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Meaders' Legacy Supporting Generations of Agriscience Students
Michigan Ag Connection - 11/30/2020

Some people carry a passion and commitment that results in a tremendous impact on the lives of the people around them. In the field of agricultural education, no one embodies this idea more than Dr. O. Donald Meaders.

Dr. Meaders, originally from Nebraska, came to Michigan State University to earn his PhD in agricultural education. In 1958, he stepped into an assistant professor role at MSU. During his time at MSU - from 1958 until 1990 - Dr. Meaders made a tremendous impact in Michigan and around the world in advancing the mission of agricultural education. With his passing in 2013, Dr. Meaders' legacy continues through the O. Donald and Martha Meaders Agriculture & Natural Resources Endowment Fund, supporting MSU students in their pursuit of agricultural education training.

During his tenure, Dr. Meaders served as an educator, researcher, and mentor to those pursuing agriculture educator careers. One such example is current MSU faculty member, Dr. Murari Suvedi, who met Dr. Meaders in Nepal in 1975, where Suvedi was a student in agricultural science education. This meeting sparked a life-long friendship. Suvedi completed his degree and was mentored and supported by Dr. Meaders, eventually coming to MSU in the 1980's as a graduate student to work with Dr. Meaders.

Suvedi says of Meaders, "Don was a professor who provided substantial leadership in the field of international agriculture and extension education. He was the founding member of the international association of agriculture and extension education and he offered an outstanding service to the profession."

Dr. Meaders' influence was truly global as he strove to improve agricultural education not just in Michigan, but countries all over the world.

"Don was very well known and respected internationally, especially in Nepal and Taiwan," says David Wyrick, Future Farmers of America (FFA) state executive secretary.

After his retirement, Dr. Meaders stayed active in agricultural education, volunteering in the international communities he worked with and mentoring young educators. In 2013 when Dr. Meaders' passed away, his wife Martha, who was a librarian at MSU for over 25 years, set up an endowment fund in his honor.

The O. Donald and Martha Meaders Agriculture & Natural Resources Endowment Fund was created to support students in the Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources Education (AFNRE) program during the fifth year where students complete their required student teaching for certification.

Wyrick says of the Meaders Endowment, "Martha and Donald were both strong advocates for agricultural Education and students. They created the endowment to support students preparing to become high school agriculture, food and natural resources teachers during their student teaching year. The endowment fund began as $30,000 and as a result of contributions from many, including additional major contributions from Martha, the fund has grown to over $100,000."

Currently, there aren't enough teachers to fill the open agriscience education jobs around the country, with hundreds of positions unfilled each year. The O. Donald and Martha Meaders Agriculture & Natural Resources Endowment Fund has been instrumental in supporting students pursing agricultural science education positions and maintaining robust agriscience programs. Since the fund's inception, 21 MSU students have received support to cover their tuition and expenses during their post-baccalaureate student teaching year.

Sadly, in March, Dr. Meaders' wife Martha passed away at the age of 97. The generosity in creating this fund is emblematic of what Dr. Meaders stood for: supporting students.

No doubt Dr. Meaders will continue to influence the next generation of agricultural educators. As two of his close colleagues from Community Sustainability sum up:

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