Each year, the Purdue University College of Agriculture bestows its top honor, the Distinguished Agriculture Alumni Award, on 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. This year's 10 honorees will receive their awards March 2 during a 3:30 p.m. convocation in the Purdue Memorial Union North Ballroom. Starting today and continuing each Monday, Wednesday and Friday leading up to the award ceremony, ConnectionsNOW! will feature honorees to give readers insight into how their Purdue education and campus experiences started them on their roads to success.
Larry E. Becker, BS '88, of Indianapolis, is president and chief executive of Becker Landscape Inc., recognized as one of the most progressive landscape companies in the Midwest. He started the company while he was pursuing his undergraduate degree at Purdue.
Becker has never lost his connection to the Purdue landscape architecture program. His nominator, Paul Siciliano, associate professor of horticulture and landscape architecture, said Becker and his staff are regular participants in the HORT 317 (Landscape Contracting and Management) course. "Each year, students spend time with Larry's team of landscape professionals, affording them the opportunity to be current with industry trends, opportunities and challenges, as well as the latest technologies and equipment," Siciliano said.
• Which Purdue faculty member had the most profound impact on your professional career? Greg Pierceall, a professor of landscape architecture (now professor emeritus), had an impact on me as a student because he was approachable and made the subject matter fun to learn. He would let you know if the right ideas were not clicking and that it was OK to take a break and then go back to the project. The fresh perspective would usually do the trick to get the creative ideas moving again. He even had an impact on my business after school when he worked as a consultant and helped cultivate customers that are still an important part of business today.
• What part of your visit back to campus in March are you most looking forward to? I am lucky in that I get to visit campus a lot, with my two daughters being students the last few years. My favorite part of being on campus is seeing old friends and reliving the great memories of when we were up there as students.
• Why did you select Purdue as the place to continue your education? I have had an interest in plants since I was young. So Purdue was a natural choice for me to pursue my degree. I had always spent time with my dad working in the yard and have a love for it.
• Where was your favorite place on campus to study? The Purdue Memorial Union was the place I studied the most on campus. It was the hub of the campus and always had so much spirit and energy.
• Were you a good student at Purdue? That depends on how you define a good student. I was running my company while working my way through school. So everything I was learning was being translated to practical use on a daily basis. That was a huge advantage for me to have that opportunity. For some classes, the grade was the goal for me. But I have never regretted not getting all straight A's.
• What was the most difficult course you took at Purdue? Chemistry. As much as it fascinated me, it frustrated me as well. I did not understand the value of it in my life until I was out in the real world. I noticed that once I was working, I often referred to principles I learned in chemistry to explain landscape maintenance and installation to people.
• What do you miss most about your college days at Purdue? I miss the fun and freedom of those days. The excitement of the football games and carefree times were a great part of my life.
• What is the best advice you got while you were at Purdue? The best advice I remember was to absorb as much as you can while you are at Purdue. It is all here for the taking. Once the end of my time at Purdue was in sight, I took advantage and loaded up on courses to learn as much as I could.
• What is the best advice you have ever given? To new graduates or new people in the field, I would say, Don't get hung up on what you want to do or where you want to be. Just start. Learn as much as you can and do the best job you can, no matter what that job is. It will pay off and help you with defining where you want to go.
Read about other 2012 Distinguished Agriculture Alumni Award winners.