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Professor Dale Menkhaus was hired at UW by the person the award is named for – Andrew Vanvig. Vanvig served 40 years as head of the agricultural economics department.
Don't expect this year's Andrew Vanvig Lifetime Distinguished Faculty Achievement Award recipient to walk willingly into the limelight.
Don't let his usual blue jeans and ball cap deceive.
"His unassuming nature and quiet leadership have garnered him the lasting respect of countless students, administrators, and colleagues within the university and the agricultural economics discipline," says colleague, department head, and Associate Professor Roger Coupal in nominating Menkhaus.
"There are few teachers in a student's life who have a profound impact and ultimately change a student's path because of his devotion as an educator," says Jody Levin, former student and now small business owner. "For me, Dr. Menkhaus is that person, and I credit my success as a graduate student and as a professional to his influence."
Research? He's only a handful of agricultural economists at land-grant universities to have articles in the American Economic Review, which has an acceptance rate of 10 percent, notes Coupal.
"Moreover, Ph.D. agricultural economists statistically average less than one publication in the American Journal of Agricultural Economics during their careers," he says. "Only 5 percent of Ph.D. agricultural economists ever author or coauthor five articles in the AJAE – Dale will publish his ninth article in that journal this year."
Menkhaus received his Ph.D. from Purdue University and accepted an assistant professor position in the Department of Agricultural Economics at UW in October 1973.
Forty years later, he's:
Levin's abysmal score on her first exam took her to Menkhaus' door for help. "I believe he recognized in me a sincere desire Professor Dale Menkhaus was hired at UW by the person the award is named for – Andrew Vanvig. Vanvig served 40 years as head of the agricultural economics department. not to fail and embarked upon hours of one-on-one instruction to help me grasp the course material," she says. "After discovering that I enjoyed economics, Dr. Menkhaus did the unthinkable and encouraged me to pursue graduate school in agricultural economics."
He often builds the road that leads to success and nudges students to take that first step, says Levin, who did attend graduate school, obtained her master's (Menkhaus was the first person she asked to be on her committee), and later became owner of a small business.
Twenty years later, she reflects on how her career as a student and how her studies may have been different if Menkhaus had not opened the door when asked for help.
"In many respects, the experience is similar to a domino where one small action causes a series of actions to take place. His one small gesture of taking additional time to teach a student changed everything about my course in life," Levin says. "I am fortunate to have had him as an instructor and delighted to still call him a mentor and friend."