Alumni Medallion: Association's highest award presented to three alumni at Commencement

Posted July 01, 1999

An entomologist, a veterinary cancer researcher and a cattleman were recipients of the Alumni Medallion Award, the most prestigious honor bestowed by the K-State Alumni Association. Presentations were made during 1999 Commencement exercises on May 14-15.

Perry Adkisson, College Station, Texas; Dr. Edward Gillett, Fort Collins, Colo.; and Jack Vanier, Brookville, Kan., were recognized for humanitarian service and lifelong achievements. Vanier was in the class of 1951, and Adkisson and Gillett were class of 1956 members.

They join 45 other alumni who have received the Alumni Medallion. 

Nominees are selected for outstanding work in their chosen fields; significant contributions to their community, state or nation; and humanitarian service to society, said Jodi McGatlin '90, director of alumni programs and Medallion program coordinator.

An anonymous selection committee made up of alumni and university faculty makes the selection.

Perry Adkisson
After earning a doctorate in entomology from K-State, Perry L. Adkisson developed and implemented integrated pest management programs in the United States and worldwide through the United Nations. His research prevented the release of hundreds of tons of insecticide into the environment.

His 40-year tenure as a scientist and university administrator culminated with his appointment as chancellor of the Texas A&M University System.

Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Norman Borlaug honored Adkisson and his research colleague at the University of California Berkeley, Ray F. Smith, with the 1997 World Food Prize for their work in integrated pest management.

Borlaug, as chairman of the committee selecting Adkisson and Smith for the Food Prize, said, "Their steadfast efforts, spanning half a century, have moved the world away from chemically-dependent approaches to pest control toward more sensible and sustainable practices."

Adkisson's vision, Borlaug said, "helped the world feed itself in ways that are ecologically sound, environmentally friendly, economically beneficial and healthier."

Adkisson traveled to many countries to inform people about increasing crop yields, reducing production costs and improving the environment through integrated pest management.

A native of Arkansas, Adkisson paired his research with a teaching and service career in higher education. After a brief appointment as an assistant professor at the University of Missouri, he joined the Texas A&M entomology faculty in 1958 and advance to full professor in 1963. For more than a dozen years he was head of the entomology department. Adkisson became the school's vice president for agriculture and renewable resources, then deputy chancellor.

After his promotion to chancellor of the Texas A&M University System in 1986, Adkisson was responsible for eight universities, 64,000 students, 28,000 employees and a $1 billion budget. Upon his retirement from system duties in 1990, he continued with Texas A&M as executive director of the George Bush Presidential Library Center until 1993, when he resumed his faculty position as distinguished professor of entomology.

Dr. Edward Gillette
Dr. Edward Gillette's pioneering research in animal cancer at Colorado State University has had significant impact on the study of human cancer. Much of his work since the 1960s has been directed toward providing cancer research information to the human medical profession.

Raised in Coffeyville, Kan., and earning a bachelor's and veterinary degrees from K-State, Gillette established a comparative oncology program to use naturally occurring tumors in companion animals, such as dogs and cats, as models for human cancer treatment. He also provided guidelines for normal tissue tolerance to radiation therapy.

Joining the CSU veterinary faculty in 1959, Gillette advanced in academic rank and served nearly 10 years as chairman of the Department of Radiological Health Sciences in the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. In 1997-1998 he was the college's associate dean of research.

Gillette formed the comparative cancer research program at CSU in 1974 and has directed the program ever since. The National Cancer Institute and the American Cancer Society have invested more than $25 million in his research. He has had more than 100 scientific publications from his work and guided the work of 25 doctoral candidates in the program. Many of these students say Gillette's enthusiasm for science was contagious, and he inspired many future scientists to follow in this field of cancer research.

A pivotal experience in Gillette's career was in 1968-1969 when he was a visiting scientist at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center at the University of Texas. He learned the latest method of radiobiologic techniques of the time. He made many contacts in the medical profession that enhanced the transfer of his animal research into the medical field.

His service to the profession included being president of both the American College of Veterinary Radiology and the Veterinary Cancer Society. Gillette was voted in the National Academies of Practice, an organization parallel to the National Academy of Sciences.

Gillette has four adult children. He is married to Dr. Sharon McChesney Gillette.

Jack Vanier
Jack Vanier, Brookville, Kansas, is an international leader in the livestock industry, owner of Western Star Ag Resources, and a respected humanitarian and philanthropist.

He leads CK Ranch, which is considered one of the premier registered Horned Hereford herds in the world. For three generations the Vaniers have developed one of the oldest and most respected registered Hereford lines in the country. Their livestock have been used in developing herds around the world.

A major impact CK Ranch had on the livestock industry was helping eliminate the dwarfism defect that plagued this breed of cattle. Vanier accomplished this through selective breeding that took more than a year to obtain test results. This method compares with modern DNA testing that often takes minutes to obtain results.

Among his long list of board positions, offices and community service. He served on the Alumni Association board of directors 1975-78. Vanier was president of the Kansas Livestock Assn. and the American Hereford Assn., and a National Cattleman's Assn. director.

Vanier was also instrumental in the family's Gooch Milling Co., until it was sold to Archer Daniels Midland in 1970. The company was noted for its pastas, flour and various lines of milled animal feeds. He has been on the board of directors of ADM since 1978.

He is described as "an unassuming, humble, quiet man," "a sincere individual," "someone who prefers to wear Levi's or khakis to a business suit." Yet Vanier has distinguished himself as a humanitarian and philanthropist, supporting various arts programs, underprivileged children and youth programs, health-related institutions and many colleges and universities.

He and his wife, Donna Lindsey Vanier, have three children who attended K-State: Dr. Martha Vanier '79, '81, John Vanier '81 and Mary Vanier '89. Nominators said he has a professed passion for K-State and all things "purple." Consequently, Vanier has supported the Colleges of Agriculture and Veterinary Medicine, the Basic Cancer Research Center, Beach Museum of Art and K-State athletics. The football complex is named for the Vaniers.

"From my perspective, he has a sense that the family has been fortunate to be the recipient of many advantages," daughter Martha Vanier said. "He has a strong sense of caring and obligation to return those benefits and help others."