Dr. Ronnie and Jane Green Headline Honorees at Annual Department of Animal Science Block and Bridle Club and Alumni and Friends Reunion

Dr. Ronnie and Jane Green Headline Honorees at Annual Department of Animal Science Block and Bridle Club and Alumni and Friends Reunion Thursday, March 9, 2023

Dr. Ronnie and Jane Green
Dr. Ronnie and Jane Green

Lincoln, Neb. - The University of Nebraska-Lincoln Department of Animal Science will honor five individuals with awards at its annual Block and Bridle Club and Alumni and Friends Reunion at the Nebraska East Union Great Plains Room on April 22. Dr. Ronnie and Jane Green will be recognized as the 2023 Block and Bridle Club honorees, while Dr. Cayla Beebe-Iske, Dr. Deb Hamernik, and Dr. Rebecca Bott-Knutson will be honored for their outstanding accomplishments as undergraduate and graduate alumni.

Information about the event is available here.

University of Nebraska Block and Bridle Club honorees

Dr. Ronnie and Jane Green, both longtime supporters of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Block and Bridle Club, will be recognized as the 2023 Block and Bridle Club honorees. Since 1938, the Block and Bridle Club has recognized individuals that contributed to Nebraska agriculture through leadership, service, youth projects, community activities and involvement with the university. The candidates are nominated by industry leaders and selected by the club officers and advisors.

Ronnie joins Edgar Burnett (1941) as the second University of Nebraska-Lincoln Chancellor to be honored with the award, while Jane joins Sallie Atkins (2001) and Anne Marie Bosshammer (2016) as the third female honored in the club's history.

Ronnie was raised on a mixed beef, dairy, and cropping farm in southwestern Virginia and received his degree in animal science from Virginia Tech, before earning his master's in animal science from Colorado State University, and his Ph.D. from Nebraska in animal breeding and genetics. Jane (Pauley) grew up on a diversified crop and livestock farm near Harvard, Nebraska, before enrolling at Nebraska on a Regent's Scholarship, earning both her bachelor's in agricultural honors and master's in agricultural economics from the university.

While at Virginia Tech, Ronnie was named outstanding junior and senior by the Block and Bridle Club and Vice Chairman of the Virginia Tech Agricultural Club Council. At Nebraska, Jane served as Block and Bridle historian and secretary, participated in Quadrathalon, was crowned Miss Block and Bridle, and was a member of the Nebraska meats judging team. Both also served as president of their respective Block and Bridle Club chapters, with Ronnie later serving as secretary/treasurer, vice president, and president of the National Block and Bridle organization.

The Greens' contributions and impact on agriculture in Nebraska and beyond are hard to measure. Ronnie served on the animal science faculties at Nebraska, Texas Tech University and Colorado State, was the national program leader for animal production research for the USDA's Agricultural Research Service, and as an internationally recognized authority in animal genetics, he served as executive secretary of the White House's interagency working group on animal genomics within the National Science and Technology Council. Jane's work for Cooperative Extension in the Department of Agricultural Economics during the ag crisis of the 1980's continues to impact farming and ranching operations in Nebraska. Jane and Deb Rood spent a winter in 1985 presenting Managing for Tomorrow, a program for ag couples, and noticed that women were eager students who wanted to learn more about management. From that, the first Women in Agriculture Conference was born. The Women in Ag Conference continues to this day each February with an average of 275 women attending annually. In addition to the conference, the program now offers year-round programming and trainings to assist women in strengthening their family farm and ranch operations, reaching more than 800 women last year.

Department of Animal Science Young Alumni of Distinction Award

Cayla Beebe-Iske, B.S. 2013, of Omaha, Nebraska, will be honored with the Young Alumni of Distinction award. As an animal science undergraduate student with the companion animal science option at Nebraska, Cayla excelled and developed an interest in nutrition. During ASCI 321, Cayla and her group completed a research project looking at browse choice in giraffes under the mentorship of Cheryl Morris and the Henry Doorly Zoo. She followed Morris to Iowa State University to complete her M.S. and Ph.D. with continued research in zoo and exotic animal nutrition. Her work included looking at proper ways to feed insects to improve their nutritional value for other animals, sparking changes in how feeder crickets are fed at the Omaha Zoo to ensure proper nutritional value for the amphibians and other animals that rely on an insectivorous diet. She also completed additional work looking at raw diets in large cats and their effects on animal behavior and nutrition. After completing her Ph.D., she began her career as the nutritionist for Oxbow Animal Health. Cayla reinvigorated their research program and developed new diets including Critical Care Omnivore for recovery of small omnivores in a poor nutritional state, ill, or under veterinary care, Oxbow Essentials Ferret Food, Oxbow Essentials Senior Guinea Pig Food, and Oxbow Essentials Senior Rabbit Food. These products came at the right time, as the demand of small mammals in the U.S. had grown significantly in recent years. The diet for ferrets and senior diets for rabbits and guinea pigs were the first on the market in the United States. Recently, Cayla's journey has come full circle, as she is now serving as the Director of Nutrition for Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium, overseeing one of the leading zoo nutrition laboratories in the United States. She works with the Department of Animal Science to assist with graduate student training and continues to provide her expertise to courses offered in the department, serving as a guest lecturer in multiple courses, including Food Technology for Companion Animals, Companion Animal Nutrition, Professional Development for Animal Science, and Senior Seminar.

