conducted workshops in Moldova, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, and Poland.
Les Albertson (85) is manager of a 12,000-head cow
and calf operation for the LDS Church in Utah, grazing the herd on
acreage spanning 90 miles from one end to the other.
Rex Larsen (87) is general manager of the North
Region Mill for Intermountain Farmers Association, supervising 23
full-time employees with $8 million-plus in yearly feed sales to
ranchers in three states.
Karl Ritchie (89) is an agronomic consultant for
Advanced Farming Systems, ensuring healthy crops by monitoring
irrigation and the application of fertilizers for potato farmers in
Ruby Ward (90) is an assistant professor of
Economics in the College of Agriculture and Business at Utah State
University, teaching classes and consulting with the nursery industry
and turkey producers in Utah.
Answer: All five are graduates of the Ricks College
Division of Agricultural and Biological Sciences and its departments.
“It was the defining point of my life,” says
Johnson. He met John D. Walker, an instructor in the division, sometime
during his freshman year. “(Agriculture) is where you need to go,”
he recalls Walker telling him.
Albertson credits David Allen, a mathematics
instructor, with providing the spark needed. “I found out that I could
compete and I could succeed,” he says of Allen’s math course
tailored to agriculture.
Larsen attended Utah State University but was
dating Ricks College girls, he says. He enrolled at Ricks because “I
wanted to pursue a career in the practical management production side of
the beef production business.”
“Every teacher I had (at Ricks) wanted me to
learn something out of the class,” says Ritchie, who obtained a Ph.D.
in soil science from the University of Illinois. “And (at Ricks) they
enjoyed teaching,” he adds.
“You really got to know your teachers,” says
Ward, one of only a handful of women now teaching agricultural
economics. “The level of the programs (at Ricks) are amazing. You get
to know some of the basics so well, (that) you’re just worlds ahead
when you start (at a university).”
What else do the five have in common?
They are all products of small Idaho towns, growing
up on family farms near Shelley, Ashton, Preston, or Rexburg.
All realized that returning to the family farm was
probably not an option.
All have only praise for the agriculture program at
“The farm crops program led me into a career in
ag education,” says Johnson, who graduated from Utah State University
and has a Master’s degree in agricultural economics from Cornell.
“There isn’t a better place on the face of the
earth to learn,” says Albertson, who graduated in beef production and
returned as a married student with five children for his degree after an
absence of ten years.
“The program was very hands-on and used practical
applications,” says Larsen. “Those things have given me a definite
edge to keep a tie to the family farm and be able to (practice learned
“I was interested in going into agriculture,”
says Ritchie, “and a program that mixed the practical with the
academic. Ricks had exactly what I wanted.” He graduated in agronomy
and obtained a Master’s degree in plant physiology from Utah State
before earning his Doctorate.
“I knew (Ricks) was a good school, but I didn’t
realize how good it was until I traveled and saw a lot of junior
colleges all over the U.S.,” says Ward. She was a vice president of
PAS (Post-Secondary Agricultural Students) at the time.
End of quiz.
FINISHES HIGHEST EVER
IN NATIONAL COMPETITION
For three days a team of 14 Ricks horticulture
students participated in the 24th annual American Landscape Contractors
Association (ALCA) Student Career Days at Mississippi State University.
The team placed third out of 43 schools, the majority of which were
four-year universities. The event is staged much like a horticulture
Olympics with 25 events.
“It is the best we have ever done,” says Byron John, chairman of the
department of landscape and horticulture. “We have been told that this
was the highest placement of any two-year school in the history of the
competition. The (students) were highly sought after for employment by
industry representatives,” John says.
RICKS COLLEGE HORTICULTURE
HEAVEN ON CAMPUS
When students and Ricks College employees need a
break for contemplative meditation, exercise, or just a place to view
nature and relax and unwind, they head for the Horticulture
Demonstration Garden. This 10-acre garden on the south side of the Ricks
campus was developed as an outdoor teaching facility in 1977 with the
start of the Department of Landscape Horticulture. It is open to the
public free of charge.
The entire garden is designed, constructed and
maintained by the faculty, staff, and students in the department. Each
summer the landscape construction class installs a new feature developed
by the advanced landscape design class. Several other classes in the
department, such as plant identification, landscape maintenance,
landscape design, flower design, plant culture, and equipment operation,
have outdoor lab activities in the garden. Fifteen to 20 students are
employed part-time for various periods during the summer getting
practical experience planting and caring for vegetables, flowers, lawns,
trees, and various other features in the garden. Those features include
three moving water locations, a picnic structure which can accommodate
about 100 people, a reception area, vegetable test garden, cut flower
and annual flower test garden, All American flower demonstration garden,
small fruits garden, fruit tree orchard, extensive flower beds, a
natural garden with native trees, shrubs and wild flowers and many
benches and other structures.
Approximately 40 outdoor wedding receptions are
held in the garden each summer. Campus clubs, LDS Church wards, clubs
and organizations use the
facilities, as do many classes. Sunbirds, a name given to retirees who
escape the heat of Arizona during the summer and live in Rexburg
off-campus housing from May to August, were so appreciative of the
gardens they raised funds for one of the three water features.
Over the years the Horticulture Demonstration
Garden has emerged as a jewel in the crown of Ricks College, delighting
students, staff, and surrounding communities.
(The article was written by Allen Wilson, a
member of the landscape horticulture faculty, and a weekly columnist on
gardening for the Idaho Falls Post Register.)
NEW COURSE WILL
Biological Sciences 240 will be offered for the
first time this fall at Ricks College. This introductory course to
neurobiology will examine the elements of the nervous system, cellular
communication, sensory, motor, and integrating systems, and will explore
the plasticity of neural systems in learning, during development, and
via hormonal influences.
“Neuroscience is now a standard discipline on
many undergraduate campuses,” says Clair Eckersell, an instructor in
the college’s biology department. “Our students should rightfully
expect such a course available to them.” The class will be taught by a
team of faculty from both the biology and psychology departments.
The field of Neuroscience is relatively young.
The Society for Neuroscience was founded in 1970. Today its membership
exceeds 25,000 and is the fastest-growing association of professional
scientists in all of experimental biology.
RICKS STUDENT PRESIDENT
OF NATIONAL GROUP
Sophomore Teresa Dahl of Ruby Valley, Nev., an
Animal Science major, served as President-elect in 1999 and is the new
national president of Post-Secondary Agriculture Students. Pas is an
organization of several thousand college and university students
dedicated to “uniting education and industry in agriculture,” says
Larry Stephens, an instructor in the Department of Agronomy/Ag
Another Ricks student, freshman Beth Mill of
Ferndale, Wash., is the president of IPAS, the five-state, intermountain
region arm of the parent organization. She replaces David Kesler, a
Ricks student majoring in Ag Machinery Management. Mill is an Animal
At the 2000 regional IPAS contest held in January,
Ricks College qualified two teams to compete at nationals in the college
bowl. Ricks took first place at the regionals in mechanics, prepared and
impromptu speaking, dairy, livestock and horticulture contests.
At the PAS national convention Ricks students
competed in many of the different contests offered and met industry
leaders from throughout the agricultural business world.