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DASNR Honors 2016


2016 Honorees

The Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources at Oklahoma State University has a rich tradition and history of improving the quality of life for all Oklahomans through conducting and disseminating science-based research.

This is not possible without the achievements and excellence of its alumni, as well as other leaders around the world who are not alums of the college, but contribute to its mission. To acknowledge some of these outstanding alumni and friends of the university, DASNR recently selected its Distinguished Alumni and DASNR Champion award winners.

Recognized as 2016 Distinguished Alumni of the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources are Larry Ferguson, Sen. Ron Justice and Matthew Waits. The 2016 DASNR Champions are Randy Byford, Dick Fischer and Malinda Berry Fischer and Helen Hodges.

“I am extremely pleased to recognize each of these unique honorees who are making lasting impacts in their professions. They also have had a dramatic impact on our programs in DASNR,” said Tom Coon, DASNR vice president. “Celebrating the successes and support of our distinguished alumni and DASNR Champions is an opportunity for our students to glimpse their own futures. By connecting with our honorees, they are better equipped to reach similar heights in their own careers.”

2016 CASNR Distinguished Alumni

Larry Ferguson

Animal Science, 1975

Larry Ferguson grew up on a farm in Grady County, Oklahoma, where he was active in both 4-H and FFA. To expand his knowledge and experience, he attended OSU, earning his bachelor’s degree in animal science in 1975.

Upon graduation, Ferguson began his career as a production supervisor with Schreiber Foods, the world’s largest employee-owned dairy company. In 1999, he became president and CEO of the company. Under Ferguson’s leadership, Schreiber grew from a U.S.-based cheese manufacturer to an international dairy company that is the third-largest yogurt manufacturer and second-largest cream cheese producer in the world.

Ferguson officially retired in 2007, but he continues to serve as chairman of the board. In retirement, he operates and manages Marantha Agriculture LLC in Arkadelphia, Arkansas, which consists of a pecan grove and a rice and soybean operation. Ferguson is active on the farm in addition to his philanthropic efforts at OSU and around the world.

Ferguson is an ardent supporter of OSU, establishing the Larry and Kay Ferguson Dairy Foods Scholarship in 2000 to provide an annual scholarship in the OSU Department of Animal Science. In 2002, the department recognized Ferguson with the Graduate of Distinction Award. In 2014, on behalf of the Ferguson Family Foundation, he gave $2 million and committed up to $4 million in matching support to build a state-of-the-art barn and renovate the OSU Dairy Cattle Center, which subsequently was renamed the Ferguson Family Dairy Center. The upgrades will create opportunities for teaching, research and better serving the industry through Extension.

Ron Justice

Agricultural Education, 1967 & 1968

Sen. Ron Justice of Chickasha, Oklahoma, is a two-time graduate of OSU, earning both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in agricultural education in 1967 and 1968, respectively. He served as OSU Cooperative Extension educator for Grady County from 1968 until he retired in 2003. In retirement, Justice served as a state senator for 12 years and is retiring from public service this year.

During his legislative tenure, Justice worked tirelessly to represent the interests of his district and the agricultural industry. His more than 30 years in Extension provided Justice a unique understanding of agriculture in Oklahoma, knoweldge he shared with his colleagues in the Senate.

His work helped secure a $2.3 million state appropriation for DASNR in 2014, including $1 million each for the Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service and the Oklahoma Agricultural Experiment Station and $300,000 for equipment upgrades at the Robert M. Kerr Food and Agricultural Products Center.

As District 23’s senator, Justice served as the vice-chairman of appropriations and chairman of the appropriations subcommittee on natural resources and regulatory services. He also was vice-chairman of agriculture and rural development, as well as a member of the tourism and wildlife committee, and energy and rules committee.

Justice has been honored with the Outstanding Legislator Award from the Oklahoma Pork Council and has been a member of the Chickasha Lions Club for more than 40 years. He also is a member of the Grady County Cattle Producers, Mineral Owners Association and the Alfalfa Hay Association.

Matthew Waits

Agricultural Economics, 1999

Matthew Waits graduated from OSU in 1999 with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural economics, an educational backdrop with which he credits his professional successes.

The Stillwater native is the CEO of SST Software, an industry leader in agricultural information management. He began his career at the company upon graduating from OSU as director of the SST Information Lab. Just two years later, he guided the organization’s development of an enterprise-level data management platform for site-specific farm management. Today, this platform is branded as agX and is the underlying infrastructure for data management for more than 100 million acres across 23 countries.

In 2012, Waits assumed his current role as CEO and opened agX for integration throughout the farming industry. Since that time, this crucial technology has seen rapid adoption by the top providers of precision agricultural products and services. Additionally, under Waits’ leadership, Stillwater-based SST Software has grown into a worldwide enterprise with 80 employees and branch offices in Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Illinois, Iowa, Brazil, Australia and South Africa

Waits is a lifetime member of the OSU Alumni Association, where he serves on the leadership council. An avid supporter of his alma mater, Waits is a Posse Club member, football suite owner and basketball season ticket holder. Further, through the SST Software Endowed Professorship, Waits helps provide scholarships to five OSU students annually.