Department of Animal Science Undergraduate of Distinction Award

Deb Hamernik, B.S. 1981, of Olathe, Kansas, will be honored with the Undergraduate of Distinction award. Following her graduation from Nebraska, Hamernik earned her M.S. in Animal Science from Washington State University and her Ph.D. in Reproductive Endocrinology from Colorado State University. After serving as a postdoctoral fellow at Case Western Reserve University in molecular endocrinology, she returned to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln as an assistant professor with the Department of Veterinary & Biomedical Science from 1991-95, before moving to the University of Arizona from 1995-97 to serve as an assistant professor in its Department of Physiology. From there, Deb left academia to serve as the program director for the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service's (CSREES) National Research Initiative from 1997-2000 in addition to serving as the Scientific Review Administrator for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Center for Scientific Review. She became the National Program Leader for Animal Physiology for the USDA-CSREES and went on to serve as acting director and acting deputy director administrator of competitive programs. In these roles, Deb's projects included Bovine Genome Sequencing, Porcine Genome Sequencing, Animal Reproduction, Animal Growth and Development, and the USDA Biotechnology Risk Assessment competitive grants. In 2009, she returned to Nebraska to become Associate Dean of Agricultural Research and Associate Director of the Nebraska Agricultural Experiment Station, and professor in the Department of Animal Science from 2009-18. Deb served as administrator of sponsored funding for agricultural research and enhanced the competitiveness of interdisciplinary research teams for extramural funding. She served as Interim Associate Vice Chancellor for Research at Nebraska two times, from 2011-13, and again in 2016-17, before being named Associate Vice Chancellor for Research in 2018. She remained in that role until she returned to the USDA in 2020 to become the Director of the Animal Systems Division in the Institute of Food Production and Sustainability (IFPS) at the USDA Institute of Food Production. Deb became Deputy Director in the Institute of Food Production and Sustainability in November 2020. Her accomplishments have led her to earn many awards, including induction into the CSREES Hall of Fame in 2008, the CSREES Employee of the Year Award in Science and Education in 2004, the Washington State University College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences Outstanding Alumnus Award in 2010, election into the Nebraska Hall of Agricultural Achievement in 2017, and President of the American Society of Animal Science in 2017.

Department of Animal Science Graduate of Distinction Award

Rebecca Bott-Knutson, M.S. 2005, of Brookings, South Dakota, will be honored with the Graduate of Distinction award. Rebecca came to Nebraska after earning her B.S. in Animal Science from the University of Missouri in 2003. She earned her M.S. in Animal Science at Nebraska in 2005, before earning her Ph.D. from Colorado State University in Biomedical Science in 2009. Rebecca joined the faculty at South Dakota State University as an assistant professor of Animal Science and Extension equine specialist in 2009 and was promoted to associate professor in 2015. In 2016, she served as interim dean for the Van D. and Barbara B. Fishback Honors College, before being named Dean of the Honors College in 2018, a role she continues today. As Dean of the Honors College, Rebecca recruits and retains students from all disciplines, coordinates course offerings and co-curricular programs, has stewardship of the Honors budget and endowment earnings, conducts fundraising with the SDSU Foundation, represents Honors in university governance, and develops positive relationships with alumni and stakeholders, aiding their engagement in initiatives that the honors program undertakes. She also has worked with other honors programs and professional societies in the region and nationally. Rebecca has strived to define quality and to measure the impact of quality honors education through completion of the SDSU Assessment Academy and implementing new student learning outcomes and assessment. She has also engaged faculty from numerous disciplines to create new and innovative multi-disciplinary venues for learning within the Honors Colloquium series. Rebecca's devotion to supporting students in their education has earned her numerous accolades, including the Inaugural Global Achievement Award in Education Abroad from the SDSU Office of International Affairs in 2022, the Distinguished Service Award from 4-H Western National Roundup Horse Classic in 2019, the Inaugural Timothy Nichols Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Advising at SDSU in 2015, the Walt McCarty Excellence in Academic Advising Award at SDSU in 2014, and the North Central National Association County Agricultural Agents (NACAA) Regional Communication Contest Award for Learning Module in 2014.

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