ISU College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Alumni and Friends Honored

November 2nd, 2018

AMES, Iowa — The Iowa State University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) and the Iowa State University Alumni Association presented awards at the annual Honors and Awards Ceremony on Oct. 26.

James Christensen received the CALS Floyd Andre Award. This award honors alumni and friends who have made outstanding contributions to production agriculture, agricultural business or who had a significant impact on Iowa agriculture.

Christensen, of Royal, Iowa, received his bachelor’s degree in farm operations in 1980. A fifth-generation farmer and co-owner of Christensen Feedlot and Royal Beef, Christensen works collaboratively with Iowa State University and commodity organizations to advocate for increased state funding for agricultural research, extension and the Iowa State University Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory.

Christensen leads Grow Iowa Agriculture, a grassroots group of individuals supporting Iowa agriculture. Formed in 2013, Grow Iowa Agriculture has grown to more than 350 members.

Christensen serves on the Iowa State University Department of Animal Science’s External Advisory Board, and was inducted to the department’s hall of fame in 2018. He served eight years on the board of trustees for the Iowa State University Agricultural Foundation (now known as the ISU Agricultural Endowment), serving as chair from 1999-2002. Christensen is actively involved with the Alpha Gamma Rho Eta Chapter and received its Agricultural Leadership Award in 2014.

Dawn Mellion-Patin received the CALS George Washington Carver Distinguished Service Award. The award honors college alumni and friends who have demonstrated outstanding achievement or leadership in making significant, influential or innovative contributions to society.

Mellion-Patin, of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, serves as the vice chancellor for extension and outreach at Southern University Agricultural Research and Extension Center. An advocate of life-long learning, she received her doctorate degree in agricultural and life sciences education in 1995.

She currently serves as a fellow in the Food Systems Leadership Institute, a national program dedicated to developing individual and institutional leadership for a 21st century food system. Her career has focused on educating and improving the lives of small farmers and their families.

She developed the Small Farmer Agricultural Leadership Institute. The unique leadership development program is offered through the Southern University Agriculture and Extension Center and designed for minority, socially-disadvantaged and limited-resource agricultural producers.

Mellion-Patin’s contributions earned her national leadership roles as a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) panel manager; 1890 representative on the National Extension Disaster Education Network Executive Committee; historian for the National Society of Minorities in Agricultural, Natural Resources and Related Sciences (MANRRS); chair of the Southern Region Agricultural and Natural Resources Program Leaders Committee; and grant committee member for the National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

Max Rothschild, was honored with the CALS Henry A. Wallace Award. The award honors college alumni or friends who have achieved notable professional achievements nationally or internationally and brought distinction to themselves, the college and the university through significant contributions. 

Rothschild, of Ames, Iowa, serves as an Iowa State University Charles F. Curtiss Distinguished Professor in Agriculture and Life Sciences and the M.E. Ensminger Endowed Chair in International Animal Agriculture.

His research, identifying genes that control traits of economic importance in pigs, has impacted over 90 percent of the U.S. pork industry. Rothschild has been an invited speaker in more than 60 countries, and his work includes 400 peer-reviewed publications, 600 other publications and 12 U.S. patents.

For 20 years Rothschild served as the nation’s first USDA national pig genome mapping coordinator. He also served as co-director of ISU’s Global Food Security Consortium. He currently provides his expertise as an associate director of the CALS Center for Sustainable Rural Livelihoods, working in Uganda to help families establish livestock production and improve food security.

Jen Sorenson received the Outstanding Young Professional Award honoring mid-career CALS alumni or friends who have distinguished themselves through significant advancement and achievement in their discipline, field or area of expertise.

Sorenson, of Ankeny, Iowa, serves as the communications director for Iowa Select Farms. She received her bachelor’s degrees in animal science and journalism and mass communication in 2001.

Sorenson’s expertise has made her a valued resource to organizations like the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) and the Iowa Pork Producers Association, for which she serves on the board of directors. She co-chairs NPPC’s Ag Labor and We Care Taskforces, which focus on sustainability standards and ethical principles directing the pork industry nationwide.

