Laughter and music filled the night air as Kansas State University Animal Sciences and Industry alumni and supporters gathered on Friday, Oct. 13, at the Stanley Stout Center in Manhattan for the third annual ASI Family and Friends Reunion.
More than 1,000 attendees took the opportunity to re-connect with each other and interact with current students, faculty and staff. The annual event is hosted by the Livestock and Meat Industry Council (LMIC) in cooperation with the ASI department.
The highlight of the evening each year is the awarding of the Don L. Good Impact Award, which recognizes a person or business that has had an impact on the livestock and agricultural industry.
Sharon Schwartz, from Washington, Kansas, was presented with the 2017 Don L. Good Impact Award because of her work as a long-time pork industry leader and Kansas state legislator.
Schwartz was instrumental in helping change the pork industry’s marketing strategy which led to the highly successful “Pork. The Other White Meat” campaign, released in 1987. She served two terms on the National Pork Board as well as serving on several national committees.
In November 1992, she became the first female president of the Kansas Pork Producers Council. She has also served as an executive board member of the U.S. Meat Export Federation.
Schwartz’ commitment to service is not limited to the agriculture industry, as she served 20 years in the Kansas Legislature. During her tenure, she served as the chair of the agriculture, chair and vice chair of appropriations, and chair of rules and regulations committees. She worked tirelessly for her constituents to further: a strong education system for rural Kansas, reduce reliance on property taxes, ensure senior services are preserved, and the preservation and growth of agriculture.
Schwartz set out to make sure those in Topeka understood the importance of agriculture to the economy. She has a passion for protecting rural Kansas’ rights.
Her behind-the-scenes work in the legislature often resulted in much appreciated support for Kansas State University faculty and students. Especially important to agriculture are the many K-State infrastructure and building projects she helped guide through the legislature; plus, Schwartz’ voice helped ensure that sound science was used to develop agricultural law.
Another project she led was the Veterinary Training Program for Rural Kansas. This is a debt-forgiveness program for veterinary students to receive $20,000 per year of a forgivable loan for each year they serve in rural Kansas (any county with less than 35,000 population). Kansas was the first state to appropriate the funds for this type of program. To date, 50 students have participated in this program.
The award, presented by the LMIC, is named in honor of Good, who is a former department head, and recognizes positive impact on the livestock and meat industry or agriculture.
Event coordinators strive to create a family atmosphere through entertainment, food and activities that is enjoyed by K-Staters of all ages. A live performance of traditional K-State songs by the KSU Marching Band entertained the crowd along with the Rusty Rierson Band. A meal including a variety of meat choices was topped off with legendary Call Hall ice cream.
“It was an eye-opening event that embodied the family atmosphere that I’ve come to love about Kansas State University,” said Austin Matheny, senior in Animal Sciences and Industry from Mays Lick, Kentucky. “This event is something I plan to come back to when I am an alumnus.”
While adults were re-connecting, the Junior Wildcat Barnyard provided entertainment for future K-Staters. The life-size rocking horse and rope making were successful additions to this year’s barnyard. Kids enjoyed playing in the dirt with farm toys, practicing their roping skills and competing in the Kansas State Fair qualifying tractor pull.
The department encouraged the next generation of K-Staters to show their Wildcat pride by signing a Letter of Intent. This puts their name in a drawing for the chance win one of 50 prizes, including custom-painted Happy Toymaker truck and trailer sets and various farm toys and ropes.
“I’d like to see more events around the ASI Family and Friends Reunion that could bring mentors back to campus and interconnect with students in the classroom two or three days preceding this event,” said event coordinator Patsy Houghton, who is from McCook, Nebraska. “The opportunities associated with this event are just limitless for both the department and the university.”
Photo and video highlights of this year’s event are available on Facebook, www.facebook.com/KStateFamilyAndFriends. Photo backdrop images and other candid photos from the night are posted to the ASI Family & Friends Flickr album.