INA – The 32nd Annual Rend Lake College Agriculture Banquet kicked off with a keynote address by Syngenta’s Ron Cowman and culminated with awards for eight area ag students and a retired RLC ag instructor.
Cowman focused on qualities like responsibility, ambition, strategy, adaptability and vision as he spoke to more than 100 RLC students Thursday night at the Rend Lake Resort Conference Center.
As a fresh graduate of the Agriculture Economics program at Southern Illinois University Carbondale in 1992, Cowman began working as a sales rep for Syngenta. Sixteen years later, he is the commercial lead of plant performance operations in the eastern U.S. for the largest global agricultural supplier in the world, Syngenta, which reported $8.8 billion in annual sales.
“It is one of the most exciting times to be a part of this industry,” he said, offering examples of dynamic new technology, competitive prices, and development in feed, food and fiber across the globe. “I’m so thankful that I don’t have to compete with any of you for a job.”
According to Cowman, modern graduates possess much more skill than they did when he earned his bachelor’s from SIUC. He said RLC students should be proud to be a student of the only academic institution in the world to be attached to the Syngenta Learning Center – a travelling exhibit of the company’s advancement from corn hybridization decades ago to biotechnology development today. Syngenta is the leader in research and development spending across the globe, Cowman said. RLC is one of only five annual Learning Center sites in the world.
He said the company is looking for hard-working, talented professionals to help lead it into the future. Some of those could have been in the audience Thursday night.
“We are looking for the best people,” Cowman said. “Whether it is in corporate America or on the family farm, success starts with a high-performing individual and rolls up from there.”
RLC’s cream of the agriculture department crop were awarded at the banquet.
The Outstanding Agriculture Student of the Year Award went to Jordan Norris of Waltonville. Norris is a double major in ag production and ag mechanics at RLC and plans to transfer to the plant and soil science program at SIUC.
Anthony Zurliene of Fairfield was honored with the Outstanding Agriculture Business Student of the Year Award; Mark Gramenz of Steeleville received the Outstanding Student of the Year Award in Ag Production; Paul Bathon of Nashville was chosen as the Outstanding Agriculture Mechanics Student of the Year; Brian Pheasant of West City received the award in Diesel Technology; and Michael Wade of Herrin was named Outstanding Student of the Year in Horticulture. Additionally, Kelsie Knapp of Christopher and Diana Hatfield of Wayne City were named Agri-Achievers of the Year.
Retired RLC Agriculture Instructor Maurice Kirsch was honored with the Doug Leeck Memorial Service Award – an annual award recognizing community service in the fields of agriculture and education.