College of Agricultural Sciences honors four as outstanding alumni

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences has honored four of its graduates with 2015 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 David C. Ferree, of Centre Hall; Robert D. Heilman, of Henrico, Virginia; and Kenton D. Rexford, of Glenshaw. Beth Panko Briczinski, of Annandale, Virginia, was named Outstanding Recent Alumna, an award that honors alumni who have graduated in the last 10 years.

— David Ferree earned a bachelor's degree in horticulture from Penn State in 1965. He went on to become a professor in the Department of Horticulture and Crop Sciences at Ohio State University, where he collaborated with colleagues and students to publish 200 refereed papers and numerous technical reports based on tree fruit and grape research. Before retiring with emeritus status in 2004, he advised 10 master's degree and nine doctoral students who currently work in academic programs in six states and at the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Ferree delivered invited research presentations to grower groups in 19 states and several Canadian provinces. He served a term as associate editor for the American Society for Horticultural Science, which elected him as a fellow in 1982 and as Research Division vice president in 1988.

The society also honored him with its Joseph Harvey Gourley Award in 1981, its Stark Award in 1983 and its Outstanding Graduate Educators Award in 2001. He also won research and extension awards from the International Dwarf Tree Association, the American Pomological Society and Ohio State University.

— Robert Heilman, a 1959 alumnus with a bachelor's degree in dairy science, is the retired CEO of AMS Genetics Inc., an international bovine genetics marketing company. In 1981, Heilman organized the first international exportation of bovine embryos, which sent embryos from Pennsylvania Holstein herds to Budapest, Hungary. This exportation provided livestock breeders with a new source of income from bovine embryos.

As international markets developed, Heilman assisted the U.S. Department of Agriculture in establishing health standard requirements for the exporting of embryos. The International Embryo Transfer Society adapted packaging and genetic identity standards he developed. These basic standards still are used today, modified for changing technology and physiology techniques.

The Pennsylvania Dairy and Allied Industries awarded Heilman the Pioneer Award for his leadership in establishing the All-American Dairy Foundation, for which he serves as volunteer executive director. The foundation provides funds for youth activities at the All-American Dairy Show, which is held annually in Harrisburg. The National Dairy Shrine also recognized Heilman as an industry pioneer "who was instrumental in establishing international export opportunities to add value to U.S. cattle breeders."

— Kenton Rexford, a 1990 graduate with a bachelor's degree in animal bioscience, is a founding partner in Pittsburgh Veterinary Specialty and Emergency Center (PVSEC). The center — one of the nation's largest and most comprehensive veterinary referral hospitals — offers 24/7 emergency care, as well as advanced care in 12 veterinary specialties. Since Rexford joined PVSEC in 1995, the company has grown from 20 employees serving about 3,000 patients annually to more than 300 employees serving some 40,000 patients per year.

Rexford, who earned his veterinary degree at the University of Pennsylvania, is the founder and president of Animal Care and Assistance Fund, a charitable organization that assists families in financial need when their pets require advanced veterinary care. He has served as president of the Pennsylvania Veterinary Medical Association, which recognized him with its Public Service Award of Merit in 2010.

Rexford has endowed three scholarships for students in the College of Agricultural Sciences. He also served as the college's Harbaugh Entrepreneur in Residence in the spring of 2011 and has guest-lectured for Penn State pre-veterinary seminars.

— Beth Briczinski earned bachelor's (1998), master's (2001) and doctoral (2007) degrees in food science from Penn State. She currently is vice president of dairy foods and nutrition at the National Milk Producers Federation in Arlington, Virginia, a trade association that develops and carries out policies that advance the well-being of dairy producers and the cooperatives they own.

Briczinski works with state and federal agencies on regulatory issues in the areas of food safety and nutrition, helping to assure consumer confidence in the safety of the U.S. milk supply and to maintain dairy's strong position within federal nutrition and feeding programs.

She has held leadership positions in the American Dairy Science Association, the International Association of Food Protection, and the Institute of Food Technologists. She also serves on the executive board and technical committees of the National Conference on Interstate Milk Shipments.

As a graduate student at Penn State, Briczinski was a guest speaker for numerous dairy-food workshops and short courses attended by more than 1,500 participants from the food industry. Since graduating, she also has participated in Penn State's dairy food science undergraduate course as a guest speaker.

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Last Updated October 30, 2015