University of Illinois President Bob Easter was the recipient of this year’s Friend of Agriculture Award at the Illinois Commodity Conference, and once again the honoree was an excellent choice who represents all that is good about the state’s agriculture.

As a youngster, Easter was raised on a grain and livestock farm in southwest Texas. Even as he has climbed to the top leadership post, his roots still are deep in farm soil. One can leave the farm, but the farm never leaves them.

Before becoming president, Easter spent his nearly 40-year career as a senior administrator and faculty member on the university, where he earned his doctorate in animal science in 1976. He was interim chancellor from 2009 to 2011, serving as chief executive officer of the 42,000-student campus, and also served as interim provost and interim vice chancellor for research.

From 2002 to 2009, he was dean of College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences. Before that, he served as head of the Department of Animal Sciences, where he has been a faculty member since 1976.

An expert in livestock feeding, Easter has co-authored a book on livestock production and has written more than 90 peer-reviewed articles, 11 book chapters and numerous papers for conferences and industry publications. He also has spoken to audiences in the U.S. and 30 foreign countries on livestock feeding.

In 2006, he was appointed by President George W. Bush to the Board for International Food and Agricultural Development and was appointed as chair of that board in 2007. He also is a member of the American Society of Animal Science and the British Society of Animal Science, and he serves on the Illinois Agricultural Leadership Foundation and the Governor’s Committee on China.

Easter earned an undergraduate degree in agricultural education in 1970 and a master’s degree in animal nutrition in 1972, both from Texas A&M University.

He completed a doctorate in animal science at the U of I in 1976 and immediately joined the Animal Science Department as an assistant professor of swine nutrition and management. He presently holds the rank of professor emeritus.

His teaching has been recognized by the Midwest Section of the American Society of Animal Science and at the departmental and college levels.

In 1992, Easter received the American Feed Industry Association Award in Nonruminant Nutrition Research from the American Society of Animal Science. In 1994, the College of Agriculture awarded Easter with the prestigious Paul A. Funk Award for contributions to Illinois agriculture.

He operates a small grain farm in central Illinois and is a retired officer in the U.S. Army Reserve, where he served for 20 years. He also is an avid gardener and reader.

Even though Easter’s role at the university has changed over the past few years, he still takes time to keep in touch with his agricultural roots.

He doesn’t miss the annual Agronomy Day and attends many other agriculture events throughout the year.

Congratulations to the farm boy from Texas, Illinois agriculture is proud to have you as part of our family.