2007 Award of Distinction Recipients

Kirvin L. Knox

UC Davis alumnus Kirvin L. Knox led a distinguished career at two land grants

Kirvin L. Knox, now retired from a distinguished career as a teacher, scientist, and administrator at two land-grant universities, is being honored among “Outstanding Alumni” with a 2007 CA&ES Award of Distinction.

He is noted for bolstering agriculture programs at the University of Connecticut (UConn) and at Colorado State University (CSU) and his commitment to the health and prosperity of rural America through his efforts with commodity groups, the Farm Credit System, and farmers, ranchers, and workers.

He lived his first 10 years on a share-cropping dry-land farm in Oklahoma until 1947, when his family moved to the San Joaquin Valley and became dairy farmers. He participated in both 4-H and FFA and attended Modesto Junior College, majoring in agriculture, then Fresno State College, earning a B.S. in agriculture in 1958. Kirvin earned his M.S. in animal nutrition from CSU in 1958 and then became a UC Davis doctoral student in nutrition under professors Max Kleiber and Art Black, who described him as one of his top graduate students. He completed his Ph.D. degree in 1964.

In 1964, Kirvin began his career in animal science as a professor at CSU and later became the director of the CSU metabolic laboratory. In 1972 he moved to the University of Connecticut (UConn) as professor and head of the Department of Nutritional Sciences. Later he served as dean in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. After 20 years he retired from UConn and returned to CSU as vice provost for Agriculture and University Outreach and dean, College of Agricultural Sciences. He has more than 50 published scientific papers and has held leadership positions in international organizations, distance education organizations and also consulted in Italy (FAO), India (USAID), Switzerland (WHO), and Pakistan (USAID). He has received many awards, citations and recognitions and recently was elected to the Colorado Agriculture Hall of Fame and named the Educator of the Century by the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union.

“Kirvin was a visionary, fair leader who had high expectations of his faculty,” said Lindsay Allen, a former UConn colleague and now director of the USDA/ARS Western Human Nutrition Research Center at UC Davis. “He has forwarded the cause of both academic excellence and community outreach in ways that have benefited American agriculture in a major way.”


Dennis Gonsalves

Outstanding alumnus Dennis Gonsalves helped save Hawaii’s papaya industry

Dennis Gonsalves, director of the ARS-USDA Pacific Basin Agricultural Research Center (PBARC) in Hilo, Hawaii, is held in high regard by colleagues past and present for his inspirational leadership abilities. Gonsalves, a 1972 UC Davis graduate with a Ph.D. in plant pathology, is being honored among "Outstanding Alumni" with a 2007 CA&ES Award of Distinction.

Gonsalves led a successful effort to develop and commercialize the first genetically engineered fruit crop, papaya, that literally saved the $47 million papaya industry in Hawaii. He previously was the Liberty Hyde Bailey Professor of Plant Pathology at Cornell University. Gonsalves trained 19 Ph.D. scientists, published 290 research papers, and holds 24 patents. His basic research on mechanisms of virus infection and strategies for developing plants resistant to devastating virus diseases has been seamlessly transferred to agricultural crops with dramatic results. With the support of USAID, he helped develop locally adapted papaya varieties for Venezuela, Jamaica, Brazil, Africa, and Bangladesh.

Dr. Gonsalves has received numerous awards over the course of his career. He received the Lee Hutchison Award for accomplishments in research, mentoring, and outreach to developing countries, is an elected fellow of the American Phytopathological Society, and received the prestigious Alexander von Humboldt Award in 2002 for his papaya research. The latter award is presented annually to the person who has made the most significant contribution to American agriculture during the previous five years. Gonsalves is also distinguished for promoting market access to and international acceptance of the products of biotechnology by the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service and was inducted into the ARS Science Hall of Fame.

“I marvel not so much at Dennis’ ability to master the technology, but rather at his ability to lead and inspire, and his willingness to share so much of his success with those of us who contributed much less proportionately,” said Stephen Ferreira, a plant pathology specialist at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. “His ability to stay positive and focus is a great strength. He is the glue that brought structure and stability to the project. Yet despite all the success, he remains the humble and unassuming person I first met more than 25 years ago.”


Karen Ross

Karen Ross honored as “friend of the college” for work on behalf of the wine industry

Karen Ross, president of the California Association of Winegrape Growers (CAWG), is an innovative industry leader with a reputation for positive change that extends throughout the state’s agricultural policymaking and higher education communities. She is being honored as a “Friend of the College” with a 2007 CA&ES Award of Distinction.

