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Ron Sholar, Tommy Kramer named 2012 OSU Distinguished Ag Alumni

Sholar embodied the land-grant mission of making the world a better place in which to live. Kramer has served as Durant’s first and only economic development director for 14 years. The OSU Distinguished Agriculture Alumnus Award is presented annually by the university’s Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources.

Ron Sholar and Tommy Kramer have been named 2012 Distinguished Ag Alumni for Oklahoma State University.

For Sholar, his commitment to security has never been less than a 100 percent all-in endeavor, be it the nation’s food supply or America’s military responsibilities.

“As both an alumnus of and longtime faculty member with the OSU Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources,  Sholar embodied the land-grant mission of making the world a better place in which to live,” said Mike D. Woods, DASNR interim vice president, dean and director. “He is truly deserving of this award, our highest honor for alumni.”

Sholar earned his Master of Science degree in agronomy and doctoral degree in crop science at OSU in 1973 and 1984, respectively. He earned his Bachelor of Science degree in agricultural science at the University of Tennessee at Martin in 1971.

“Growing up, I had a real passion for agriculture and knew I wanted to make that part of my career,” Sholar said. “During my three decades as an OSU Cooperative Extension crop specialist, I was fortunate to have the opportunities to provide practical ways by which producers could use the latest scientific advances to solve issues and concerns of importance to them and their operations, and by extension, enhance the quality of life for their families and communities.”

He joined the faculty of OSU’s Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources in 1975, starting as an Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service area agronomist in Muskogee. He moved to the university’s Stillwater campus in 1978, serving within the division’s department of agronomy and working extensively with peanut and soybean producers, as well as related agribusinesses and public and private organizations.

“From the time that I first met our local county agent in rural Tennessee, I knew that I wanted to work in agricultural extension,” Sholar said. “I never really wavered from that plan and I am still happy with that decision. I thought it was a really important calling to service, to help farmers with their operations as they did the hard work of providing food for a hungry nation and world.”

It was the same commitment to service that led to Sholar’s 39 years of active and reserve military service, where he eventually rose to the rank of major general. His last assignment was the position of deputy commanding general of the U.S. Army Reserve Command and its 206,000 citizen-soldiers.

He is a graduate of the U.S. Army War College and is a recipient of the Army Distinguished Service Medal. His military duties included five trips to Iraq, as well as Afghanistan and a number of other countries.

Sholar has held a variety of leadership positions within the military prior to his retirement in May of 2010, and often speaks about the contributions of today’s citizen soldiers as “making a difference, both at home and around the world.”

“Military service is about the sense of fulfillment in knowing we serve with honor; we do our job and we accomplish the mission assigned to us,” Sholar said. “We support combat soldiers but also apply civilian skills that are not necessarily part of our active duty force, from something as straightforward as drilling a desperately-needed local water well to activities as complicated as assisting in the establishment of public service institutions.”

Today, Sholar serves as executive director of the Oklahoma Oilseed Commission, assisting state growers to enhance and expand their industry, and as executive director of the Great Plains Canola Association.

“It’s an exciting time,” he said. “Oilseed crops represent a new industry that has the potential to diversify and strengthen Oklahoma agriculture, which provides many billions of dollars annually to the state economy.”

Sholar's wife, Linda, is a retired teacher in the Stillwater school system where she taught for many years.

“My wife has a legion of loyal and appreciative former students and parents, and she has been my partner in everything I have done,” he said. “Coming from a farm herself, she knows the challenges of farm families and has always supported my work in agriculture. Linda being an Army wife for almost 40 years led her to develop real compassion for military families and their struggles. She has worked hard to make things better for them.”

Tommy Kramer

Joining Sholar as a recipient of the 2012 OSU Distinguished Agriculture Alumnus Award is Tommy Kramer, executive director of the Durant Industrial Authority.

Improved community prosperity through teamwork and economic diversification has proven to be a successful stance of Durant’s Tommy Kramer.

Kramer – who earned his Master of Science degree in animal science from OSU in 1976 – has served as Durant’s first and only economic development director for 14 years. In that time, he has been instrumental in the recruitment, development and retention of more than $600 million in business investments and the creation of approximately 5,000 new jobs to the community.

He has been equally dedicated to strengthening existing businesses, serving as a liaison between the Oklahoma Department of Commerce and the State of Oklahoma Career Tech program to acquire several million dollars in funds for local employee training and development projects.

“Tommy is a leader and an asset to Oklahoma; quite literally, Durant and southeastern Oklahoma have been changed for the good because of him,” said Roy Escoubas, director of the Robert M. Kerr Food and Agricultural Products Center at OSU. “We certainly benefit from having him on our industry advisory committee because of his experience, insights and leadership.”

Governor Brad Henry appointed Kramer to the FAPC industry advisory committee in 2006, in part to help ensure FAPC programs continue to target key issues and concerns of Oklahoma’s economic development sector.

“If you do not create industrial business development, your housing market will not be in a progressive state and your retail and commercial development will suffer,” Kramer said. “Job growth leads to greater opportunities that not only strengthen the personal per capita income of households, it improves everyone’s quality of life by making available funds for municipal services such as police and fire protection, improved water and sewer infrastructure, street improvements and the like. There is a very real multiplier effect.”

His success in promoting economic development for Durant has earned him state, national and international recognition, including being named an Advanced Degree Graduate of Distinction by the OSU Department of Animal Science in 2009. He was named the Oklahoma Economic Development Professionals Council Oklahoma Economic Development Professional of the Year in 2003.

Kramer credits much of his success to being part of TEAM DURANT, a united effort of local citizens and community leaders working to improve the quality of life for every resident of Durant.

“The Durant Industrial Authority has a seven-member board of directors,” he said. “We have a 25-member economic development council. Team development is necessary to create a higher social level in the community, which has given us a pro-business and professional standard that we have built on year after year, leading to our successes.”

Prior to assuming his current position, Kramer served for five years as a professor at Eastern Oklahoma State College, 10 years as the plant production manager for Owens Country Sausage in Richardson, Texas, and 10 years as vice president of J.C. Potter Sausage Company in Durant.

His wife, Barbara, taught second grade at Durant’s Washington Irving Elementary School for more than 28 years, retiring in May of 2009. His daughters Amy and Kim are both OSU alumni, having graduated in 2001 and 2004, respectively.

The OSU Distinguished Agriculture Alumnus Award is presented annually by the university’s Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, which is comprised of the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources and two state agencies: the Oklahoma Agricultural Experiment Station system and Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service.

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