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2008 NIFA Hall of Fame


Christina C. Buch, Budget Officer, NIFA

Tina Buch has 28 years of federal service, of which almost all has been with NIFA or its predecessor agencies. For most of this time she has worked in a budget office. She has served in her current position for 13 years, managing a very complicated annual budget of more than $1 billion with more than 60 funding authorizations. Tina is highly regarded by staff in USDA's Office of Budget and Program Analysis, who often seek her advice on budget issues before issuing guidance to other USDA agencies. The congressional appropriations staff also highly value her knowledge and expertise about the NIFA budget. Within NIFA, Tina has served on many working groups and committees involving a wide range of issues. This reflects how NIFA relies on her extensive knowledge and experience.


Curtiland Deville, Director of Equal Opportunity Staff, NIFA

Curt is responsible for developing policies, practices and procedures that strengthen extension and research programs that have received USDA funding, especially ensuring all people have equal opportunity to benefit from these programs. Curt was the prime force behind the creation of the Civil Rights Directors Management Council at USDA in 1984. Since then, he has provided leadership to the council as it has conducted numerous civil rights and diversity training conferences around the country. He recently coordinated the Secretary of Agriculture's annual diversity conference.


Elbert C. Dickey, Dean and Director of Extension, University of Nebraska

Described as being the epitome of extension professionals throughout his entire career, Elbert was an outstanding extension specialist, grounded in both excellent academic preparation and research competence. These traits have carried through into his current position at the University of Nebraska and as Chair of ECOP, Extension's leadership and advocacy body for the entire Extension system. Elbert's leadership at many levels in the areas of team work, streamlined reporting, program impact accountability, and multi-state programming are hallmarks of his career. He has also served with distinction on the eXtension Governing Board of Directions and as the Education and Extension Advisor for NIFA. A NIFA colleague described Elbert as the ideal candidate for this honor, as he has made numerous contributions to improving the integration of research, education, and extension within NIFA, especially with regard to agency competitive programs.


Betty Lou W. Gilliland, Assistant Administrator for Management and Policy, NIFA

Betty Lou has served in her current capacity for 14 years, and prior to that, she was the agency's budget officer. She has almost 34 years of service with NIFA or its predecessor agency. Betty Lou's name may be the name most frequently used by agency employees, as she is widely called upon for her vast knowledge about the agency's programs and administrative and financial management issues. Based on her knowledge and expertise, she is frequently called upon to provide leadership for and to formulate solutions to complex and critical issues facing the agency. Betty Lou has been the agency lead on several management initiatives, including strategic management of human capital, competitive sourcing, and eTravel. She worked closed with the Human Resources Division staff to develop a NIFA succession plan and serves on the REE Competitive Sourcing Working Group. She was also the team leader for the NIFA eTravel team that implemented the new GovTrip travel system.


Debora L. Hamernik, National Program Leader, NIFA

As national program leader for animal physiology, Deb has wide responsibility for managing programs in research and extension that affect animal science and the food animal industry in the United States. She is national recognized for having provided leadership to highly effective and visible programs, such as bovine genome sequencing and USDA's Biotechnology Risk Assessment. In 2004, Deb spent five months serving as the acting Deputy Administrator for Competitive Programs. In 2005, she split her time between her official position in the Plant and Animal Systems unit and the position of Director of the National Research Initiative in the Competitive Programs unit. Deb has received many awards, including the NIFA 2004 Employee of the Year, a USDA Secretary's Honor Award, and the Women's History Award for Leadership and Public Service from Washington State University.


Peter J. Johnson, National Program Leader, NIFA

As a national program leader in the Competitive Programs unit, Peter has been instrumental in linking the National Research Initiative to the other portions of the NIFA's animal science portfolio. He helped foster a team environment for the NIFA Animal Protection Team and built bridges with the Agricultural Research Service's Animal Health and Protection program leaders. He also manages the Avian Influenza Coordinated Agriculture Projects, which require tireless work to ensure the project directors of this grant are fully connected to the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service to ensure Federal coordination and collaboration. Peter's ability to create, improve, strengthen, and enhance working teams and relationships resulted in successful collaborations for NIFA with other agencies on some very important and vital issues. Peter is a superb liaison for NIFA to groups, such as the Animal Agriculture Coalition, the American Veterinary Medicine Association, and numerous other animal science and veterinary medicine organizations.


