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Purdue Extension announces 2023 Paul B. Crooks Outstanding Extension Educator Award and Eric G. Sharvelle Distinguished Extension Specialist Award winners

Purdue Extension’s 2023 Professional Development Conference Awards Program took place on December 14. At the event, Extension recognized some outstanding members of the Extension community.

Jeff Burbrink, Paul B. Crooks Outstanding Extension Educator Award

This year, Jeff Burbrink was the recipient of the Paul B. Crooks Outstanding Extension Educator Award. The award honors Extension educators who have demonstrated excellence in Extension programming.

Burbrink has served as an Extension educator for over 40 years in Elkhart, Noble and LaGrange Counties. During this time, he has supported numerous Extension efforts, such as delivering successful programming online for Indiana Hort Congress in 2021 and 2022 and co-hosting regional irrigation, corn and soybean meetings with Purdue and Michigan Extension educators.

“Jeff has impacted thousands of people with his educational reach over his career,” said Robby Kelly, Extension educator and county Extension director in Elkhart County. “He has worked with many different people on teams to develop educational sessions.”

Burbrink also founded the Master Gardener program in Elkhart County in 1994. “More than 600 participants have gone through the training,” Kelly said. “The local Master Gardener Association has hosted two state conferences and holds well attended Garden Expo and Tours each year.”

Burbrink has worked to develop relationships with many groups, including Amish and Mennonite populations in Elkhart and LaGrange Counties and commercial vegetable and fruit growers. These close relationships have ensured these groups have access to the resources they need.

“Jeff’s compassionate nature is evident in his proactive efforts to assist individuals facing challenges in accessing Extension resources for various reasons,” said Henry Quesada, assistant director of Extension, agriculture and natural resources program leader, and professor in the Department of Forestry and Natural Resources. “Jeff possesses a unique ability to connect with community members from all walks of life, fostering trust and building meaningful relationships within the community.”

Burbrink currently works as an educator in LaGrange County, where he has developed a program focusing on field crops, horticulture, diversified farming and food systems, and animal sciences.


PDC 2023 Crooks Award Recipient Angie Abbott and Jeff Burbrink
Jeff Burbin Angie Abbott and Darcy Telenko (accepting on behalf of Janna Beckerman)

Janna Beckerman, Eric G. Sharvelle Distinguished Extension Specialist Award

Janna Beckerman, professor of botany and plant pathology and Extension plant pathologist, was presented with the 2023 Eric G. Sharvelle Distinguished Extension Specialist Award. The Sharvelle award recognizes Extension specialists who have served the people of Indiana by demonstrating a high degree of proficiency and professionalism during their careers, along with a track record of excellence in Extension programming.

“Janna Beckerman is an outstanding Extension specialist and professional colleague,” said Bill Johnson, professor of weed science. “She embraces all the missions of the land grant system with her willingness to not only be an outstanding Extension fruit pathologist but also to be a highly respected teacher and researcher.”

Beckerman specializes in diseases of horticultural crops, and she has had over 68 peer-reviewed publications on disease management, fungicide efficacy, plant evaluations, host-pathogen interactions and molecular mechanisms of fungicide resistance. With this expertise, she has led Extension programs about managing disease in fruit production, ornamental plants and hemp.

Beckerman has written for over 20 Extension publications, helped to create the Plant Doctor application and given 228 presentations at international, national, regional and state conferences. As Johnson explained, “She embraces traditional ways of communicating with her audiences and also leads in the development of new technology for Extension with her development of apps for her audience.”

Throughout her 18 years with Extension, Beckerman has worked with many different groups to share her knowledge and passion for plants. Some of these groups have included Spence’s Nursery in Muncie, Indiana, Bailey’s Nursery in Woodbury, Minnesota and the Indiana and Midwest Hemp Council.

“Janna Beckerman’s high level of achievement begins with a genuine concern for growers combined with a penchant for solving problems — the same qualities that characterized Eric Sharvelle’s rise to excellence many decades ago,” said Richard Latin, professor emeritus of turf pathology. “Dr. Beckerman practices her craft with diligence and creativity — to recognize and define production problems, to understand management options through targeted research and to translate results into practical solutions. Hers is a model all specialists can aspire to.”

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