UW College of Agriculture Announces 2008 Honorees

August 25, 2008
Man in hat
Painting of Edward A. Whitney

A long-time Johnson County agricultural producer, a Cheyenne native who operates a consulting firm near Jackson, a vigorous educational foundation in Sheridan and an animal foundation will be honored during Ag Appreciation Weekend at the University of Wyoming.

The UW College of Agriculture's outstanding alumni, research partner and legacy winners for 2008 will be honored Sept. 26-27 during a celebration of the importance of agriculture to Wyoming's history, culture and economy.

Don Meike, a 1951 UW graduate and a Johnson County agricultural producer, and Regina Rooney of Moran, who graduated with her bachelor's degree in 1984 and doctorate degree in 1990, will be honored as outstanding alumnus and alumna, respectively.

Whitney Benefits Inc. of Sheridan is recipient of the Legacy Award. Morris Animal Foundation in Denver is the recipient of the Research Partner of the Year award. Full stories about the honorees and the weekend schedule are at www.uwyo.edu/UWAG/. Click on the Ag Appreciation Weekend link under Upcoming Events.

Alumni Award Winners

Don Meike spent his first summer in a sheep wagon on the Wyoming range and as an adult drew a straight course back to the ranch after serving as a navigator in the U.S. Air Force.

"Nearly five years as a navigator convinced me the sooner I got back to the ranch the better," quipped Meike, who manages Meike Ranch Inc. with his brother, Pete, near Sussex.

Meike has been a manager of the ranch for more than 50 years, and he has a list of ag industry and community involvement items that could cause list envy.

"Don and his brother have operated a successful sheep and cattle ranching enterprise through some of the most difficult times faced by our industries," said Jim Magagna, a producer and also executive vice president of the Wyoming Stock Growers Association.

He said Meike has been a mentor, a colleague and friend nearly 40 years. "Don was always able to seamlessly move from the lambing barn to the highest of political circles," Magagna said. "He firmly believed that service to his university, his industry and his state was a responsibility and a privilege."

Cheyenne native Regina Rooney attended college while raising three children, and 18 years after her Ph.D. finds herself the cofounder of a consulting company with her husband and able to live wherever she and her husband wish. They chose Moran, with views of the Tetons looming outside their windows.

Accolades from colleagues run throughout nomination letters for Rooney: outstanding scientist, born leader, high integrity and energy.

"She is among the most successful graduates of the molecular biology program at UW," wrote Professor Nancy Peterson, who was her graduate adviser.

Wrote Pamela Langer, associate professor in the UW College of Agriculture's molecular biology department: "Dr. Regina Rooney is a clear example of someone who has stretched her education in molecular biology from basic research to management of product development in the biotechnology industry."

Many of her accomplishments promoted the development of basic protein separation technologies that now benefit both agricultural and medical research, said Langer, many launched by Invitrogen of Carlsbad, Calif. "She directed research and development of their line of electrophoresis products," noted Langer. "Her work in developing new methods and apparati for protein analysis contributed to the emerging field of proteomics, which is now at the core of many experimental programs."

Legacy Award Winner

Whitney Benefits Inc., a private, non-profit educational foundation in Sheridan, last year gifted $1.25 million to create the E.A. Whitney Professorship in Agriculture.

The state of Wyoming matched the gift, bringing the total to $2.5 million.

Anne Leonard, director of the UW College of Agriculture's Ag Development and College Relations, said this is the largest cash gift ever received by the college.

"Whitney Benefits is pleased to be recognized for this gift," said Whitney Benefits Vice President Roy Garber, a Sheridan County ag producer. "It will greatly benefit college students, and it's a nice opportunity to get Sheridan College (SC) and UW together."

The endowed professor will implement at SC a three-year program within the College of Agriculture's agroecology curriculum. Recruiting for the position is underway, and the program is scheduled to start in 2009.

Once students complete three years of coursework at SC, they will transfer to UW to finish their bachelor's degree in agroecology with an emphasis in horticulture. The agroecology program is shared between the Department of Plant Sciences and Department of Renewable Resources.

Sheridan County benefactor Edward A. Whitney willed most of his estate to establish Whitney Benefits Inc., reportedly the first educational foundation in Wyoming. The nonprofit foundation was created in 1927 10 years after Whitney's death.

Research Partner

Morris Animal Foundation's (MAF) support to UW College of Agriculture scientists has allowed study of chronic wasting disease (CWD) in white-tailed deer. Associate Professor Todd Cornish in the Department of Veterinary Sciences has received two grants totaling $222,000 to study the mysterious disease. The research also involves study by doctoral student Dave Edmunds in the department.

"The project was peer reviewed and deemed to be of very high scientific soundness and relevancy to not only white-tailed deer endemic to the area but to all cervids throughout North America threatened by CWD," said Kristin Benjamin, spokesperson for Scientific Programs and Advancement at MAF.

The first grant to UW is to study how CWD affects deer behavior including migration, dispersal, habitat selection and use, daily activity and survivorship, said Cornish. The second grant, a fellowship training grant, supports the research of Edmunds, who is working on a Ph.D. in animal and veterinary sciences.

CWD is a chronic, fatal disease of white-tailed and mule deer, Rocky Mountain elk and moose. It belongs to the group of diseases called transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs).

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