Alumni News

Posted: December 8, 2007

Outstanding Alumni and 2007 Distinguished Dairy Science Alumnus

Outstanding Alumni

Leslie Firth and Candace Croney were honored in October as Outstanding Alumni of the College.  Firth, who also was named the 2004 Penn State Animal Science Distinguished Alumnus, served for 37 years as a senior extension agent and county extension director for Penn State Cooperative Extension in Mercer County.  Firth, who received his bachelor's degree in 1958 and master's degree in 1961, also pioneered the Pennsylvania Dairy Management and Profitability Program from 1990 to 1996 and worked as an extension agricultural economist in Poland on a Polish-American extension project.   Candace Croney, associate professor of animal science at Oregon State University, was awarded the Outstanding New Professor Award from the College of Agricultural Sciences at Oregon State in 2003. That same year, she was also a recipient of the Humane Society of the United States Animals and Society Teaching Award. Croney earned her master's and doctoral degrees in animal sciences from Penn State after completing her undergraduate education at Cook College of Rutgers University. While a student at Penn State, Croney worked as a graduate research assistant for the Department of Dairy and Animal Science.

2007 Distinguished Dairy Science Alumnus

Walter Wurster, class of 1956, Dairy Farmer and Educator, was honored in November during the Nittany Lion Fall Classic as the 2007 Distinguished Dairy Science Alumnus.  Walter B. Wurster, a retired dairy farmer and Chester County Extension Agent, was named the 2007 Penn State DAS Dairy Science Distinguished Alumnus. A 1956 dairy science graduate, Wurster was recognized at the Nittany Lion Fall Classic on November 10.

Although he was born and raised in South Philadelphia, the son of a candy maker, Wurster chose to study dairy science at Penn State. While there, he was inducted into Phi Eta Sigma, freshman honorary; The Coaly Society; and Phi Kappa Phi. He was a member of Delta Theta Sigma fraternity, the 1954 Dairy Judging Team and Penn State Farmer magazine. In 1954 he was Reserve Champion Fitter of the Dairy Expo. At his graduation, he was a Student Marshall for the College of Agriculture, and had earned a commission in the Army and the Distinguished Military Student Award. Upon his discharge from the Army, he worked at the Herb Gans Farm and as a herdsman at Ardrossan Farms.

By 1958 he rented his father-in-law's farm in Collegeville, and under his tutelage, Wurster learned the practical knowledge needed to operate a farm. He and his wife Nancy purchased a 132-acre farm in Bedminster Twp., Bucks County - Holly Hill Farm. Over the next 28 years, he increased the herd from 40 Registered Ayrshires to 120 Registered Holsteins and farmed 300 acres. The herd had top production, 4-H show champions and registered cattle sales.

His sons, David (Ag Ec '80) and Tom (Ag Eng '85) were involved with the farm at an early age, and David took over the farming operation in 1988.

Active in the PA Farmers Association, Wurster was a state director and treasurer for the PA Holstein Association. He was named a Master Farmer in 1984. He worked for seven years as a Penn State Extension Agent in Chester County with responsibilities in dairy, agronomy, water quality and 4-H, and he was superintendent of the PA Junior Dairy Management Contest for seven years.  When Chester County faced reassessment, Wurster developed a computer program that placed an agricultural value on each individual soil type in the county to create a farm's assessment under the Clean and Green Act. Upon its implementation by the county, the calculations protected farmland from huge tax increases based on development value. In 1996, he placed his own farm in the PA Farmland Preservation program and sold it to a local farmer so it remains an active dairy farm.

Always a community leader, he worked to secure tax relief for Bucks County farmers in the early 1970's under Act 515. In 1979 he was elected to the Pennridge School Board and served 16 years - four years as President. He was on the local technical school board of directors for 15 years. As 4-H leaders, he and his wife led the Unami 4-H Club that grew to 125 youth over an eight-year period.

Currently, Wurster serves as treasurer for the Philadelphia Society for Promoting Agriculture, the oldest agricultural society in America, founded in 1785.

After his wife Nancy died in 1989, he married Jean Phillips and today they enjoy spending time with their nine grandchildren, delivering Meals on Wheels, volunteering at the Dublin Fire Co. and traveling. Still busy, he serves on the township zoning board, is an election official and helps his son who owns and operates the Dublin Agway store.