News for employees, May 1, 2008

President Forsee hears about extension in Greene County

University of Missouri President Gary Forsee reviews the Family Nutrition Education Program annual report provided by Terry Egan.

University of Missouri President Gary Forsee reviews the Family Nutrition Education Program annual report provided by Terry Egan.

MU Extension staff in Springfield hosted an open house April 25 for University of Missouri President Gary Forsee.

President Forsee praised the efforts of MU Extension statewide.

"It takes the energy of all of us in this state to get done what needs to be done," Forsee said. "A lot of people don't know about extension. We need help spreading the word around, particularly to our elected officials. Extension is not obvious to those who haven't grown up around it."

Forsee briefly visited with each faculty member. He also heard from 13 program partners, who described the impact of extension programs.

Nutrition—Terry Egan, nutrition and health specialist, Greene County nutrition program assistants, and Julie Humphrey, executive director of Hand In Hand Ministries, talked about the Family Nutrition Education Program.

“Help from the ladies in this nutrition program is essential to our efforts to reach Hispanic families in Springfield,” Humphrey said.

Housing—Jeff Barber, housing and urban development specialist, was joined by Drury University faculty.

“Jeff and extension have experience and a charge that is different from my academic charge at Drury. But we have student architects who can help with every phase of the project,” said Jay Garrott, professor of architecture. “By working together, we have been able to help communities in planning and identifying needs.”

Human development—Jim Wirth, human development specialist, and Judy Darst and Mark Robbins of the U.S. Medical Center for Federal Prisoners in Springfield, described their partnership.

“Our entire educational program would be largely eliminated or severely cut back if extension disappeared from the picture,” Robbins said. “We don’t have the funding or people to do it. We really depend on educational help from extension to provide this life-changing program.”

Community development—By summer 2009, construction will begin on a 12,700-square-foot botanical center in Nathanael Greene Park that will become the home of MU Extension-Greene County.

“We are proud of our parks system, and we are going to happy to have the extension programming inside this community building at the beginning,” said Jodi Adams, Springfield-Greene County Parks director.

Master Gardeners—While at the extension office, President Forsee saw the Master Gardner program first-hand as chapter president Mark Bernskoetter and Andy Busch answered questions for local residents.

“I am very impressed with the tremendous volunteer effort that goes into this local Master Gardener program,” President Forsee said. “The hundreds or thousands of hours given by these volunteers translates into real dollars and real impact in the community.”

4-H youth development—Becky Fay, youth program assistant, and Elizabeth Walker, assistant professor of agriculture at Missouri State University, introduced President Forsee to the annual 4-H Meat Goat Camp that the pair coordinates for 100 participants.

“This joint program is an example of a great partnership that came out of an expressed need,” Walker said. “Goats are a growing trend, 4-H is a great communicator and connector with children and youth interested in agriculture, and together this project really met a need.”

President Forsee also participated in a 20-minute roundtable with Greene County Extension Council members. Many council members – including John Davis, Barbara Lucks, Dick Lawless, Venton Haskins and Mary Quinn – described how MU Extension programs have touched and helped them personally and professionally.

Following the event, council member Carl Allison praised faculty and staff for their professionalism. “All of the staff members were very impressive,” said Allison, who serves on the State Extension Council. “I was honored and proud to be there.”

— By David L. Burton, Civic Communications Specialist/Interim CPD

Awards honor outstanding work

“Excellence is doing ordinary things extraordinarily well.” ― John W. Gardner, former Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare

That belief was at the heart of recent ceremonies that honored the outstanding work of MU Extension faculty and staff members in three program areas.

At its Celebration of Excellence, the MU College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources acknowledged the contributions of Suzanne Schoonover and Brad Fresenburg.

Schoonover, assistant finance director for the Office of Social and Economic Data Analysis, was named a 2008 Outstanding Staff member. The award recognizes outstanding ability, performance, productivity, quality work, congeniality and leadership.

Fresenburg, state turf grass specialist, received the Outstanding Teacher Award for excellent teaching in and out of the classroom and for contributions to publications and conferences.

Human Environmental Sciences Extension also held a Celebration of Excellence, presenting awards in six categories.

