Two Purdue Extension county educators with 83 years of combined service are the 2014 co-recipients of the Frederick L. Hovde Award of Excellence in Education Service to the Rural People of Indiana.
Mary Ann Lienhart-Cross, health and human sciences educator in Elkhart County, and Lonnie Mason, agriculture and natural resources educator in Jefferson County, received the award Dec. 12 at the Indiana Farm Bureau convention in French Lick. The award honors Purdue University staff with a record of outstanding achievement and service to rural communities.
"Mary Ann and Lonnie have devoted their careers to Purdue Extension and the communities they serve," said Jay Akridge, Glenn W. Sample Dean of Purdue Agriculture. "Both give selflessly of their time and expertise to help others. They are leaders in their profession and mentors to new Extension educators."
The Hovde Award is sponsored by Indiana Farm Bureau and carries with it a monetary prize. It is named for Purdue's longest-serving president, who led the university from 1946 to 1971.
Lienhart-Cross, a Purdue Extension educator for 38 years, has created and implemented thousands of educational programs on a wide range of topics. Programs are often initiated after listening to local residents talk about their needs. It was through this approach that she learned of a desire for financial management education. She then worked with others in Purdue Extension to develop "Where Does Your Money Go?," a nationally recognized financial management program now taught in 28 states.
She was also instrumental in starting the Midwest Women in Agriculture Conference, which provides educational programming and networking opportunities for women in agriculture.
Chris Gillam, Purdue Extension Northwest District director, said, "Mary Ann is one of the most energetic, enthusiastic and forward-thinking educators in Indiana. She is constantly looking for new program ideas and ways to reach diverse and underserved audiences."
In addition to her role as an HHS educator, Lienhart-Cross is county Extension director for Elkhart County. She attends county government meetings to promote the economic impact of local agriculture and Extension programs and serves on the advisory board of the Elkhart County Quilt Gardens program, an international tourist attraction. She also co-led the county's 4-H Goat Club for 25 years.
Mason started his Extension career in 1969 after graduating from Purdue. He has held educator positions in Jefferson, Ohio and Switzerland counties. In addition to agriculture and natural resources, he is the county Extension director in Jefferson County and helps with the 4-H youth program.
Many community leaders said they first encountered Mason through 4-H and on their family farms. They later came to rely on him in their own businesses and serve beside him in civic organizations.
Michael Schutz, assistant director of agriculture and natural resources for Purdue Extension, said, "One of Lonnie's major contributions has been with once-thriving tobacco production in his county and region and especially in shepherding regional tobacco producers through times of change and into alternative agricultural production. He remains the go-to resource for the smaller but still active southeastern Indiana tobacco industry."
Mason also is a member of Purdue's Farm Succession Planning team, which works on the growing complexity of transferring agricultural enterprises to the next generation.
In 2014, the Jefferson County Commissioners honored Indiana's most tenured Extension educator by naming a new fairgrounds facility the Lonnie Mason Agriculture Building.