Four named Outstanding Alumni by College of Ag Sciences

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences has honored four of its graduates with 2014 Outstanding Alumni Awards. The awards recognize alumni for their achievements and provide opportunities for recipients to interact with the college's faculty, students and other alumni.

Named Outstanding Alumni were N. Alan Bair, of Lancaster; Siree Chaiseri, of Bangkok, Thailand; and Calvin Ernst, of Meadville.

Justin Runyon, of Bozeman, Montana, was named Outstanding Recent Alumnus, an award that honors alumni who have graduated in the last 10 years.

Bair received a bachelor's degree in dairy production in 1967 and a master's degree in animal science in 1971, both from Penn State. He retired in 2011 after serving 15 years as director of dairy industry relations for Penn State's Department of Animal Science.

He began his career as a dairy educator for Penn State Extension in Lancaster County before serving 17 years as director of member and public relations for Atlantic Breeders Cooperative, now Genex. He has carried out volunteer assignments in international development in six countries focusing on education and business planning. He also represented the Department of Animal Science on two projects in the Azores, Portugal.

Chaiseri received master's and doctoral degrees in food science from Penn State in 1987 and 1992, respectively. After graduation, she returned to Thailand where she became a lecturer at Kasetsart University. Later, she became one of the youngest deans in the university's history, serving eight years as the dean of the Faculty of Agro-Industry. Since 2012, she has served as vice president of academic affairs.

During her term as dean, the university transformed from a teaching-oriented institute to a research-oriented one. She has contributed to strengthening the university's connections with businesses and industries around the world, making it the most prominent food science institution in Thailand.

Ernst, a 1963 graduate with a bachelor's degree in agricultural bioscience, founded Ernst Crownvetch Farms in Meadville in 1964. The farm produced crownvetch seed and related products used by U.S. highway departments and other agencies for erosion control and roadside beautification.

After renaming his company Ernst Conservation Seeds, his main focus became identifying and producing native species. As a result, his farm grew from 5 acres to about 10,000 acres of native grasses and wildflowers, with an objective of identifying and locating native species with restoration and conservation value that are cultivated into mass production.

Runyon, who received a doctorate in entomology in 2008, is a research entomologist with the U.S. Forest Service's Rocky Mountain Research Station in Bozeman, Montana. His research focuses on how chemistry mediates interactions between plants and herbivores.

Runyon has published more than 30 papers in peer-reviewed journals, and his research has been featured extensively in the popular press, including The New York Times, the BBC and National Public Radio. He recently received the Presidential Early Career Award for Science and Engineering, the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. government on science and engineering professionals in their early careers.

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Last Updated January 09, 2015