Karen represents California winegrape growers before the state legislature, government agencies, and in the news media. She is proud of her many UC Davis collaborations, including efforts to create education opportunities for the grower community to learn about sustainable agriculture practices, air and water quality issues, and climate change impacts. She has served on important committees to select key agriculture faculty; is a member of the CA&ES Dean’s Advisory Council; is an associate fellow to the Board of Visitors and Fellows in the UC Davis Department of Viticulture and Enology; and is a member of a stakeholder committee selecting a new UC Vice President for Agriculture and Natural Resources.

Under Ross’ leadership, CAWG created a code of environmental and social values – the Sustainable Winegrowing Program. Other commodity groups have followed suit with similar programs. Last year CAWG and the Wine Institute commissioned a report that underscored the economic contributions of the wine and winegrape industries – $51.8 billion in California and $103 billion nationally. Ross was also instrumental in the formation of the National Grape and Wine Initiative, an organization seeking federal funding for research and outreach in grapes and wine. She has many other public service affiliations, such as the Agricultural Education Foundation and the California State Board of Food and Agriculture. She is a member of California Women for Agriculture, and Women for WineSense.

"Karen is an excellent sounding board for what issues are on the minds of growers and the kinds of research and education needs that would most impact their efforts to stay competitive in what has become a global wine business,” said Jim Wolpert, former chair of the Department of Viticulture and Enology. “The department wanted to recognize her for her leadership both in California and nationally."


Jerome Lohr

Wine industry pioneer Jerry Lohr honored as a “friend of the college”

Jerome J. (Jerry) Lohr, founder and president of J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines, is widely respected for his pioneering efforts in the California wine industry and long support of the UC Davis Department of Viticulture and Enology. He is being honored as a “Friend of the College” with a 2007 CA&ES Award of Distinction.

Lohr is an active member of the Trellis Alliance and the department’s Board of Visitors and Fellows, and supports outreach efforts such as the annual RAVE conference for the wine industry. He brings his knowledge, skills, and education as an engineer and builder of his own winery to assist in the design and planning of a new campus winery. Lohr is also an active supporter of the UC Davis Heritage Vineyard and Oakville Research Center in the Napa Valley.

Since the founding of his first vineyard in the Arroyo Seco appellation of Monterey County in 1971, Lohr has worked to develop the rich potential of the region. He was among the first to explore the untapped promise of Paso Robles, where J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines’ acclaimed red wine program is based. His leadership posts include director and chair of the Wine Institute, founding director and four-time president of the Monterey Vintners and Growers Association, and director and chair of the marketing committee for the Paso Robles Vintners and Growers Association. Additionally, Lohr was a co-founder of Wine Vision, a strategic planning initiative to expand the global market for U.S. wine. Today, he oversees an estate program that includes vineyards in the Arroyo Seco region of Monterey County, Paso Robles, and St. Helena in Napa Valley.

“Jerry Lohr has given richly of his time and talent to our department and campus,” said Andy Waterhouse, interim chair of the UC Davis Department of Viticulture and Enology. “His leadership has made a tremendous impact and the knowledge and perspective he brings is invaluable. He spends much time traveling from his home and winery in Paso Robles to attend campus meetings. It has been a pleasure to get to know both Jerry and his wife, Carol. Their support and friendship are tremendous.”



Caitlin O'Connell 

Young alumnus Caitlin O’Connell noted for discovery in work on elephants

Caitlin O’Connell, a 2000 UC Davis graduate with a Ph.D. in ecology, rocked the scientific world more than a decade ago with her groundbreaking discovery that elephants “listen” to vibrations in the ground as well as sounds that travel through air and water. She is being honored among “Outstanding Young Alumni” with a 2007 CA&ES Award of Distinction.

She helped Namibian subsistence farmers develop effective methods to scare off elephants from raiding fields and destroying crops. She also founded a nonprofit organization (Utopia Scientific) to fund elephant research and created a documentary film company (Triple Helix Productions). She is currently an assistant professor and research associate with the Stanford University School of Medicine, Department of Otolaryngology.

Dr. O’Connell’s sensory perception discovery has extraordinary potential for application in many fields, including behavioral biology and ecology, seismic monitoring, and auditory science. She has more than 20 refereed journal articles in her brief career. “The quality and range of her publications is very impressive,” said UC Davis environmental science and policy Professor Mark Schwartz, her award nominator. Her work has spawned a new generation of scientists studying seismic communication in other terrestrial animals. Caitlin’s innovative work has been featured in a wide range of public media, including National Public Radio, the New York Times, the Economist, Science News and the Discovery Channel. She is also an excellent communicator, presenting to a wide range of audiences in an engaging, informative and well-pitched manner. She has a strong ability for diplomacy, an essential quality for successful work with colleagues and tribes in Africa.

