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K-State Today

May 4, 2023

College of Agriculture Alumni Board announces 2023 award winners

Submitted by Mikey Hughes

Randy Stoecker, Matthew Rouse and Joann Kouba are recognized as College of Agriculture Alumni Board announces 2023 award winners.

Each year the K-State Agriculture Alumni Board recognizes exceptional alumni who have demonstrated commitment, leadership and distinction to themselves, their profession, the K-State College of Agriculture and Kansas State University. These awards honor living alumni who personify the College of Agriculture's tradition of excellence.

This year, three exceptional individuals were recognized with the Distinguished Alumnus Award, the Outstanding Young Alumnus Award, and the David J. Mugler Outstanding Teaching Award.

Randy Stoecker, former president of Western operations for Murphy-Brown, LLC., a division of Smithfield Foods, is the recipient of the Distinguished Alumnus Award. The award is given to an individual who has made significant contributions to their chosen field and demonstrates humanitarian principles. Stoecker spent more than 30 years in the pork industry and helped build the largest pork processing company in the world. This alumnus oversaw 3,000 employees and pork production across nine states. Raised as the son of a Kansas farm family, Stoecker came to K-State in 1966 and majored in agricultural economics. In the early 70s, after gaining experience in banking and sales, Stoecker went to work for Yeager and Sullivan, the largest pork producer in the United States at that time. He was assigned to study large-scale confinement pig production in Europe. In 1987, he took on production responsibilities with Murphy Farms. In 10 years, they grew to be the largest swine production company in the U.S. In 2000 Murphy Farms was acquired by Smithfield, and Stoecker was asked to lead the Western operations. Although respected and revered by many throughout the pork industry, Stoecker is the first to humbly credit strong values, hard work and good people for his career success.

Matthew Rouse, research plant pathologist with the United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, Cereal Disease Laboratory, housed at the University of Minnesota, is the recipient of the Outstanding Young Alumnus Award. The award recognizes an individual who, in addition to having outstanding career accomplishments in their chosen field, has made contributions to their community, state or nation. This individual is recognized not only for material success but also for humanitarian service to society. Rouse also holds an adjunct appointment at the University of Minnesota's department of plant pathology. Rouse has had many outstanding accomplishments in his career so far, and his international stature and recognition are increasing rapidly. His work has implications for wheat production worldwide, contributing to global food security. Rouse earned a master's degree in plant pathology at K-State in 2007, with Karen Garrett as his major professor. His thesis work described the diversity of a plant disease resistance gene across a rainfall gradient across the Great Plains, with implications related to ecology, agriculture and climate change. Rouse went on to earn a doctorate in plant pathology at the University of Minnesota, where he studied the resistance of wheat to a new strain of the fungal disease wheat stem rust that threatens wheat crops worldwide. Rouse is also training the next generation of scientists, mentoring graduate students, postdocs, and visiting scientists from many different countries. He has authored or co-authored 104 total publications. Rouse has become a global leader in identifying and characterizing new resistance genes against wheat stem rust. These accomplishments have a direct impact on international wheat breeding programs, farmers, and ultimately, consumers worldwide.

Joann Kouba, professor of animal sciences and industry at K-State, is the recipient of the David J. Mugler Outstanding Teaching Award. In 1999, the K-State College of Agriculture Alumni Board established the annual award to recognize Mugler's many years of dedicated service to students in the K-State College of Agriculture. Kouba has been a faculty member in the animal sciences and industry department at K-State since 2001. With an 80% teaching appointment in a department with a large undergraduate enrollment, she has extensive involvement with students. As an instructor, Kouba has taught all types of classes: large lecture classes, laboratory classes, online courses, study abroad experiences, undergraduate research projects, horse training and everything in between. In addition to the courses that are routinely offered, she has also taken students on faculty-led study abroad trips to Ireland, Scotland, England, Spain, Portugal and Morocco. She organized the trips, met with the students throughout the semester to prepare them for the trip, and then spent time away from her family to be overseas with the students. As a faculty advisor, Kouba advises roughly 50-60 students annually. Kouba has been tremendously impactful as an educator. In the classroom, Kouba has taught more than 3,880 students. She has advised nearly 1,100 students. These students have graduated and gone on to have a variety of professional roles in the equine industry, in veterinary medicine, in education and as horse owners.

Stoecker, Rouse and Kouba were recognized at the annual College of Agriculture New Graduate Dinner on April 22. Their names and photos have been added to recognition plaques in the main conference room of Waters Hall.

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