Jeffrey Veenhuizen (right) and his father, Ed, with a photo of the family farm the Veenhuizens bought near Greenfield, Ind., in 1971 to fulfill a family dream of owning their own crop and livestock farm.
Last in a series highlighting this year’s 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 nine honorees will receive their awards Friday (March 1) during a 3:30 p.m. EST convocation in the Purdue Memorial Union North Ballroom. A 2:30 p.m. reception, open to the public, will precede the ceremony. The honorees are Timothy Adams, Rick L. Brandenburg, Michael Emerson, Zarrell Gray, Lisa Koester, Scott Lineback, Charles E. Owubah, Muhammad Abdur Razzaque and Jeffrey Veenhuizen.
Jeffrey Veenhuizen, BS ’81, started his career with Monsanto Co. as a senior research biologist in 1989 after a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Georgia. He is currently director of regulatory strategy/operations and chief of staff for the company.
“I have the highest respect for Jeffrey Veenhuizen, not only for his professional and academic accomplishments and dedication to agriculture, but also for his commitment and support of Purdue University and for his service in the development of people,” said his nominator, Alan Sutton, professor emeritus in the Department of Animal Sciences.
• Which Purdue faculty member had the most profound impact on your professional career?
Martin Stob, BS ’49, MS ’51, PhD ’53, my adviser in animal sciences. He challenged me in a caring way. He pushed my curriculum for my own benefit and believed it would make a difference. Stob was an excellent teacher and a great role model. He made sense of his topic. Real understanding came from his lectures, and he related to students. I have this as a primary attribute in many things I do today – namely, the information I have is meaningless without its relatability and ability to create understanding.
• What part of your visit back to campus in March are you most looking forward to? I am fascinated to see how the campus has evolved. I will enjoy seeing where the buildings are, which ones are gone, how the campus is kept, how students get around (even streets have changed since I was there), where the campus has grown and where it is the same. I am also looking forward to feeling the comfort of visiting an old friend (the university), having some great memories pop up, being part of the environment again and reflecting on what has transpired in the 30 years since I graduated.
• Why did you select Purdue as the place to continue your education? I grew up in Indiana, was raised on a farm and was active in 4-H and FFA. I had a strong science influence from my dad’s profession. There was no other choice! The most interesting memory I have of the decision to go to Purdue was the general feeling that it was “just Purdue.” After I graduated, many people have said, “Oh, you went to PURDUE!”
• Where was your favorite place on campus to study? My own desk. I had music (no portable iPods back then). There were no distractions, and the familiarity allowed for focus. On campus, it was Stewart Center. There was something about that building I always liked (and it was close to food at the Union).
• What do you miss most about your college days at Purdue? There is something special about football Saturdays. The whole day across campus from the traditions, to the people’s loyalty, to the family environment, to the great fall atmosphere makes memories to cherish. I also miss that feeling that we are all here for the same purpose, even though it is a large student body and staff. Life rarely provides an opportunity to have an entire community centered on a common purpose.
• Were you a good student when you were at Purdue? I had an honor student GPA resulting from hours of dedicated study and overall acumen. But at the same time, I really developed some bad habits, like procrastinating and then cramming. I made it harder than it had to be, but I almost always pulled through with an A.
• What is the best advice you got while you were at Purdue? I enrolled in pharmacy school to get a strong basic science background for a research career. I truly did not feel like I fit with the other students in the school. An ag adviser said, “Switch back to Agriculture. You belong there.” He was right. Second, “Do your best and then accept whatever happens next.” It came from an older student. I value this advice because it combined two things I can still do today. I don’t set the bar at perfection, and I don’t get caught determining what life looks like ahead of time. Stay open to what opportunities lie ahead in whatever is happening now.
• What is the best advice you have ever given? During the many struggles of college life, I remember telling friends that people matter more than things. If we believe and live that, all this stuff isn’t as important as it seems. Please remember that and trust it. I still believe this and still give this advice.
Read about other 2013 Distinguished Agriculture Alumni Award winners.