Feb. 24, 2014
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Distinguished Agriculture Alumni Award 2014

Johann (Joe) R. Garwood, BS '78 

"You don't know what you don't know . . . and it's those things that can put you out of business. . . . If you do run into a problem for the first time, it's better to seek the advice of someone."

Joe Garwood

When Joe Garwood is back on campus, chances are good you can find him talking to students in the student lounge of the Agricultural and Biological Engineering Building. (Purdue Agricultural Communication photo/Tom Campbell) 

This article is the third in a series highlighting the 2014 recipients of the Purdue University College of Agriculture’s Distinguished Agriculture Alumni Award. The award honors mid-career alumni who have a record of outstanding accomplishments, have made significant contributions to their profession or society, and have exhibited high potential for professional growth.

The 11 honorees are John Becherer, Lynda M. Ciuffetti, Johann (Joe) R. Garwood, Anetra L. Harbor, Carl C. Kincaid, Donald J. Leopold, Maurício Antônio Lopes, Nicholas L. Rozzi, S. Richard Tolman, Geoffrey C. Waldbieser and Carla N. Yerkes. They will receive their awards Friday, March 7, during a public reception and convocation in the Purdue Memorial Union North Ballroom.

Joe Garwood, BS ’78, grew up on a farm in southern Indiana, farming with his uncles while working with his father, who was an independent oil producer. The independent spirit shown by his father, Francis, would guide Garwood through his professional career.

“Simply put, Joe is an entrepreneur,” said his nominator, Bernie Engel, head of the Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering.

Garwood excelled during a 21-year career with DuPont’s Agricultural Products Division, where he received DuPont’s highest marketing award, the Corporate Marketing Excellence Recognition (CMER).

But it was Garwood’s entrepreneurial spirit that led him to the private sector, where he is vice president and director of corporate operations for Fulcrum Exploration LLC.  He is also the co-manager and director of corporate operations for several other businesses.

“I’m very passionate about sharing the virtues of entrepreneurism with our students,” Garwood said.

“Joe has engaged ABE faculty and students, challenging them to think outside the box and promoting entrepreneurial approaches and risk-taking in their careers,” said Engel.

Which Purdue faculty member had the most profound impact on your professional career? Prof. Ray Lien, ASM (adviser), and Prof. Gary Krutz, ABE (adviser). Each had a very special way of connecting with their students. This heartfelt connection is what allowed them to share advice that is as solid today as it was when I received it as an undergraduate student back in the ‘70s.

What part of your visit back to campus in March are you most looking forward to? Having another opportunity to share life lessons with students.

Why did you select Purdue as the place to continue your education? When I was 7 years old, my dad brought me to campus just to have a look around. He said, “One day you’ll be going to school here.” In high school, my guidance counselor encouraged me to apply to IU (Indiana University) so I would have options. I never opened their response letter when it arrived at our house.

Where was your favorite place on campus to study? Either in the student lounge in the ABE Building or at the airport. I spent a lot of time in the lounge and I loved just hanging out at the airport.

What do you miss most about your college days at Purdue? Most definitely, I miss all the people and the friendships I made there. Simply put, the people. When I talk to students today, I joke that I was on the fast track. It took me six years to get a four-year degree! But I wouldn’t trade a minute of it. When I wasn’t in class, farming, or selling Electrolux vacuums door to door, I was working for Don Rhine and Les Whaley in the ABE Building. They were staff members who built or fixed everything in the ABE Building. They were mentors when I needed it. They became family to me. Along with Dr. Krutz and Prof. Lien, they coached and encouraged me to buckle down and finish school so I’d have a multiple of choices for my future.

Were you a good student when you were at Purdue? I was . . . when I liked a subject or when I believed it would be beneficial for me. Prof. Lien saw that I hadn’t applied myself in certain subjects, and he told me, “You’re going to have to do things in life that you don’t want to do . . . and if you’re going to be successful, you have to do those things well.” That advice still rings true today.

What was the most difficult course you took at Purdue? What made it so difficult for you? IM 200 (Introduction to Accounting). At that time I couldn’t see myself having a need to know the material. I felt that kind of work should to be left to those who enjoyed it. I thought, “Why do they want me to learn this?” Ironically, today I find myself spending more time with our accountant than anyone else in the operation.

What is the best advice you got while you were at Purdue? Who gave you the advice? Short-term decisions have long-term consequences. Ray Lien.

What is the best advice you have ever given? To whom did you give the advice? You don’t know what you don’t know . . . and it’s those things that can put you out of business. I have returned to campus many times to share life lessons with our students, particularly those interested in entrepreneurship (In November, Garwood was one of five alumni panelists participating the College of Agriculture’s Entrepreneurship Day). I talk a lot about the value of having good mentors — that you’ll need one long before you think you will. Most major problems can be prevented if you stay in counsel with your mentor. If you do run into a problem for the first time, it’s better to seek the advice of someone who knows how to handle it, rather than to try and resolve it on your own.

Coming next: Anetra L. Harbor, MS '02, PhD '06

Read about other 2014 Distinguished Agriculture Alumni Award winners.


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