Lifetime Achievement Awards were presented to Lynda Johnson, WC nutrition and health specialist; Renette Wardlow, SW human development specialist; and Janet LaFon, SW family financial education specialist. The awards recognize the significant achievements these individuals have made to their discipline, MU Extension and the citizens they serve.

Collaboration and Networking Awards were presented to two groups. The External Partnership Award was given to the Cass County Healthy Kids project. Team members included Susan Mills-Gray, WC nutrition and health specialist; Rhonda Kasper, Cass County nutrition program associate; and Sarah Staude, WC 4-H youth specialist.

Internal Partnerships Award was presented to family financial education specialists Annette FitzGerald and Janet LaFon, SW, and Cynthia Crawford, CM, for the Bank of America Homebuyer Education program.

Glenda Kinder, WC nutrition and health specialist, received the Reaching Diverse Audiences Award, while Tammy Roberts, SW nutrition and health specialist, received the Creative, Non-Traditional Delivery Systems Award.

The Campus-Based Specialist Award was presented to Lucy Schrader, Building Strong Families program coordinator. Karen From, NW nutrition and health specialist, received the Early Career Award.

During the spring 4-H/Family Nutrition Education Program conference, several specialists and program assistants were honored for their contributions to the extension mission.

Stephanie Nicholson, Boone County 4-H youth development educator, received the Rookie of the Year Award. The 4-H Mentoring Award went to Waita Karcher, Pulaski County youth program assistant.

Teamwork Award was presented for the Pyramid of Power, a skit illustrating the benefits of eating breakfast, drinking milk and staying physically active. Team members are nutrition program associates Teresa Bell and Becky Morgan, Laclede County; Ann Harms, Oregon County, Nena Kimball, Howell County; Jenny Kirchner, Miller County; Chrystal Meeks, Ozark County; Larry Roberts, Camden County; and Lavina Wilson, Pulaski County; Sheila Letchworth, Morgan County nutrition program assistant; Karcher and Jean Volmert, Miller County youth program associate; Melissa Bess, SC nutrition specialist; Michele Kroll and Doralee Ely, SC 4-H youth specialists; and Sheila LaTurno, MU nutrition extension associate.

Awards also were given to FNEP faculty and staff, including Kim Williams-Dunbar, Pemiscot and Dunklin County nutrition program assistant, was the Rookie of the Year. Linda Hatch, office support II for the SW Region nutrition program, received the Administrative Staff Award.

Coordinator of the Year was Janet Hackert, NW nutrition and health specialist, while the EC Region’s Linda Rellergert received the Nutrition and Health Education Specialist of the Year.

Mentoring Awards were presented to nutrition program associates Stephanie Weddle, Nodaway County; Nena Kimball; Dana McGuire, Texas County; Karen Clancy, Phelps County; and Kimball, as well as nutrition program assistants Barbara Ann Cleaves, Mississippi County; and Nancy Burns, Reynolds County


Keynote inspires CPDs to "be remarkable"

“Inspire rather than require to get things done”… “This is your first time in mortality”… “Stop being perfect and start being remarkable.”
Kirk Weisler Kirk Weisler

Like a seasoned sales manager, his pitch laced with appealing sayings, Kirk Weisler reeled in his audience. Soon he had a roomful of eager buyers, ready to invest.

Only Weisler wasn’t peddling a get-rich-quick scheme at MU Extension’s County Program Director Conference, April 23, in Columbia. Rather, he offered ways to create a work climate where people feel valued, appreciated and motivated.

Delivering on his promise, Weisler gave the audience suggestions for things they could “do right now and don’t cost anything.”

“We have no idea of the power we have to make people feel visible and valued,” said Weisler, whose self-described title is chief morale officer. “We’ve allowed ourselves to become distracted from the things that are most important.”

Through stories, personal experiences, games and role playing, Weisler demonstrated how small gestures of kindness, recognition and the golden rule ― treating others how you want to be treated ― creates a positive atmosphere.

“The American worker feels more invisible than ever before,” Weisler said, citing a recent poll showing that only a third of employees say they are fully engaged in their work.

“With so much invisibility, someone who makes you feel visible and valuable is remarkable,” he said.

Nancy Mense, WC 4-H youth specialist who helped plan the conference, was a repeat customer.

“He reminds us about the little things that make a difference,” Mense said. “We think about them, but do we do them? All we need to do is take a few minutes to make some changes. And it can be done easily.”

