Eighth in a series highlighting this year’s recipients of the Purdue University College of Agriculture’s Distinguished Agriculture Alumni Award. The series will continue Monday and Wednesday 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.
Gary M. Weber, BS ’77, MS ’79, of Severn, Md., has been president of Bioniche Food Safety–USA, a division of Bioniche Life Sciences Inc., since 2008. Weber has provided leadership for Bioniche’s efforts to license and commercialize a vaccine to reduce the shedding of E. coli for cattle in the United States by working directly with cattle producers and beef processors, Congress, regulatory agencies and the media.
Weber has participated in agricultural tours of Australia, Canada, Mexico, New Zealand, Panama, Syria, Uruguay and the United Kingdom.
• Which Purdue faculty member had the most profound impact on your professional career? The person who impacted me the most was my undergraduate adviser, Martin Stob. I was in Dr. Stob’s animal reproductive physiology course and failed the first exam. I dropped by his office after receiving my exam score. If my memory serves me right, he looked at me and said, "I can't have one of the students taking my course and failing. You should drop it." I looked him in the eye and said, "No way. I am going to get an A in the course." He asked, "How will you do that?" I said, "Just watch me!" I did receive that A by working hard. His course was outstanding. He graded on spelling and grammar on the essays. Once I knew and understood his rules, I was ready to go. He was always fair and gave me and other students a chance succeed.
• What part of your visit back to campus in March are you most looking forward to? I am looking forward to seeing many old friends at Purdue and, most of all, to have my three older daughters join me in receiving this honor. They have given up a lot of time with their dad so I could pursue my goal of contributing in a meaningful way to improving agricultural productivity, food safety and animal health.
• Why did you select Purdue as the place to continue your education? Growing up, I had two dreams: first, to be a scientist, and later, to be a veterinarian. So Purdue was the best place I could go to pursue my dreams. I was granted an interview for the veterinary school in 1977, one of only 150 granted this honor. I decided not to interview, and I began my pursuit to become an animal scientist by accepting an offer from Wayne Perry in the animal sciences department to pursue a master’s degree.
• Where was your favorite place on campus to study? Whenever the weather would allow, I would go over to Slayter Center, west of my dorm, Cary Quad, to read and think. That was my favorite place to study and have quiet time to myself.
• Were you a good student when you were at Purdue? I did well as a student once I found my "balance." Most of the time I was an honors student, and I graduated with honors overall for my BS and MS.
• What was the most difficult course you took at Purdue? Freshman chemistry. I had very little background going into the class from the chemistry taught at my high school. It was a humbling experience.
• What do you miss most about your college days at Purdue? I miss that I had to work my way through Purdue, and I really didn't take time to enjoy all the university had to offer. I had some financial aid linked to work study, and I also lived at a horse stable for a while, cleaning stalls and feeding horses in the morning in exchange for free rent in a trailer. I enjoy Purdue so much now, and I try to ensure that my daughter, Rachel, a freshman, more fully benefits from all Purdue has to offer.
• What is the best advice you got while you were at Purdue? My father said, "Always get to class early so you can get a seat right in front and never miss a day of class."
• What is the best advice you have ever given? The best advice I have ever given is that which I have given myself, my daughters and others: "Never be afraid of the unknown and its segue, change. Always reach for the stars and know that change is always upon us. Change is something to be embraced and not feared."
Read about other 2012 Distinguished Agriculture Alumni Award winners.