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College of Agriculture gives first Andy Swiger Land-Grant Awards


BLACKSBURG, Va., Aug. 8, 2005 – Eric Bendfeldt, of Harrisionburg, Va., and Tom McAvoy, of Blacksburg, were each awarded the Andy Swiger Land-Grant Award for their outstanding contributions and service to the agriculture industry through their work in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Virginia Tech. Bendfeldt was recognized during the college faculty and staff recognition luncheon, and McAvoy was recognized at the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Staff Association picnic. Each recipient received a plaque and $1,000.

Bendfeldt, unit coordinator and Extension agent for environmental sciences at Rockingham County, was honored for his work in establishing a produce auction with Old Order Mennonite farmers and his leadership in forming a rapid-response team to help those affected by the closing of the Pilgrim’s Pride processing plant. Dean Sharron Quisenberry noted that he has the “ability to bring people together to solve problems in the community,” as well as “excellent judgment regarding when to bring resources from the college into play.”

“(Bendfeldt’s) programs have provided his locality with high quality education that is of a practical nature to his clientele, and in addition, his work has contributed to strengthening the economic base of his community,” said Beverly Butterfield, director, Virginia Cooperative Extension, North West District.

McAvoy, senior laboratory specialist for the Department of Entomology, has been the insect quarantine officer for Virginia Tech since the late 1970s and has immense experience working with insects imported to control weed and insect pests. McAvoy was recognized for his efforts in the coordination and implementation of expeditions to western China to search for new predators of the hemlock woolly adelgid (HWA). He was responsible for all aspects of planning for the most recent trip to China, including working with the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, getting federal, provincial, and country permits for collecting insects; arranging flights and drivers and vehicles for long drives; and preparing all the equipment that was needed for the trip.

“Tom McAvoy represented Virginia Tech at the highest standards and helped to both develop and improve our collaborative research efforts with the Chinese government,” said Scott Salom, associate professor of forest entomology.

The Andy Swiger Land-Grant Awards are made possible through the generous contributions made to the Andy Swiger Land-Grant Award Endowment. “I and others in the industry and university created the awards to keep the land-grant spirit alive by honoring the college’s outstanding faculty and staff member each year who most personify this spirit of serving the industry by making a real difference in the areas of food, agriculture, and biological sciences,” said Dean Emeritus Andy Swiger. Faculty and staff members are recognized for creative accomplishments in research, teaching, or Extension that contribute to solving problems, enhancing production and profit in agriculture, and improving the quality of life for Virginians.

The endowment also honors Swiger’s contribution to the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Swiger served as dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences from 1992 until 2003.

Consistently ranked by the National Science Foundation among the top institutions in agricultural research, Virginia Tech’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences offers students the opportunity to learn from some of the world’s leading agricultural scientists. The college’s comprehensive curriculum gives students a balanced education that ranges from food and fiber production to economics to human health. The college is a national leader in incorporating technology, biotechnology, computer applications, and other recent scientific advances into its teaching program.