College of Agriculture and Life Sciences alumni, friends honored with 2021 awards

October 22nd, 2021

AMES, Iowa – The Iowa State University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the Iowa State University Alumni Association presented awards at the annual Honors and Awards Ceremony on Oct. 22.

CALS Awards

Brothers Neal Conover (’69 animal science) and Dwight Conover (’74 agricultural business) both received the CALS Floyd Andre Award. This award honors alumni and friends who have made outstanding contributions to production agriculture or agricultural business, or who have had a significant impact on Iowa agriculture.

Neal and Dwight, co-founders of Northwest Financial Corporation in Arnolds Park, Iowa, have grown their banking organization to be one of the Midwest’s top financial institutions, with over $2.5 billion in assets and more than 20 locations in Iowa and Nebraska.

Presented with an opportunity to acquire a troubled bank in southwest Iowa in 1984 and then two savings and loan institutions in 1988, the brothers – who grew up on a farm near Holstein, Iowa – built their business with the goal of creating a model for sustainable, long-term success. With more than 90 years of combined experience in the banking industry, the Conovers use their skills as agriculturalists, leaders, and banking professionals to guide their organization, responding to industry changes, consumer needs, and technological advancements while maintaining a commitment to their customers, their employees and the communities they serve.

Rachel Chikwamba (’02 PhD genetics) was honored with the 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.

A Zimbabwe native, Chikwamba is a highly regarded expert in innovation, making global impacts in the fields of agriculture, health, chemicals and the environment.

As group executive and vice president for chemicals, agriculture, food and health at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in Pretoria, South Africa, Chikwamba leads the council’s strategies for research, development and innovation to improve economic competitiveness and innovation.

Prior to her time at CSIR, Chikwamba worked in a variety of research capacities, where her work has been published in several scholarly journals. She’s managed numerous research projects, including a sorghum nutritional fortification program, with support and grants from notable sources like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the European Union Framework programs.

Additionally, Chikwamba has provided support to Africa’s leadership on how to responsibly implement emerging technologies and actively engages with governments on policies for responsible integration and implementation.

Deland Myers Sr. (’81 MS food technology, ’84 PhD) was selected as the CALS Henry A. Wallace Award recipient. This award honors college alumni or friends who have made notable professional achievements nationally or internationally and brought distinction to themselves, the college and the university through their significant contributions.

Myers is a nationally renowned food scientist known for his work in food product development, food security, and utilization of plant proteins in non-food products. Currently, he serves as emeritus professor in the College of Agriculture and Human Sciences at Prairie View A&M University in Texas.

With roots in the Midwest, Myers started his career with Pillsbury Company before returning to Iowa State University as a faculty member in the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition.

More recently, Myers has focused his efforts on food security and training young professionals to develop affordable, nutritious products to meet the needs of low-resource communities. Throughout his career, Myers has continuously provided academic and professional development to underrepresented students.

In 2021, he and his wife, Evie, helped recharge the Iowa State Dr. George A. Jackson Legacy Challenge, a fundraising effort dedicated to the support of underrepresented and minority students at Iowa State.

Kevin Ross (’03 agricultural studies, ‘21 MBA) received the CALS Outstanding Young Professional Award. The award honors mid-career CALS alumni or friends who have distinguished themselves through significant advancement and achievement in their discipline, field or area of expertise.

A farmer from Underwood, Iowa, Ross has been instrumental in supporting and promoting agriculture both locally and nationally. He is a sixth-generation farmer and owner of Ross Land and Cattle, an operation that includes corn, soybeans, alfalfa and cattle.

For years, Ross has been involved in various grassroots organizations and local boards to grow and improve the agriculture industry. He recently concluded his term as chairman of the National Corn Growers Association and previously served as the Iowa Corn Growers Association president.

Ross’s support of the industry is evidenced by his commitment to Iowa State. He served as past chairman of the West Pottawattamie County Extension Council and on the CALS Dean’s Advisory Council from 2013 to 2018. For the past three years, Ross has shared the stories of and advocated for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach and the CALS as a university delegate for the Council for Agricultural Research, Extension and Teaching.

ISU Alumni Association Awards

Donald Beitz, Charles F. Curtiss Distinguished Professorship in Agriculture and Life Sciences in Iowa State’s Department of Animal Science, was presented the ISU Alumni Association Alumni Service Award. This award recognizes Iowa State alumni and friends whose self-initiated activities and service consistently support the daily work of the ISU Alumni Association in further connecting alumni, students and friends to the university.

Beitz has taught at Iowa State for more than 54 years. He has remarkable enthusiasm for education, research and establishing lifelong ties with his students – more than 13,000 of them to date.

Beitz’s commitment to his students doesn’t end at graduation, either. He keeps in touch with hundreds of his former advisees, celebrating their successes and acting as a mentor. He even serves on college and department committees that continually engage alumni through events and receptions.

Beitz’s former students are contributing to society as medical doctors, cancer researchers, nutrition experts, veterinarians, patent lawyers, educators and some of the top research scientists in their industries.

One nominator wrote, “His commitment to helping students find their true passion and career path has manifested in an incredible assembly of engaged alumni around the globe.”

Dustin Loy (’05 animal science, ’09 DVM veterinary medicine, ’11 PhD veterinary microbiology) received the Outstanding Young Alumni Award from the ISU Alumni Association. The award recognizes Iowa State alumni, age 40 and under, who have excelled in their professions and provided service to their communities.

Loy has excelled professionally since the day he graduated from Iowa State. With a background in production animal medicine and molecular diagnostics for infectious diseases, Loy has wasted no time making his mark as an associate professor of veterinary medicine at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL).

In his current role, he provides significant leadership and guidance in bacteriology, virology and molecular biology, including infectious disease research and diagnostic microbiology, teaching and outreach. In addition, he is the leader of the Nebraska Veterinary Diagnostic Center’s Microbiology Section at UNL. Loy is a willing collaborator, a co-author of numerous published works and has been recognized with several awards.

In late 2020 and early 2021, Loy assisted in the establishment of a testing laboratory for detection of the coronavirus. This effort contributed to early detection and management of COVID-19 on UNL’s campus.


Whitney Baxter, Agriculture and Life Sciences Communications, 515-294-2314,