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11 receiving top Ag Alumni Association award

The Purdue Agricultural Alumni Association will present its highest honor, the Certificate of Distinction, to 11 agriculture leaders at the association’s annual meeting in Indianapolis on Feb. 5.

11 receiving top Ag Alumni Association award

The awards ceremony is part of the Purdue Ag Fish Fry at the Indiana State Fairgrounds.

“The Certificate of Distinction recognizes outstanding contributions to the agricultural community and the broader society, far beyond the requirements of one’s job or profession,” said Donya Lester, the association’s executive secretary.

Since 1938, 357 agricultural leaders have been honored with the Certificate of Distinction. A committee selects the honorees from nominating letters submitted by the public.

“Our committee always has a challenging task to select recipients who have distinguished themselves from a very outstanding group of nominees,” Lester said. “These 11 people are extraordinary examples of achievement, citizenship and service. It is inspiring to read how their leadership has transformed organizations and communities throughout Indiana.”

The nomination process for the Certificate of Distinction is open to the public. For details on the award criteria and how to submit a nomination, visit the Ag Alumni website at

The 2011 honorees:

Beth Archer, BS ’79 Danville, Ind.

Archer is the executive director of AgrIInstitute, an agriculture advocacy group based in Danville. She previously worked as a consumer and family science teacher and for the state Department of Education.

Under her direction, AgrIInstitute has been recognized as the premier leadership opportunity for cultivating leadership in Indiana’s agriculture industry. Participants in the Indiana Agricultural Leadership Program are developed to be advocates of agriculture.

Her colleagues recently named Archer leader of the year for the International Association of Programs for Agricultural Leadership.

William J. Beard, BS ’49, Frankfort, Ind.

Beard is the founder of Beard Industries, a worldwide leader in the manufacturing of grain dryers. He retired in 2002 when the company was acquired by CTB Inc., a Berkshire Hathaway company, and became part of its Brock Grain Systems business. Beard is now serving his second term as a Clinton County commissioner.

Beard and his wife were instrumental in bringing a YMCA to Clinton County, raising more than $4 million for the project. He now serves on the YMCA’s board of directors.

Byron Ernest, BS ’85, MS ’87, Lebanon, Ind.

Ernest has spent the last 25 years in education and is working on his PhD in teacher leadership.

Ernest for the past six years has been an agriculture instructor, FFA adviser and department head at Lebanon High School. He restarted the program, established new facilities and designed a curriculum that encourages students to enroll in agriculture classes. He teaches three Advanced Life Science courses in which students also can earn credits from Purdue University.

Ernest is the 2010 Indiana Teacher of the Year.


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