Swiger Award honors excellence in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

BLACKSBURG, Va., Aug. 11, 2006 – Carl Griffey of Roanoke, Va., and Linda Burcham of Riner, Va., received Andy Swiger Land-Grant Awards for their contributions to the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Virginia Tech. Established to reward creative achievement and commitment to the college, the award recognizes both a faculty and a staff member whose accomplishments in teaching, research, or Extension greatly benefit the agriculture industry and improve the quality of life for Virginians.

The college honored Griffey during the faculty and staff recognition luncheon and Burcham during the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Staff Association picnic. Both Griffey and Burcham received a plaque and a monetary award for their excellence.

Carl Griffey, professor of crop and soil environmental sciences, was honored for his program that addresses the reduced profitability caused by disease in the region’s small grains industry. Last year, Griffey released two varieties of wheat with genetic resistance to Fusarium head blight, a toxin-producing disease known as “scab.” His releases have also included a high gluten wheat variety with properties suitable for bread and baking products, which was previously unavailable in soft red wheat varieties grown in the region. Additionally, Griffey developed a comprehensive breeding program aimed at producing a reduced-fiber, “hullness,” variety of barley to reinvigorate the barley market in the region.

The impact of Griffey’s research on the agriculture industry is undeniable. “Farmers have planted at least 1.2 million acres of small grains with these varieties and will experience proven yield increases, quality improvements, and access to specialty markets that would not have existed without Dr. Griffey’s commitment and devotion to the Land Grant Mission,” said Steven Hodges, professor and head of the Department of Crop and Soil Environmental Sciences.

As the Communications Manager for Virginia Cooperative Extension, Burcham oversees the production of about 400 print and online publications each year. She works with Extension agents, specialists, and faculty members in the colleges of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Veterinary Medicine, and Natural Resources to deliver informational materials to Virginians across the commonwealth. In addition, she supports the College of Agriculture and Life Science’s strategic communication efforts through marketing, public relations, and Web development.

“She is instrumental in fostering our public education programs as she simplifies the process for faculty and helps them with any problems,” said James Riddell, assistant director of agriculture and natural resources for Virginia Cooperative Extension. “Linda is an exceptional employee who truly cares for her work and the people with whom she interacts.”

Generous contributions to the Andy Swiger Land-Grant Award Endowment make the annual recognition possible. “With others in the industry and university, we created these awards to keep the land-grant spirit alive by honoring the college’s outstanding faculty and staff member each year who most personify this spirit by serving the industry through making a real difference in the areas of food, agriculture, and biological sciences,” said Dean Emeritus Andy Swiger.

In addition to recognizing two college personnel each year, the endowment honors Swiger’s leadership and service in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Swiger, who began his Virginia Tech career in 1980 as head of the Department of Animal Science, was associate dean from 1986 to 1992 and dean from 1992 to 2003.

Ranked 11th in agricultural research expenditures by the National Science Foundation, Virginia Tech’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences offers students the opportunity to learn from some of the world’s leading agricultural scientists. The college’s comprehensive curriculum gives students a balanced education that ranges from food and fiber production to economics to human health. The college is a national leader in incorporating technology, biotechnology, computer applications, and other recent scientific advances into its teaching program.