Mense heard Weisler at a national meeting and was confident that fellow county program directors would welcome his message. After the presentation, her trust was confirmed:

“I had one person say, ‘He was exactly what I needed to hear right now.’”

The theme of this year’s conference was “C.reating P.ositive D.irections: Building a Successful Workplace.” In addition to Weisler’s presentations on “Making a More Better Workplace,” the two-day conference, covered the CPD role, nuts and bolts of managing the local extension office, and working with stakeholders.

“Your role is critical in the system,” Michael Ouart, MU vice provost for extension and director, told county program directors. “Being a CPD is not an add-on. You are the key liaison with local stakeholders.”

Ouart said those relationships have been invaluable in obtaining funding. The $13.6 million in local funding exceeds federal dollars and is half of MU Extension’s state appropriation.

Among these three sources, Ouart said, “It’s the only source of funds going in the right direction. The fact that county appropriations continue to increase 2 to 3 percent a year, while federal funding stays flat and state funding remains a challenge, is credit to the good work of our staff and to your role in sharing a vision of MU Extension that resonates with local funders.”

Ouart also encouraged county program directors to think about new revenue streams, such as gifts, consider endowed positions for their county and identify potential donors. “It’s an untapped resource that will really pay dividends,” he said.


Willard James, oldest living extension agent, dies at 103

(Editor’s note: Willard James died April 28, just days before friends, family and colleagues were to honor him at a party hosted by University of Missouri Extension. Fellow retiree John Parker sat down with James shortly before his death to talk about his early years in extension.)

Services for Willard James will be at 10 a.m., May 10, at Caruthersville Presbyterian Church. Visitation is from 5 to 8 p.m., May 9, at Smith Funeral Home.

Willard James
Willard James

Is it possible that Missouri was home to the oldest living extension agent in the country? We, of course, have no way of knowing, but there is little doubt that at 103, Willard James of Ironton was the longest-living extension agent in Missouri.

His remarkable talents and ability to recall the past were evident at the twice-a-year MU Extension retiree meetings in southeast Missouri, where he has performed on the mandolin, accompanied by son Marshall on the guitar, and delighted colleagues with stories of his experiences. His amazing ability to remember names and events is truly fascinating.

Willard James started with the Cooperative Extension Service in 1934 as an assistant county agent in Harrisonville, where he worked along side Butler County Agent Jack Rogers. In seven months, James was promoted to county agent and reassigned to Bollinger County. In recollections of his early extension work, one can readily see some of the activities of extension agents of the 1930s and ’40s. Even so, there are also similarities to today’s extension program.

Willard James was a legend in southeast Missouri for his hunting abilities. Taken in 1938, James posted with his prey. This 1938 photo shows Willard James with one of the many bobcats that won him legendary status in southeast Missouri.

Willard started at an annual salary of $1,200. On his first day, a number of hogs were rooting in the courthouse lawn.

"This was a time the National Farm Program was in its early stages,” James said. “Jack Rogers and I spent most of our time training farmer committees how to operate the program. We were holding meetings day and night. There was a serious drought in 1934 and cattle were starving for lack of feed. The Extension Service was assigned the job of initiating a drought cattle program, and I hired a man names Purvis Wills to go on farms and buy the cattle that could not be shipped. Those not strong enough were shot and sent to a rendering plant. I told Purvis to be sure to pick up every scrub bull." (This was a sly way of starting cattle herd improvement.) 

In his early days in Bollinger County, a farmer named Jake Taylor was his landlord and had a small farm west of Marble Hill. One day Taylor's farm manager came to tell him that four of his five Jersey cows were down with the bloat from eating frozen cowpeas:

"I told him to go quick and get a butcher knife and a pipe stem. I took the knife and punctured the cows in the triangular spot by the hip. The pipe stem was inserted to relieve the gas. Lucky for me, all the cows were up and standing within 30 minutes. I had learned that procedure from a book I was selling while attending the University of Missouri in 1926."

Another early experience gave James a good deal of notoriety in the area. An activity that, I'm sure, is not often required of specialists today.

"A number of farmers came to me from the bottomlands and reported that something was killing their hogs and chickens. I learned that another local farmer named Tom Phelps had some hounds that would chase bobcats. Mr. Phelps went to the area and later reported killing two bobcats, then later invited me to go along on a hunt with him. We loaded the dogs and went to a place of cut-over swampland. The dogs soon struck a hot trail, and the cat was soon bayed on the ground and killed by the dogs in short order.

