The first John and Anne Gerwig Director’s Fund awards for Rutgers Cooperative Extension were given out on May 4, 2016 at an event at the Institute for Food, Nutrition and Health that celebrated the Gerwigs and their tireless devotion to extension and underserved populations in New Jersey. The Gerwigs were presented with the commemorative book, “Rutgers, A 250th Anniversary Portrait” by current RCE director, Larry S. Katz, and after some thoughtful and moving remarks by Mr. Gerwig, certificates were presented to Nicholas Polanin and his team for programing designed to empower women in agriculture, and to Michelle Brill and Jeannette Rey-Keywood for a professional development series to create programming for the developmentally disabled.
John and Anne Gerwig are the embodiment of Rutgers Cooperative Extension (RCE). John joined 4-H when he was 5, became the extension agronomist early in his career, and is the longest serving director (1962-1992) in its history. Anne led the university’s Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program reaching limited resource families and was instrumental in obtaining critical employee benefits for paraprofessionals in extension.
John and Anne Gerwig wanted to help all of Rutgers Cooperative Extension. This devotion and desire led them to establish a fund that will provide resources to extension professionals in perpetuity. The goal of their $200,000 is to empower cooperative extension professionals so that they can make a bigger impact on New Jersey’s communities. A portion of the fund will be reserved to award through a formal “request for proposal” process set up and managed by the RCE director’s office. Remaining funds will be used to support emerging issues, internships, awarding additional proposals, and other needs that arise.
After the presentation of the Rutgers 250th commemorative book, John spoke to the audience about the people—past and present—that have made outstanding contributions toward the betterment of mankind and put New Jersey on the map: from the discovery of antibiotics and the Rutgers tomato, to blueberries, cranberries and lush, hardy turf grass. This trip down memory lane was not just an acknowledgment of the establishment of RCE’s heritage but was a challenge to the younger audience to “make so great a contribution as a scientist to the body of knowledge that…someday some old codger like myself…will mention your name.”
Nicholas Polanin (CC’82, GSNB’89), county ag agent, Rutgers NJAES Cooperative Extension of Somerset County, and his team received the first award of the afternoon for a team project “Asynchronous Distance Education for Empowering Women in Agriculture.” This program—Empowering Women in Agriculture—in addition to two other multi-year programs are designed to help women in agriculture plan for the long-term, manage risk, and make sound business management decisions (among other things). Improving the reach of these programs and ensuring full comprehension of the information presented is a challenge. The Gerwig Award has enabled the team and the project participants to digitally record the Empowering Women in Agriculture workshop, held on May 12th, expanding the audience and outreach and will give attendees and viewers alike the opportunity to view the live training segments “on-demand.” On-line, anytime access to the materials will reinforce learning for attendees and extend the educational benefits to women farmers and their families who were unable to attend in-person.
The other award went to Michelle Brill and Jeannette Rea-Keywood for “Programming for Clientele with Developmental Disabilities Professional Development Series.” This project is designed to fill the identified gap in training opportunities for outreach educators and volunteers who create and implement programs for developmentally disabled youth and adults in schools and community settings both inside and outside extension. Faculty from RCE will develop, produce, and disseminate an on-line professional development training series which will provide educators with a clear understanding of common developmental disabilities and their impact on learning and behavior and will provide effective, inclusive teaching strategies to engage this population in extension programming. The on-line component is a new opportunity to make training available to people at their own pace and convenience. Housing this training on Rutgers websites will allow the content to be refreshed, reinforcing knowledge and skills as needed.
John and Anne Gerwig were always perceptive of New Jersey’s needs and the needs of underserved populations. John’s visionary leadership of RCE resulted in New Jersey becoming a model for the nation in techniques used to reach urban communities. Their endowment will help ensure that extension will continue to make a positive impact on our communities and on New Jersey.
[To read the full version of John Gerwig’s remarks, see them posted in the Newsroom at https://sebsnjaesnews.rutgers.edu/2016/05/john-and-anne-gerwig-directors-fund-award-john-gerwigs-remarks/]