2017 Award Winners

Distinguished Service Award

Jack Whittier, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Dr. Jack C. Whittier was raised on a diversified livestock and crop farm in Northeastern Utah, and received B.S. and M.S. degrees in Animal Science from Utah State University (USU) in 1979 and 1981, respectively. Dr. Whittier completed a Ph.D. degree in ruminant nutrition in 1985 from the University of Nebraska. Since 2014, Dr. Whittier has been Director of the University of Nebraska Panhandle District Panhandle Research and Extension Center and Professor of Animal Science. He has fulfilled significant leadership roles in WSASAS. Most recently, Dr. Whittier served on the ASAS Board of Directors as Western Section Director for two 3-year terms (2010 to 2016). His applied research has focused on range beef cow nutrition and reproduction management. He has helped generate over $2.2 million in extramural funds as PI or Co-I, participated in training 37 graduate students, and authored or co-authored 49 refereed publications and numerous non-refereed and Extension papers. Currently, Dr. Whittier supervises 12 Ph.D. Research and Extension Specialists and 22 Extension Educators. Dr. Whittier has contributed as an active leader with Boy Scouts of America, in numerous leadership roles with his church, and with the Scottsbluff/Gering Rotary Club. Dr. Whittier and his wife Robynn have 2 grown sons, 2 daughters-in-law, and 4 grandchildren. They also own a small-scale Simmental-Angus seedstock beef herd. 

Distinguished Teacher Award

Russell Hovey, University of California - Davis

Dr. Russ Hovey is a Professor of Animal Science and Mammary Gland Biologist in the Agricultural Experiment Station at the University of California-Davis. He received a Bachelor of Agricultural Science (Animal Sciences) from the University of Queensland, Australia, then a Ph.D. in Animal Science from Massey University. Since arriving at UC Davis in 2007, Dr. Hovey’s laboratory has focused on the endocrine regulation of mammary gland growth and function, as well as cancer. His contributions to lactation were recognized by the American Society of Animal Science where he received the H. Allen Tucker Lactation and Endocrinology Award in 2011. Dr. Hovey has taught several classes and strives to build an exceptional learning environment outside of the classroom. He is dedicated to undergraduate learning and committed to the development of strategies that improve the overall educational experience and provide tools for life-long learning. In recognition of his ability to change lives, he was the recipient of the student administered Department of Animal Science Outstanding Faculty Advisor Award—a “people’s choice” award presented by the undergraduates. Dr. Hovey was also recently recognized for his teaching commitment and innovation with the University of California- Davis Academic Senate Distinguished Teaching Award. 

Extension Award

Reinaldo Cooke, Oregon State University

Dr. Reinaldo Cooke is an Associate Professor in the Department of Animal and Rangeland Sciences at Oregon State University. He is stationed at the Eastern Oregon Agricultural Research Center in Burns. His faculty appointment is split between Extension and research responsibilities in beef cattle management and nutrition. As the Principal State Beef Specialist, Dr. Cooke has developed several Extension activities to serve the Oregon beef industry, which has also extended to national and international audiences. Dr. Cooke co-chairs the Western Beef Resource Committee. To date, Dr. Cooke has published 111 Extension articles, and has given more than 162 Extension talks to over 12,000 attendees. Dr. Cooke works closely with the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association and the Oregon Beef Council. In 2014, Dr. Cooke received the Oregon Beef Council Distinguished Service Award in recognition of his service to the Oregon Beef Council and Oregon’s Beef Industry. In 2016, he received the WSASAS Young Scientist Award, and was the first Extension specialist to receive the OSU/College of Ag - F. E. Price/Agricultural Research Foundation Award for Excellence in Research. Reinaldo and his wife Flavia are the proud parents of three children, Victor, Lucas, and Isabella. 

Young Scientist Award

Jennifer Hernandez Gifford, New Mexico State University

Dr. Hernandez Gifford earned her B.S. and M.S. degrees in Animal Science from New Mexico State University (NMSU). She completed her Ph.D. at Washington State University (WSU) in Animal Science with an emphasis in reproductive physiology. She then worked as a Postdoctoral Research Associate at WSU. Currently, Dr. Hernandez Gifford is an Associate Professor in the Department of Animal and Range Sciences at NMSU where she leads an active research program. A main focus of her research program is elucidating the role that the WNT/beta-catenin signaling pathway plays in follicular growth, development, and estradiol production. The long-term goal of her research program is to provide fundamental knowledge about the physiological role and mechanism of action of ovarian WNT signaling molecules in follicular development in the adult ovary. Dr. Hernandez Gifford has authored/coauthored 19 articles in refereed journals, one book chapter, 17 proceedings papers and 43 research abstracts. She has served as major advisor for 5 M.S. students, 2 Ph.D. students, and on 9 additional graduate student committees. Research from her lab is moving the field forward and will enable reproductive physiologists provide novel and innovative methods to ensure economic success for livestock producers concurrent with feeding the world’s growing population. 

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