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Beachy to speak at commencement

Barry McNamara
04/07/2010
Roger N. Beachy
Roger N. Beachy, who was appointed director of the newly created National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) in 2009 by President Obama, will deliver Monmouth College’s 2010 commencement address on May 16. The college’s 153rd annual commencement exercises will begin at noon on Wallace Hall Plaza.

An agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, NIFA is charged with stimulating research and technological innovations that will make agriculture more productive and environmentally sustainable, while ensuring economic viability. Prior to accepting President Obama’s appointment, Beachy was the founding president of the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center in St. Louis, Mo.

“Plants are a source of oxygen, clean up the environment and are food, feed, fiber and fuel,” said Beachy, who is an expert in plant virology and biotechnology of plants. “They are truly renewable. As we move toward a greener future, plants will play an incredibly important role.”

“After learning more about him, I think that Dr. Beachy is a great choice to deliver the commencement address,” said senior John Kaiser of Hanover Park, president of the Associated Students of Monmouth College. “No matter where you are from, you cannot get through Monmouth without gaining an appreciation for agriculture and the importance of the Midwest. This is why having Dr. Beachy as our commencement speaker is more than appropriate.”

The son of a Mennonite minister, Beachy was raised on a small farm in Indiana and earned his undergraduate degree at Goshen College. After graduating with a Ph.D. in plant pathology from Michigan State University, he quickly became an outspoken supporter of the use of plant biotechnology to lessen food shortages around the world. In 1978 he joined the biology faculty at Washington University in St. Louis, where he worked as a professor and director of the Center for Plant Science and Biotechnology.

From 1991 to 1998, he headed the division of plant biology at The Scripps Research Institute, a leading biomedical research center in La Jolla, Calif., before taking his position at the Danforth Center.

In 2001, Beachy was awarded the Wolf Prize in Agriculture “for the use of recombinant DNA technology to revolutionize plant and animal sciences, paving the way for applications to neighboring fields.”

The fact that Beachy achieved such career success after being educated at a small college in the Midwest was not lost on Kaiser.

“He started with a liberal arts education, as we did, and he worked hard in his career to be in a position to have an impact on the world, which is something that many of us aspire to do. I think he will be able to relate well to all of our seniors in that we have common roots in a liberal arts education and the Midwest.”