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Seven Retire from Department of Plant Sciences in 2016

Seven employees who worked a combined total of 223 years in the Department of Plant Sciences retired in 2016. Theja Wijetunga, Louise Heinz, Bob Baumann, Mark Ciernia, Ron Roach, Pete Gregoire, and Bob Nudell worked in the department’s administrative office, and in the barley quality, crop physiology, forages, oat, weed science and wheat research programs.

January 17, 2017

Seven employees who worked a combined total of 223 years in the Department of Plant Sciences retired in 2016. Theja Wijetunga, Louise Heinz, Bob Baumann, Mark Ciernia, Ron Roach, Pete Gregoire, and Bob Nudell worked in the department’s administrative office, and in the barley quality, crop physiology, forages, oat, weed science and wheat research programs. Baumann, Ciernia, Roach, Gregoire and Nudell were honored at a party on December 22 in Loftsgard Hall. Celebrations honoring Wijetunga and Heinz occurred earlier in the year.

Louise Heinz

Heinz retired on June 1, after 32 years of service. She began working at North Dakota State University in 1984 as a half-time administrative secretary with the Horticulture and Forestry Department under department chair Art Boe. When the Horticulture and Forestry Department and the Crop and Weed Sciences Department merged to become the Department of Plant Sciences in 1994, Heinz became part of the department and transitioned into a full-time position. She worked under Department Chairs Al Schneiter, Rod Lym, Dwain Myer, and Department Head Richard Horsley. She provided secretarial support to faculty with teaching and undergraduate advising responsibilities and helped innumerable students make their way through all aspects of obtaining a degree. “My days were brightened by the daily contact with students!” said Heinz. “The biggest and most significant change has been the advances in technology.”

Heinz was the 8th recipient of the annual Mary McCannel Gunkelman Recognition Award in 1996. This award began in 1989 and recognizes a student, faculty or staff member who contributed to a happy environment at NDSU. In 2005, she received the NDSU Agriculture and Extension Clerical Staff Award, and in 2015, she shared the NDSU Staff Recognition Award in the “Team” category with other members of the Plant Sciences Office Support Team.  

Heinz said, “It’s hard to believe that 32 years can pass so quickly! It was a journey filled with opportunities, challenges, support, and treasured friendships.” She went on to say, “The Department of Plant Sciences has been my second home and I have enjoyed being a part of such a great department. I’m truly grateful for the caring faculty, staff, and students I’ve met and worked with over the years.” She and her husband look forward to moving to Lake Elmo, Minnesota, in the spring to be closer to their two daughters and families.

Bob Baumann

Baumann began working in 1973 with project leaders Robert Busch and Richard Frohberg in the hard red spring wheat project, and then with Ken Kofoid in 1979.  In 1986, he began working with Bill Ahrens in the weed science program. He started working with Mike McMullen in the oat breeding project in 1987. McMullen somewhat jokingly said, “I enjoyed the opportunity to work for (with) Bob.” McMullen also said that anything Baumann did “was done right,” and he was always willing to help other projects.

Baumann received the NDSU Support Staff Award for Excellence in 1995 and the Rick and Jody Burgum Staff Award in 2014. He served on the NDSU Staff Senate from 2006 to 2007. During his 43 years of work, he also attended and helped host numerous meetings and crop tours at NDSU, South Dakota State University and the University of Minnesota.

Baumann commented that he “will miss working with good people but I look forward to spending time with family and friends, traveling, and enjoying my interests of hunting, fishing, farming and gardening.”

Mark Ciernia

Ciernia worked almost 30 years in the weed science program, with project leaders Bill Ahrens, John Nalewaja, George Kegode, Shane Friesen and Kirk Howatt. Howatt said, “Mark is a true friend to everyone who works with him. I will miss seeing the glint in Mark’s eye when [kidding around with] others in the project.”

Ciernia was the Field Research Director for the IR-4 Fargo location (residue trials to register pesticides on minor crops) and received the IR-4 Meritorious Service Award in 1999.

Ciernia looks forward to working at home and on his hobby ranch, where he raises meat animals and has pasture and hay land. He said that he hopes his “work at NDSU made a positive contribution to agriculture in North Dakota.”

Ron Roach

Roach has the most years of service of this group of retirees at 44 years. He worked closely with Ciernia, starting in the weed science program with project leaders John Nalewaja and Steve Miller in 1972 and then with Kirk Howatt. Howatt said that Roach was always the first to arrive at work and parked his pickup in the best spot in the lot. Roach also filled him in on valuable information about farming in the Red River Valley. Howatt said, “I will miss starting my days with Ron and ending my days with Mark.”

Roach said he will miss his friends in the department.

Pete Gregoire

Gregoire began working in 1995 in crop physiology with Ed Deckard and most recently has worked in weed science with Greta Gramig. He said, “It’s been a fast 22 years. Working with the people in our department is one of the best parts of the job. It’s a collaborative effort and a tremendous support network makes our jobs easier and enjoyable.”

Gramig said that she had been dreading the day of Gregoire’s retirement for a long time. As a new faculty member in 2008, she said she appreciates all Gregoire taught her, and his help in her first years in North Dakota. She thanked Gregoire “from the bottom of her heart” and said, “The collective loss of all these retirees is very big.”

Gregoire looks forward to traveling and enjoying his interests of wood working, hunting, fishing, and landscaping work at home.

Bob Nudell

Nudell has 31 years of service at NDSU, working in Facilities Management before transferring to the Department of Plant Sciences in 2002. He has worked as the agriculture research technician in the forages program with Dwain Meyer and in forages and biomass crop production with Marisol Berti.

Berti said that Nudell is a perfectionist in soil preparation and she will miss his good work. Nudell said he will miss working with the people in the department and appreciated hardworking hourly student workers.

 

During the December retirement party, Department Head Richard Horsley made final comments on the retirements, saying the department and the projects are “only as good as the people you work with.”

Howatt summed it up by saying that the “value of the resources we are losing is phenomenal and we will be losing lots of good knowledge.”

Best wishes, Theja, Louise, Bob, Mark, Ron, Pete, and Bob!

Author: Karen Hertsgaard, 701-231-5384,
Editor: Kamie Beeson, 701-231-7123,

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