2016 DASNR Champions

Randy Byford

Randy Byford of Oklahoma City fulfilled a prophecy he envisioned for himself as a seventh grader by being recruited to become a field representative for the Chester White Swine Record Association during his enrollment as a student in the OSU Department of Animal Science. Later, in 1983, Byford became a car salesman at Bob Moore Cadillac in Oklahoma City. The next year, he was the company’s top salesperson, quickly moved into a manager position and eventually became a partner. In 2005, Byford purchased his first auto dealership in Lawton and has since expanded his enterprise to become the owner of Byford Auto Group in Oklahoma City, Chickasha and Duncan.

For many years, Byford has provided cars for OSU Athletics through the Wagon Wheel Program, and he has donated two 15-passenger vans to the animal science department. The vans allow judging teams to travel to competitions around the country and have been on road trips to several national championships.

A strong supporter of Oklahoma 4-H and FFA youth, Byford received the okPORK Ambassador Award from the Oklahoma Pork Council in 2015. He was presented with the prestigious Distinguished Service Award by the OSU Department of Animal Science in 2014, is a lifetime member of the OSU Alumni Association and is a member of the OSU Foundation Board of Governors, where he has served since July 2014.

Malinda Berry Fischer

Malinda Berry Fischer’s grandmother was the second woman to graduate from Oklahoma A&M College in 1898. Following in those footsteps, Berry Fischer graduated from OSU in 1960 with a bachelor’s degree in secondary education before earning a degree from the Harvard-Radcliffe Program in Business Administration in 1962.

Berry Fischer is well known for her business and leadership roles, recently retiring from her positions as president of both Marietta Royalty Company and Thomas N. Berry & Co., an oil and gas business founded by her grandfather.

A resident of Stillwater, Berry Fischer served on the OSU Foundation Board of Trustees from 1997 to 2007, including time as chairman of the board and interim president and CEO. She is a lifetime member of the OSU Alumni Association and was selected as an OSU Leadership Legacy in 2002, an OSU Distinguished Alumna in 2006 and an OSU Alumni Hall of Fame inductee in 2012. She also was named the 2016 Philanthropist of the Year by Women for OSU.

In 2008, Berry Fischer, along with her husband, Dick Fischer, maximized an investment by contributing to OSU while T. Boone Pickens was offering a matching program. The gift resulted in a $1 million endowment to establish the Thomas E. Berry Professorship in Water Research and Management. The professorship was created in honor of her father, an innovative oil man and farmer who understood the importance of water quality and conservation.

Berry Fischer also was instrumental in establishing the Wise-Diggs-Berry Endowed Arts Faculty Award for teaching excellence in the arts. She is the chair of the OSU Arts Advisory Council and serves on the Performing Arts Advisory Board and the Doel Reed Center for the Arts committee.

Dick Fischer

New York native Dick Fischer began a successful career in law by earning a bachelor’s degree in English from Harvard College in 1959 and a law degree from Harvard Law School in 1963. Immediately upon graduation, Fischer served as a law clerk with the New York State Court of Appeals.

For the next 30 years of his professional life, he worked for the law firm of Nixon, Hargrave, Devans & Doyle in Rochester, New York. He was a member of the firm’s task force on governance that studied, proposed and implemented a new form of governance in 1991 and was a member of the first firm-wide policy committee from 1991 to 1995.

He retired from the 240-attorney, six-office, 120-year-old law firm as managing partner and main ethics partner to move to Stillwater. He’s been recognized in The Best Lawyers in America, Who’s Who in America, Who’s Who in American Law, Who’s Who in the World and The Nichols School (Buffalo, New York) Athletic Hall of Fame.

Fischer served on the OSU Friends of Music board, including time as president, and was an adjunct faculty member in OSU’s Spears School of Business, where he taught courses in personal finance and world trade.

Along with his wife, Malinda, Fischer was instrumental in establishing an endowment to create the Thomas E. Berry Professorship in Water Research and Management at OSU. The endowment helps ensure scientists and students can advance technology to help provide adequate food for people everywhere while protecting our most limited natural resource – water.

Helen Hodges

Helen Hodges of San Diego, California, received her bachelor’s degree in accounting from OSU in 1979. While attending school, she obtained her private pilot’s license. She says a favorite memory of her time in Stillwater was as a member of the 1980 OSU Flying Aggies and winning top honors at the National Intercollegiate Flying Association competition.

Hodges became a certified public accountant in 1982 before continuing her education at the University of Oklahoma to obtain her law degree in 1983. She was admitted to the State Bar of Oklahoma in 1983 and the State Bar of California in 1987. She is an attorney at Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd LLP and has received numerous honors and recognition for her work, including being named a Top Lawyer by San Diego Magazine and being included in the Top Lawyers in San Diego list in 2013 and 2014.

Hodges’ parents were graduates of OSU, too, which helped foster her passion for the university. Hodges established the Dillon and Lois Hodges Professorship in Plant and Soil Sciences in 2014 in honor of her parents. Since its inception, the professorship has directly strengthened the Oklahoma Wheat Improvement Team through cutting-edge technologies and next-generation sequencing.

Along with her support for academia, Hodges has a keen interest in music and is an advocate for the Performing Arts Center at OSU. Additionally, she currently serves on the OSU Foundation Board of Trustees, the OSU Foundation Donor Relations Committee and is a suite holder in Boone Pickens Stadium for OSU football games.