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Outstanding Alumni Winner - 2010

College of Agriculture and Natural Resources

Worland native's career led him to Washington state; retirement brought him back to Big Horn Basin

Alex Ogg

Work ethic instilled by his parents and outstanding research skills gained from mentors propelled Ogg through career.

There was no slap upside the head that summer of 1959 for Alex Ogg.

What changed the course of the teenager's life was a good talking to a state FFA official gave the Worland High School graduate during the Wyoming state fair.

There had been signs of possible change before then.  Going through high school in Worland, Ogg had every intent of farming following high school.

"By the time I got to be about a junior, I realized how much money it would take for me to get into farming," he relates. "It would have taken $100,000 in equipment and other costs."

His mom and dad, and sister were still on the 160-acre farm south of Worland, and there was no way the farm would support two families. "The gentleman who was the state FFA adviser really gave me a good talking to and made me really look at what I was going to do with my life," he recalls.

Value of Honest Work, Doing Your Best

The adviser knew Ogg had the potential to earn advanced degrees.

"I really gave him credit for pushing me into a college education," says Ogg. "From my folks, who were hardworking people, I learned the work ethic and to always do the best job you could. A lot of credit goes to my mom and dad. I learned the value of honest work and doing your best."

He enrolled in the University of Wyoming the fall of 1959 knowing only he wanted to major in some phase of agriculture. 

"Later that fall, I got a job working in the Department of Plant Science greenhouse," he recalls. "I found I enjoyed working with plants as I helped care for the plants with which the professors were experimenting."

In fall 1960, Ogg had the opportunity to work with a USDA Agricultural Research Service scientist studying aquatic and ditch bank weeds.

Ogg was to work with this scientist while completing his sophomore, junior, and senior years at UW. "He made it exciting and interesting," Ogg notes. "He launched me off into my weed science career."

Ogg would graduate magna cum laude from UW in 1963 in agricultural sciences with an emphasis on plant science, would receive his master's with honors in crop science with emphasis in weed science in 1966, and his doctorate in botany (plant physiology) in 1970 from Oregon State University.

His farm background in the Big Horn Basin would serve him well.

"I was familiar with plants and the issues weeds presented to farmers. I had spent a lot of time hoeing weeds in crops and gardens," he quips.

Ogg worked as a plant physiologist (weed scientist) with the ARS at Prosser, Washington, from 1969-1984 conducting research on weeds and their management in horticultural and specialty crops, then as the supervisory plant physiologist and research leader for the USDA ARS Weed Science Unit at Pullman, Washington, until 1997 where his research focused on the management of grassy weeds in dryland wheat.

From 1997 until the end of the project in 2009, he directed the National Jointed Goatgrass Research Program. The project involved 10 Western states and more than 35 state and federal scientists. From 2000-2003, he worked for his alma mater as a half-time research scientist in the Department of Plant Sciences in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

An Outstanding Instructor

Professor Emeritus Stephen D. Miller, former director of the Wyoming Agricultural Experiment Station, has known Ogg for more than 40 years.

"I found him to be an outstanding instructor doing cutting-edge research in small grains," Miller says in his nomination letter and added the jointed goatgrass project was Ogg's greatest accomplishment.

"His efforts were responsible for bringing in well over $4 million to attack this problem. This is a model program that currently is being followed to address other critical needs for management of invasive pests in cereal grains, such as feral rye, and perennial ryegrass."

College of Agriculture and Natural Resources Professor Emeritus Tom Whitson, who also nominated Ogg, says Ogg has published more than 130 referred manuscripts on weeds and their management and received more than $1.75 million in grants to help support his research.

He also noted Ogg's efforts to control cheatgrass on rangeland and research with the Bureau of Land Management to control Russian olives and saltcedar along the Big Horn River.

"On these two projects, I found Dr. Ogg to be one of the hardest working and thorough researchers I have ever worked with," he says. "In addition to being a good scientist, I found Alex to be a wonderful and delightful person. He is an optimist and a positive person."

Science Prowess Not by Accident

Ogg's thorough scientific habits did not happen by accident. 

"I have been clearly cognizant during my career of being fortunate in the people who were my mentors," he says. "My first boss with whom I was doing ag research at UW was meticulous, thorough, and honest. I've been fortunate. Most of my colleagues shared that philosophy. If you don't have a solid research reputation, your work will not be taken seriously."

It's a message he directs to high school students anytime he's asked.

"What always comes back to me is associating or aligning yourself with people who have achieved success and have good qualities," he says. "A good work ethic, honesty, true to work, loyal to family, and church, which is a big part of my life. I stress to these kids, if you want to be successful in life, pick out someone in life who is successful and watch what they do and mimic that or at least associate with them and develop those values and traits that will allow you to be successful in life."

Ogg and his wife, Sharon, live in Ten Sleep next door to Sharon's mother. The Big Horn Mountains fill the vistas from their back porch.

"Both my wife and I have large extended families in the area," he says. They have two sons, Daniel, who lives in Alexandria, Virginia, and Steven and his wife, Tamara, and their two children, who live in Carlsbad, California.

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