Published on 10/30/15

Top CAES faculty and staff honored at 2015 D.W. Brooks Awards

By Merritt Melancon

The University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences will recognize nine of its finest next month with the D.W. Brooks Awards for Excellence and the CAES Faculty and Staff Support Awards.

The D.W. Brooks Awards and Lecture Series was launched more than 30 years ago in honor of Brooks, an alumnus and former faculty member of the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, who devoted his career to the improvement of life through contributions to agriculture.

As the founder and chairman emeritus of Gold Kist, Inc., Brooks advised seven U.S. presidents on various agriculture and trade issues. He helped create the integrated poultry production system that transformed Georgia agriculture during the 20th century, and also started Cotton States Mutual Insurance Companies in 1941 to provide farmers with insurance.

“I want to congratulate all of our 2015 D.W. Brooks awards recipients,” said Josef Broder, interim dean of CAES and associate dean for academic affairs for the college. “They truly represent the finest the college has to offer in the realms of teaching, research and Extension. It’s through their work that the college is able to improve the lives of Georgians and communities across the country and the world. We are truly grateful for their outstanding work.”

This year’s awards will be presented on Nov. 10 at the Georgia Center for Continuing Education in Athens, Georgia. The awards will be highlighted by a keynote address by Sanjaya Rajaram, 2014 World Food Prize winner and pioneering wheat breeder. Rajaram’s lecture is free and open to the public.

His talk, focusing on the international implications of agricultural research and the work of expanding the world's food supply, should appeal to horticulture and crop and soil sciences students and members of the general public who are interested in international development, social justice, food security, agricultural economics and how agricultural technology can help alleviate world hunger.

For more information on the D.W. Brooks awards and lecture series, see

This year’s award winners include:

  • Peggy Ozias-Akins, a professor in the Department of Horticulture and director of the UGA Institute for the Plant Breeding, Genetics and Genomics, has won the D.W. Brooks Distinguished Professor Award. The award recognizes her 30-year career at UGA developing new breeding techniques for peanuts.
  • Ronald Pegg, an associate professor in the Department of Food Science and Technology, won the D.W. Brooks Faculty Award for Excellence in Teaching. The award recognizes his work introducing undergraduates to food analysis techniques and introducing non-majors to the chemistry of food with his popular courses on coffee.
  • George Vellidis, a professor in the Department of Crop and Soil Sciences, won the D.W. Brooks Faculty Award for Excellence in Research. The award recognizes his work developing precision agriculture techniques that allow farmers to grow more with less water and his international collaborations that focuse on precision agriculture technologies.
  • Phillip Brannen, a professor in the Department of Plant Pathology, won the D.W. Brooks Faculty Award for Excellence in Extension. The award recognizes his work as the state’s preeminent Extension fruit disease pathologist. His work has grown in importance as the state’s blueberry and grape crops have expanded.
  • Jennifer Grogan, county Extension coordinator for Mitchell County and 4-H agent, has won the D.W. Brooks Faculty Award for Excellence in Public Service Extension. As a 32-year veteran of UGA Extension, Grogan is known for going above and beyond to serve Mitchell County residents.
  • Robert Beckstead, an associate professor in the Department of Poultry Science, has won the award for Outstanding Academic Advisor. The award recognizes his dedication to his position as undergraduate coordinator for poultry science, a major that draws many pre-professional students in addition to those studying poultry production.
  • Mary Jane Scarborough, administrative specialist in the Department of Horticulture, has won the CAES Staff Award for Administrative or Professional Support. From managing the department’s promotion and tenure records to making sure classes are entered in the UGA Bulletin correctly, Scarborough has managed the details of the Department of Horticulture’s inner workings since 1987.
  • Carl Hall, farm supervisor at Durham Horticulture Farm, has won the CAES Staff Award for Skilled Trades. Hall started working at the farm 36 years ago and has become known as the go-to person for information about farm management and a master engineer — often building specialized research equipment from scratch.
  • Jennifer Berry, research professional at the UGA Honey Bee Lab, has won the CAES Staff Award for Technical Support. She has managed the research program at the UGA Honey Bee Lab since 2000 and has become an indispensable resource for beekeepers in Georgia and across the Southeast.

Merritt Melancon is a public relations manager with UGA's Terry College of Business and previously served as a public relations coordinator for the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and UGA Extension.

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