“I soon began to get requests to help farmers to get rid of bobcats who were killing farm animals. Now this may sound like a non-extension project. Nonetheless, it resulted in saving loss to the farmers.”

Over the years, Willard hunted numerous bobcats. 

James was involved in numerous other activities during his early years: organizing the 4-H camp on Wappapella Lake, starting bull sales to improve herd quality, initiating feeder calf sales in the county and other activities rather new for that time.

Willard remarked recently, "I have enjoyed thinking back of the early days of extension. Now I marvel at the great changes in the way extension work is being done today."

By John Parker

Mammograms could predict stroke risk

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, three-fourths of women over 40 are getting their recommended mammograms. A new University of Missouri study has found that the same test may be valuable in identifying women at risk for stroke. Listen to the story.

Red cedar may have healing compounds

Red cedar may have healing compounds

Chung-Ho Lin, research assistant professor at the MU Center for Agroforestry, has discovered compounds in eastern red cedar leaves and fruit that could help fight bacteria, fungi, agricultural pests and weeds, and malaria. The compounds also may prevent skin cancer by inhibiting the production of melanin. Watch the video.

Free workshops tackle job stress

The MU Employee Assistance Program is starting a monthly series of workshops on occupational stress. The first workshop, May 6, will address work-life conflict.

Occupational stress has been linked to heart attacks and other physical ailments as well as lost productivity.

The workshops are open to all employees. “People in supervisory roles can benefit from the workshops to create productive and positive work environments,” said Megan Martin, MU Extension training and development coordinator.

The brown-bag sessions will run from 11 a.m. to noon on the first Tuesday of each month in S203 Memorial Union. Future topics include occupational role stress in June, work schedules in July, leadership in August, organizational justice in September, workplace aggression in October, technology in November and workplace safety in December.

Space is limited to 50 participants per session and registration is required. Contact Tammi Tilmon at 573-882-6701 or e-mail to register. Regional faculty should discuss travel reimbursement with their supervisor.

The Employee Assistance Program is available to faculty, staff and their family members to receive or locate help with personal, professional or other problems. Services, which are free and confidential, include screening and referral, problem solving, crisis intervention, consultation and workshops.

Get fit with ePHIT

While good health is its own reward, My ePHIT (Personal Health Improvement Training) offers additional incentive for achieving or maintaining your wellness goals.

My ePHIT, available to members of the University of Missouri Choice Health Care Program, provides resources and tools for healthy habits. Individuals who sign up are eligible for reward points that can be redeemed for products and discounts.

Create a My ePHIT account at Coventry Health Care member page. You will need your group and ID numbers found on your insurance card.


Von Pittman, Center for Distance and Independent Study director, is the 2008-2009 president of the International Society for Educational Biography. Gera Burton, CDIS associate director, was elected to a two-year term on the organization’s executive board.

Phyllis Flanigan, SE human development specialist, was one of five people featured in Women in Business, a special section in the March 31 edition of the Poplar Bluff Daily American Republic.

Sharon Gulick, exCEED director, is participating in Leadership Missouri program sponsored by the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry. She is one of 40 individuals from across the state selected for the seven-month program.

Stay Strong, Stay Healthy received the 2008 Jeanne M. Priester Award, which recognizes innovative health education programs. The 10-week program teaches middle-aged and older adults strengthening exercises to build muscle and increase bone density, thereby helping to prevent frailty and osteoporosis.

English/Spanish guide offers introduction to Missouri laws

“Important Missouri Laws: A Guide for New Residents,” from University of Missouri Extension Publications, can help individuals who have emigrated from other countries become acquainted with their new community.

The 42-page booklet, which is written in English and Spanish, provides an overview on driving, vehicles, traffic laws, alcohol, tobacco, drugs, firearms, bank accounts, finances, law enforcement, housing, education, health, domestic conflict and employment. The booklet also includes state agency phone numbers.

Copies may be ordered for $4.50 from MU Extension Publications

MU Extension Insider is published on the 1st and 15th of each month for MU Extension faculty and staff. Send comments to Editor, Eileen Yager.