Stephens recognized for outstanding leadership by Penn State Ag Council

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Growing up on his family's farm in Clearfield County, Jon Stephens learned the value of hard work at an early age, doing his part to help his parents, Greg and Cathy Stephens, with the daily tasks associated with raising beef cattle.

He admits that as a teen, there were times he did not enjoy doing those chores. Now, as a young adult, he credits those years -- and the values his family instilled in him -- with his success at Penn State.

"I look back now and appreciate the lessons I learned from my parents and grandparents about responsibility and always doing my best," said Stephens, a senior studying plant sciences in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences. "Those experiences also led me to have an interest in agriculture."

Stephens' work ethic and leadership abilities have not gone unnoticed by faculty, staff and peers at Penn State -- in fact, several of them nominated him for the Penn State Agricultural Council's Youth Leadership Award, which honors outstanding young leaders in the agricultural community in Pennsylvania. Wayne Martenas, president of the council, presented the award to Stephens during the organization's fall meeting in October.

"Jon is a quiet leader who makes great decisions and has the ability to work across multiple groups and many people to build consensus and be an effective leader," said Jean Lonie, director of student recruitment and activities for the college, one of Stephens' nominators. "On top of that, he is a top academic achiever and spends his free time working in the college's barns because he is passionate about animal agriculture -- even though that isn't his major."

Lonie came to know Stephens from his service as an Ag Advocate, an elite group of undergraduate students who serve as ambassadors for Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences and build positive relationships with students, alumni and industry professionals. Lonie is the group's adviser.

"Jon is a rare young leader who is most deserving of the Youth Leadership Award, and I am confident he will represent the college, University and Ag Council well," she said.

Ag Advocates is just one of Stephens' extracurricular pursuits at Penn State -- he is a member of the honor society of Phi Kappa Phi, president of Collegiate Farm Bureau, vice president of Block and Bridle, vice president of the Plant Pathology and Environmental Microbiology Undergraduate Club, treasurer of the Horticulture Club, and secretary of the Coaly Society.

In addition, he is a member of the Agronomy Club and played an instrumental role in leading the club's team to victory at the National Forage Bowl competition in Roanoke, Virginia, last January, according to Marvin Hall, professor of forage management in the Department of Plant Science and another of Stephens' supporters.

"In my opinion, Jon's strongest characteristics are his interpersonal skills and ability to connect with people of diverse backgrounds," he said. "I have seen him build teams from such a diverse group of people that I am left shaking my head in amazement. I believe that Jon is a unique individual who has all the tools necessary to be successful in whatever he chooses."

Stephens has complemented his on-campus activities with experiences abroad -- he spent a month in Costa Rica through the Spanish for the Agricultural Sciences program in summer 2015. One year later, he spent a month in Sardinia, Italy, where he conducted research on greenhouse gas emissions from soils in intensive dairy production under a National Science Foundation grant.

This past summer, Stephens worked for DuPont Pioneer, a leading developer and supplier of advanced plant genetics and high-quality seeds, at its research station in New Holland.

Following graduation in May, Stephens plans to further his studies in plant science by attending graduate school. Ultimately, he hopes to use his education to improve food crops for the betterment of society.

On his reaction to receiving the award, Stephens, in true leadership fashion, turned the spotlight on others.

"I am thankful that my family taught me the values of hard work and ethical behavior," he said. "That foundation, plus the opportunities that Penn State has given me for experiential learning, professional development and community involvement have made me who I am today. Penn State has given me a first-class education that can't be beat."

Last Updated December 07, 2017