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RIVER FALLS – Alumnus Victor Bekkum has been named the 2018 Wisconsin Distinguished Agriculturalist by the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences (CAFES) at UW-River Falls. Bekkum is a professor emeritus of agricultural engineering at Iowa State University. He was presented with the award by CAFES Dean Dale Gallenberg at the college’s 52nd Annual Scholarship and Awards Banquet April 19.

In front of 300 students, family members, donors, faculty and staff, Bekkum reflected on his career path and provided advice to current students.

“All you young people here are probably more worried about your grades, and whether you are getting an A, B or C…but it’s the people teaching you, working with you, who have the most influence on you whether you realize it or not,” he said.

Bekkum described how an uncle steered him to UW-River Falls. The late Marv Thompson, professor emeritus of agricultural education at UWRF, encouraged him to go on to get his Ph.D. Thompson introduced Bekkum to Thomas Hoerner a colleague at Iowa State University (ISU). After completing his Ph.D. at ISU, Bekkum joined their faculty and became a long-time colleague of Hoerner’s. It was Hoerner who nominated Bekkum for the Distinguished Agriculturalist Award.

As a youngster, Bekkum remembers helping the soil conservation technician stake out contour strips on his family farm in Vernon County. As an adult, he devoted himself to agricultural education, first as a high school teacher and then as a faculty member at ISU.

Over his 35-year career, he did much to help students grow and become leaders. He served as an FFA and student club adviser, developed the instructional materials resource center for the agricultural education department at UWRF, served as a supervisor for student teachers/interns and assumed state and national leadership roles with the FFA Ag Mechanics Career Development event.

Over the years, Bekkum received many awards for his efforts including being honored as a NACTA Teacher Fellow, receiving the Honorary American Farm Degree from the National FFA, the Distinguished Service Award from the Iowa FFA and the Outstanding Service Citation from the National Association of Agricultural Educators. His record of service continues in retirement. For the past decade, Bekkum has been a district director and office for the Wisconsin Retired Educators’ Association.

The Wisconsin Distinguished Agriculturalist Award was established in 1970 to recognize individuals who have provided leadership, service and other contributions to the broader agricultural community.

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