“Caitlin is truly exceptional in the range of abilities she brings to every new situation, quickly sorting through the challenges involved in dealing with new technology, cultures, and concepts,” said Lynette Hart, UC Davis professor in the School of Veterinary Medicine, Department of Population Health and Reproduction. “Combined with a sharp acumen, she brings clarity to her goals. She remains undaunted and optimistic through late nights or whatever hard slogging is required for a project. She sets a high standard for whatever she does.”


Kent Bradford

Outstanding faculty member Kent Bradford exemplifies leadership in seed biology

Plant sciences Professor Kent Bradford is one of the hardest working faculty members on campus, motivated by a desire to be of service, and an exceptional scholar in seed biology. He is being honored as “Outstanding Faculty” with a 2007 CA&ES Award of Distinction.

Professor Bradford was the driving force behind the UC Davis Seed Biotechnology Center, established in 1999 to facilitate interaction between the seed industry and the university. He helped raise more than $1.2 million in capital funds and nearly $400,000 in operational support to launch the vibrant, vital center. Bradford correctly predicted that the biology and economics of many biotechnologies would converge in the seed – a multipurpose delivery system for agricultural technology. Bradford is also largely responsible for obtaining funding for the R.M. Parsons Foundation Plant Transformation Facility.

He is an innovative professor who has mentored 13 master’s students and 10 doctoral students, and supervised another 13 postdoctoral research associates. Bradford has held numerous posts within the campus community, including five years as vegetable crops chair and participation on 40 departmental committees since 1989. His publication record includes more than 135 peer-reviewed manuscripts or book chapters, 100 published abstracts, and 290 reports, presentations, and invited seminars. His research contributions have significantly increased the understanding of seed biology for important crops such as tomatoes, melons, lettuce, peas, beans, rice, broccoli, peppers, and carrots. He was a Fulbright scholar in Argentina from 1998 to 1999. In 2002 he received the Seed Science Award from the Crop Science Society of America for his continuous high-quality research. He is active in a number of professional societies and serves in editorial roles for research journals like Crop Science and California Agriculture. In 2003, Dr. Bradford, was selected as a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

“He is an exceptional leader, among the brightest of the stars within the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, as well as the entire University of California system,” said colleague Joseph DiTomaso, a Cooperative Extension specialist in plant sciences. “Despite all of his accomplishments and his busy schedule, he always seems to have time to help or advise others, including faculty, and graduate and undergraduate students.”


Jerry Nishimoto

A legend in computer support retires from Agricultural and Resource Economics

Jerry Nishimoto, retiring after 35 years as the lead computer support staff member in the UC Davis Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics (ARE), has created a legion of grateful graduate students, professors and specialists, and fellow staff members with his extraordinary talent in information technology management. He is being honored as “Outstanding Staff” with a 2007 CA&ES Award of Distinction.

In their joint nomination statement, five former department chairs recount how their jobs “would have been impossible to perform without Jerry’s tireless, exemplary service.” Always a step ahead of the information technology curve, Nishimoto created the blueprint for other parts of the campus to follow. He is credited with deftly moving his department from an era of mimeographs and mainframe computers to today’s decentralized desktop environment. He was one of the first to wire together the computing resources of two separate buildings with an Ethernet line so faculty in both locations could connect to department servers while faculty in other departments were still using dial-up modems. The department was also one of the first to build its own e-mail server for faster, more dependable service.

Nishimoto has a rare ability to calm the frayed nerves of the many individuals struggling to crunch numbers, retrieve data, and configure customized computer setups. Like a comforting old-fashioned doctor making house calls, he would help faculty members get home computers up and running on short notice. According to the faculty, the department’s expansion of computing capability and its use in making economics more quantitative has been the single most important development in the field of agricultural resource economics in the past 30 years. The department, among the best in the world, could not have maintained its national and international stature without Jerry Nishimoto’s guiding hand during the revolution in computing.

“Jerry Nishimoto is the consummate professional and dedicated public servant,” his faculty nominators said. “He leaves behind thousands who have benefited from his wisdom, knowledge, guidance, teaching, and calm professionalism. The ranks of those touched by Jerry Nishimoto’s work include faculty and generations of ARE graduate students and in turn those who have benefited from what ARE has accomplished. It would not have been possible without Jerry’s work.”