The University of Nebraska–Lincoln Department of Animal Science will honor five individuals with awards at its annual Block and Bridle Club and Alumni and Friends Reunion April 22 in the Nebraska East Union’s Great Plains Room.
Ronnie and Jane Green will be recognized as the 2023 Block and Bridle Club honorees, while Cayla Beebe-Iske, Deb Hamernik and Rebecca Bott-Knutson will be honored for their outstanding accomplishments as undergraduate and graduate alumni.
Block and Bridle Club honorees
Since 1938, the Block and Bridle Club has recognized individuals who contributed to Nebraska agriculture through leadership, service, youth projects, community activities and involvement with the university. The candidates are nominated by industry leaders and selected by club officers and advisers.
Ronnie Green joins Edgar Burnett (1941) as the second University of Nebraska–Lincoln chancellor to be honored with the award, while Jane Green joins Sallie Atkins (2001) and Anne Marie Bosshammer (2016) as the third woman honored.
Ronnie Green was raised on a mixed beef, dairy and cropping farm in southwestern Virginia. He received a bachelor’s degree in animal science from Virginia Tech, a master’s degree in animal science from Colorado State University and a doctoral degree in animal breeding and genetics from Nebraska. Jane (Pauley) Green grew up on a diversified crop and livestock farm near Harvard, Nebraska, before enrolling at Nebraska on a Regent’s Scholarship, earning a bachelor’s degree in agricultural honors and master’s degree in agricultural economics from the university.
The Greens have had a tremendous impact on agriculture in Nebraska and beyond. Ronnie served on the animal science faculties at Nebraska, Texas Tech and Colorado State; was the national program leader for animal production research for the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service; and is an internationally recognized authority in animal genetics. He also served as executive secretary of the White House’s interagency working group on animal genomics within the National Science and Technology Council.
Jane’s work for Cooperative Extension in the Department of Agricultural Economics during the ag crisis of the 1980s continues to impact farming and ranching operations in Nebraska. She was also a co-founder, with Deb Rood, of the annual Women in Ag Conference, which last year reached 800 Nebraska women producers.
Young Alumni of Distinction Award
Cayla Beebe-Iske (Bachelor of Science, 2013), of Omaha, will be honored with the Young Alumni of Distinction award. As an animal science undergraduate student with the companion animal science option at Nebraska, Beebe-Iske excelled and developed an interest in nutrition. Over the course of her undergraduate and graduate careers, she began to look at ways to feed insects to improve their nutritional value for other animals, sparking changes in how feeder crickets are fed at Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium.
She completed additional work looking at raw diets in large cats and their effects on animal behavior and nutrition. After earning her doctoral degree, she began her career as the nutritionist for Oxbow Animal Health, reinvigorating their research program and developing a wide range of new diets.
Beebe-Iske’s journey has come full circle, as she is now the director of nutrition for the Omaha zoo, overseeing one of the leading zoo nutrition laboratories in the United States. She works with the Department of Animal Science to assist with graduate student training and is a guest lecturer in multiple courses.
Undergraduate of Distinction Award
Deb Hamernik (Bachelor of Science, 1981), of Olathe, Kansas, will be honored with the Undergraduate of Distinction award. Following her graduation from Nebraska, she earned her master’s degree in animal science from Washington State University and her doctoral degree in reproductive endocrinology from Colorado State University. After completing her doctorate, she served in a variety of roles at Nebraska, the University of Arizona and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
In 2009, Hamernik returned to Nebraska to become associate dean of agricultural research and associate director of the Nebraska Agricultural Experiment Station and professor in the Department of Animal Science from 2009-18. She served as administrator of sponsored funding for agricultural research and enhanced the competitiveness of interdisciplinary research teams for extramural funding. She served as interim associate vice chancellor for research at Nebraska from 2011-13 and 2016-17 before being named associate vice chancellor for research in 2018. Hamernik remained in that role until she returned to the USDA in 2020 to become director of the Animal Systems Division in the Institute of Food Production and Sustainability. She became deputy director of the institute in November 2020.
Graduate of Distinction Award
Rebecca Bott-Knutson (Master of Science, 2005), of Brookings, South Dakota, will be honored with the Graduate of Distinction award. Bott-Knutson came to Nebraska after earning a bachelor’s degree in animal science from the University of Missouri in 2003. She earned a master’s degree in animal science at Nebraska in 2005 before earning her doctoral degree in biomedical science from Colorado State University in 2009.
Bott-Knutson joined the faculty at South Dakota State University as an assistant professor of animal science and extension equine specialist in 2009 and was promoted to associate professor in 2015. In 2016, she served as interim dean for the Van D. and Barbara B. Fishback Honors College before being named dean of the Honors College in 2018.
In her current role, Bott-Knutson has strived to define quality and measure the impact of quality honors education through completion of the SDSU Assessment Academy and implementing new student learning outcomes and assessment. She has also engaged faculty from numerous disciplines to create new and innovative multidisciplinary venues for learning within the Honors Colloquium series.