Larry R. Miller, retired Acting Associate Administrator, NIFA

Larry's professional career spanned nearly 38 years at USDA, including the Agricultural Research Service, the Joint Council on Food and Agricultural Sciences, the Cooperative State Research Service, and NIFA. He had extensive experience with multi-state research, program reviews, and organizing mini symposia or national planning meetings. His programmatic responsibilities were just as vast, including meat science and muscle biology, small ruminants, the Minor Use Animal Drug Program (collaboratively with ARS), the Joe Skeen Institute for Rangeland Restoration, the Food Animal Residue Avoidance Databank, statistics, and wool research, among others. Larry retired from NIFA in July 2007 after service as the Acting Associate Administrator since 2005. He is currently the Director of the DISCOVER Conferences sponsored by the American Dairy Science Association and serves as a consultant for various food and agricultural related organizations.


Arthur L. Pridemore, Information Technology Specialist, NIFA

Art has served NIFA staff everyday since the agency's creation in 1994, and previously for the Cooperative State Research Service. Art is not only skilled and effective at keeping the computer systems of the organization operating, but he is also a problem solver. Art brings an unwavering, can-do attitude to customer service and will work every issue to completion. He has contributed to the information and presentational needs of the Committee of Administrative Support and enabled many employees to work from home by assisting them in linking their personal computers to NIFA systems. He was instrumental in the conversion to eForms and is still key in answering users' questions. Art also has provided continuous service and support to Lyris customers and has proven himself to be an excellent steward of NIFA finances when purchasing IT equipment. He contributed to the successful transitions to e-grants and other electronic management systems, improved daily communications among staff and with partners and customers, and created an environment in which employees adopt new computer systems knowing that their efforts will be support through Art's effective and positive assistance.


Alton Thompson, Interim Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Programs, North Carolina A&T State University

Prior to his current duties at North Carolina A&T State University, Alton served as dean of the School of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences and has been chairman of the Department of Agriculture Education, Economics, and Rural Sociology and Director of the university's Applied Survey Research Laboratory since 1996. For nearly 20 years, he has been an active partner with NIFA working on important 1890 programs, small farm issues, and diversity. He began his career as an assistant professor at Norfolk State University in 1981. He came to North Carolina A&T for the first time a year later, spending seven years in the Department of Agriculture Economics and Rural Sociology before going to North Carolina State University as an assistant professor. He returned to North Carolina A&T in 1001 as an adjunct associate professor. Alton is a member of the American Agricultural Economics Association; the Rural Sociological Society; the Southern Rural Sociological Association; and the National Agricultural, Research, Extension, Education, and Economics Advisory Board.


Dennis C. Unglesbee, Director of Applications for Information Systems and Technology Management, NIFA

Dennis is known and recognized throughout the NIFA and land-grant community as someone who can answer complex program questions rapidly and accurately. As Director of Applications, he manages a group of federal employees and contractors who are responsible for system and software development and maintenance for all NIFA information technology applications. Dennis's knowledge of the Current Research Information System borders on wizardry, and his colleagues in the agency and on university campuses often take advantage of his expertise. Over the years, he has saved people many hours of investigation and analysis by providing timely and thorough reports, often on virtually a moment's notice.


L. Benjamin Young, Jr., Assistant General Counsel and Director of the General Law Division, USDA

After graduation from the University of Virginia Law School, Benny chose to enter public service. He is an expert at contract law, including federal assistance law and regulation, federal government operations, and legislation. Benny's long-term work in guiding NIFA implementation of legislation, federal assistance regulations and guidelines, and administrative provisions is driven not only by his comprehensive knowledge of law, but also his fundamental understanding and interest in program goals and objectives. He has helped the agency to manage programs fairly and equitably, directed at providing science and education support within the purview of our controlling legislation. As a staff attorney in the USDA's Office of General Counsel, he supported the research, education, and extension agencies with day-to-day review, interpretation, and guidance for program implementation. In 1997 and 1998, he assisted NIFA in developing the Research Title of the Farm Bill, passed as separate legislation. In 2002, Benny was detailed to the Senate to serve as the USDA representative to assisting drafting the 2002 Farm Bill, and again in 2007 and 2008 he represented USDA as a trusted and skilled expert in countless congressional meetings across the spectrum of the 2008 Farm Bill.