Leadership Of Ag Technology Program Retires As Program Founder Retires

BLACKSBURG, Va., Sept. 22, 2003 – Stephen C. Nickerson, head of Virginia Tech's department of dairy science, has taken over the leadership of the university Agricultural Technology program, filling the void left by the retirement of John R. Crunkilton.

Crunkilton, an associate dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and associate director of the college's academic programs, established the two-year program in 1987 to fill a need in Virginia's agriculture industry for mid-level managers. More than 550 students have graduated from the program in its 15 years of existence. The program leads to an associate of agriculture degree, a practical option for students who desire an agricultural career but do not wish to complete a four-year program.

Crunkilton retired this summer after 34 years with Virginia Tech. In addition to developing the two-year program, Crunkilton also widened the college's international academic programs and completed two Fulbright Scholarship awards overseas. He also served as interim dean of the former College of Education before joining the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

Nickerson has been head of the department of dairy science since Aug. 1, 2001. He will continue as department head as he also takes on leadership of the Ag Tech program.

"This has been a learning experience for me," Nickerson said. "I certainly knew about the program before, but I really didn't have any dealings with it until now. I've found that it's a tremendous program that fills a niche for students who don't want a four-year degree but who need technical experience."

Class instruction has evolved from an animal- and crop-production curriculum to a specialized program with four areas of study: landscape and turf management, animal agriculture, agricultural business and crop production.

The college added a special program in urban pest management within the agribusiness emphasis at the request of the state's pest management industry.

Nickerson credited Crunkilton with building a strong program that meets the needs of students and the needs of Virginia's agriculture industry.

"John really built a reputation for this program," Nickerson said. "He was able to develop a program that not only supports the industry, but which the industry supports in terms of recruitment of students and the placement of graduates."