Distinguished Agriculture Alumni Award 2012 - Malcom DeKryger
Third in a series highlighting this year’s recipients of the Purdue University College of Agriculture’s Distinguished Agriculture Alumni Award. The series will continue each Monday, Wednesday and Friday leading up to March 2, when the honorees will receive their awards during a 3:30 p.m. convocation in the Purdue Memorial Union North Ballroom.
Malcolm S. DeKryger, MS ’83, is vice president and co-owner of Belstra Milling Co. of DeMotte, Ind.
When DeKryger joined the company in 1991 as head of business development and sales, the pig production business consisted of 600 sows and the mill produced 36,000 tons of mixed feed per year. Under his leadership, the pork business has steadily grown to 11,500 sows with an annual production in excess of 310,000 breeding and market animals. The milling operation now produces more than 120,000 tons of mixed feed per year for pigs and dairy cows.
• Which Purdue faculty member had the most profound impact on your professional career? I think Wayne Singleton had the most impact on me. I never had his class, but he befriended me, and we traveled to see things — livestock things — in Indiana and other places. Later, he and I worked on a number of businesses while Belstra was developing, and his insight was very important. All in all, he has just been a great friend for 30 years.
• What part of your visit back to campus in March are you most looking forward to? I have the privilege of being back on campus quite often. The thing I cherish is watching all the talent and potential of the next generation of Boilermakers. Wow!
• Why did you select Purdue as the place to continue your education? Purdue actually selected me. I was accepted at another school, but there were some financial concerns there. I studied which schools were the best in pigs and animal sciences. Purdue was ranked in the top three. When I applied, the College of Agriculture offered me a research assistantship. Since I had grown up in Michigan, I had almost no idea where Purdue was located. I called up my dad and said, “I’ve been accepted to Purdue with a research assistantship. We have to go find out where this place is and what they are all about.” When we did, I was hooked for a lifetime. The facilities were much better and the farm/research opportunities were much greater.
• Where was your favorite place on campus to study? I spent most of my study time in my office on the third floor of Lilly Hall. I seldom did any studying in the library — too many distractions.
• Were you a good student at Purdue? I came out of a high-quality liberal arts school with my BS as a biology major. I was so hungry for agriculture and animal science classes that I was like a sponge. I aced the classes that I craved and only did fair on the others I needed for my degree.
• What was the most difficult course you took at Purdue? Advanced statistics. I hated it, and I wasn’t good at it. There were essentially punch-card computers that were used to do the calculations. I had no interest in pursuing any more of it than necessary and relished the day that I “escaped” with a B minus.
• What do you miss most about your college days at Purdue? I really enjoyed the coffee time with the professors on third floor each morning. Their personal interaction was very positive on developing my knowledge and the value of interaction with maturing young people. The discussions ranged from science to sports to business to government. What a great opportunity for a young person like myself!
• What is the best advice you got while you were at Purdue? I was looking at two jobs coming out of school. One was a manager position on a nearby farm, and the other was an entry-level position in the animal science department for less money. Millard Plumlee was my major professor. He gave me very sage advice. He said, “Sometimes it is better to be a dog amongst the kings than a king amongst the dogs.” I took the job with Purdue, and Dr. Plumlee was so right. What a great opportunity!
• What is the best advice you have ever given? Young people will never understand the full value of a Purdue degree until they have completed their work and ventured out into the world. The world has very high regard for our school, and the alumni family is incredibly supportive.
Read about other 2012 Distinguished Agriculture Alumni Award winners.