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North American Dairy Challenge Honors Larry Muller with Founders Award

Posted: November 15, 2018

Award was presented posthumously at the Dairy Cattle Nutrition Conference held in Pennsylvania.

As a professor and advisor in Penn State's Department of Animal Science, Dr. Lawrence D. Muller (1941-2018) was a passionate believer in creating opportunities for students to learn and grow. In recognition of his influence in founding and supporting the North American Dairy Challenge (NAIDC) the 2018 Founders Award was presented at the Penn State Dairy Cattle Nutrition Workshop held earlier this month in Pennsylvania to Dr. Lisa Holden who accepted it on behalf of his family and colleagues.

In presenting the plaque to Dr. Holden, Mark McCullouch, dairy technical specialist with Phibro Animal Health Corporation, said, "Larry was a cornerstone in building the foundation for Dairy Challenge and a tremendous advocate for Dairy Challenge."

A loyal supporter, Muller enthusiastically promoted the program, always pointing out the value to students in preparing them to enter the workforce. "Larry helped build the concept of an intercollegiate dairy management competition that was based on the examination of all aspects of a dairy business, into a program that is highly recognized in the industry as the premier event to increase students' knowledge and comprehension of dairy business management and thereby promote a strong future for the dairy industry."

The award was created in 2016 to recognize those with extraordinary, consistent contributions and/or distinguished service to NAIDC. The many volunteers who have contributed to its establishment and growth have made it into a premier educational event.

Muller's contributions were also recognized at the Northeast Regional Dairy Challenge last week in Vermont, with Dr. Holden reading the citation for the award.

As advisor to the Penn State Dairy Science Club, Muller coached the students who traveled to the first national contest held at Michigan State in 2002. He joined the national board in 2003, hosted national contests in Pennsylvania in 2005 and 2005 and served as national board chair from 2007-2009.

In promoting the value of the contest, Muller wrote a paper titled, Dairy Education: Dairy Production, noting, "Prior to the development of Dairy Challenge, few students were exposed to actual farm business evaluations and industry related programs. This program, although focused on students and teaching, with team building skills has had a similar impact on the educational institutions and agribusinesses because it has forced them to re-evaluate how they approach farms and farm businesses."

Muller grew up on a farm in Washington, IL and earned his B.S. and M.S. degrees in Dairy Science from the University of Illinois and his Ph.D. in Animal Science from Purdue University. He joined the faculty at Penn State in 1976.

Coleen Jones, a Penn State Research Associate who worked with Larry in the early days of the Dairy Challenge and is now data manager for the contest, recalls that Larry was always an ardent promoter of the contest's value. "He believed in the vision that the founders had set for encouraging students to work as a team to evaluate all aspects of a dairy and the opportunities that the contest provided for students to get real-world experience as well as amazing networking opportunities with the contest sponsors. He was as big a supporter of Dairy Challenge as you'll find anywhere. He wanted the contest to succeed so that as many students as possible could experience it, and he worked tirelessly to secure funds and develop the program to ensure that it would."

Lisa Holden, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Dairy Science in Penn State's Department of Animal Science, leads the coaching team that prepares students for the contest. She said, "The very strong foundation which Larry established for Dairy Challenge enables us to build upon his enthusiasm and the support he created in the early years. This unique experience continues to be extremely valuable in preparing students to be effective leaders in the dairy industry after graduation."

When he retired from the Board, Muller said, "It becomes clearer that the NAIDC is an important and essential program for the future Dairy Industry." 

The 2018 Dairy Challenge Founders Award is a tribute to this lasting legacy.

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About Dairy Challenge

NAIDC is an innovative event for students in dairy programs at North American post-secondary institutions. Its mission is to develop tomorrow's dairy leaders and enhance progress of the dairy industry, by providing education, communication and networking among students, producers, and agribusiness and university personnel. Over its 17-year national history, Dairy Challenge has helped prepare more than 5,000 students for careers as farm owners and managers, consultants, researchers, veterinarians or other dairy professionals. For more information visit  www.dairychallenge.org.