Sorenson serves as a liaison to the Deb and Jeff Hansen Foundation. In that role, she spearheaded programs to alleviate hunger in Iowa. Her “Haul Out Hunger,” campaign provided nearly 32 tons of pork products to more than 107 food pantries across Iowa and Minnesota. The Pork Care Package program she helped design received the 2018 Seven Seals Award from the Iowa Employee Support of the Guard and Reserve and provided gifts of thanks to more than 12,000 Iowa military service members, veterans and families.

Roger Underwood, of Ames, Iowa, received the Alumni Medal. The award recognizes Iowa State University alumni for loyal service to the university through alumni-related activities. It is the premier award given to alumni by the Iowa State University Alumni Association.

Underwood graduated from Iowa State University in 1980 with a degree in agricultural business. The co-founder of Becker Underwood, who has been involved as a private investor since selling the company in 2012, Underwood was named Ames’ Entrepreneur of the Year in 1994. From 2005-2011, he chaired Campaign Iowa State: With Pride and Purpose – an $800 million fundraising endeavor. He and his wife, Connie (’84 political science, international studies) made a gift of $1.6 million to create ISU’s Agricultural Entrepreneurship Initiative.

Additional gifts from the Underwoods have supported ISU athletics, the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the remodeling of ISU’s Joan Bice Underwood Tearoom. Last year, the Underwood Family Foundation gave an additional $1 million to support agricultural business and agricultural entrepreneurship programs on campus.

A member of the ISU Foundation Board of Directors and an ISU Foundation governor, Underwood also has served as a member of ISU’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Advisory Committee. A member of Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity as a student, Underwood has remained active with that organization. Underwood is currently president of the Crop Life American Foundation and is a board member of Ames Seed Capital.

Brian Darrow was honored with the Iowa State University Alumni Association Alumni Merit Award, which recognizes alumni for outstanding humanitarian efforts that transcend purely professional accomplishments and bring honor to the university. He received a bachelor’s degree in animal science in 1979 and a doctorate of veterinary medicine in 1983. Darrow received the award in collaboration with fellow Iowa State University alumnus, Ron Tapper.

Darrow, owner of Anamosa Veterinary Clinic in Anamosa, Iowa, joined Tapper to initiate the Sharon Live On Foundation, an organization focused on addressing the rabies epidemic in Kenya, Africa. The foundation is named after the daughter of an Iowa State University alumnus who died after being bitten by a rabid dog Kenya.

Darrow and Tapper partnered with organizations to provide rabies vaccines to Kenya. The pair vaccinated approximately 18,000 animals on their first trip to the country. When they returned for a second visit, government officials had embraced and officially expanded Sharon Live On’s mission.

To date, more than 400,000 doses of vaccine have been donated to Sharon Live On, saving the lives of countless people and animals across Kenya. Their commitment to the Cyclone family and to the ISU College of Veterinary Medicine’s “One Health” principles has inspired their mission.

The Iowa State University Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering received the Iowa State University Alumni Association Impact Award. The award recognizes individuals, businesses, organizations or units whose programs or accomplishments brought broad recognition to the university.

In the past 20 years, the Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering has tripled in size. In the past five years alone, undergraduate enrollment has increased by 37 percent, the number of bachelor’s degrees awarded has increased by 80 percent, and the faculty size has increased by 21 percent. 

Led by department chair Steven Mickelson (’82 agricultural engineering, MS ’84, PhD ’91), who has been presented with the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers’ Gilley Award for Academic Leadership, the department has earned a No. 1 ranking from US News and World Report. It was the first Iowa State University academic program ever to achieve a top ranking from US News.

The department’s $74 million facilities in Elings Hall and Sukup Hall were completed in 2014. The complex is designed to develop international partnerships, improve agriculture and animal production systems, enhance biorenewable fuel production and harvesting, and process biological components to produce energy. With the support of donors, the department is poised to construct a new Feed Mill and Grain Sciences Center and an Off-Road Vehicle Dynamometer Teaching and Research Facility.

(Editor’s note: Photos of award winners are available by contacting Melea Reicks Licht.)



Melea Reicks Licht, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Communications Service, 515-294-8892

Haley Cook, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Communications Service, 515-294-0705