(JEFFERSON CITY, Mo.) – Missouri Soybean Chief Executive Officer, Gary Wheeler was selected to receive the Honorary American FFA Degree – the highest FFA honor.
This award is given to those who advance agricultural education and FFA through outstanding personal commitment. The National FFA Organization works to enhance the lives of youth through agricultural education. Without the efforts of highly dedicated individuals, thousands of young people would not be able to achieve the success that, in turn, contributes directly to the overall well-being of the nation.
The Honorary American FFA Degree is an opportunity to recognize those who have gone beyond valuable daily contributions to make an extraordinary long-term difference in the lives of students, inspiring confidence in a new generation of agriculturists. Members of the National FFA Organization’s board of directors approved the nomination.
“Gary Wheeler was instrumental in pivoting the Ag Education on the Move program from a soybean checkoff program to a coalition of Missouri’s agriculture organizations, allowing the program to connect with thousands of youth,” said Keith Dietzschold, Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) agricultural education director and Missouri FFA Association state advisor. “His model for Ag Education on the Move helped incorporate FFA members as educators, developing opportunities for students to develop skills in agricultural education and communication, as well as creating Supervised Agricultural Experience (SAE) program options. The implementation of this program has been greatly beneficial for Missouri FFA, as well as rewarding, seeing the model being carried into other states.”
Through the Center for Soy Innovation, Wheeler also spearheaded a collaboration across states to build an educational gathering place to connect others to agriculture. The Center is built with soy-based materials and incorporates soy-related educational pieces for all ages, creating talking points at each location in the building. Partners included industry leaders, state partners from Nebraska to Indiana, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and others.
“I am humbled to receive the Honorary America FFA Degree from such an educational, engaging leadership organization ‘living to serve’ youth in agriculture and STEAM-related fields,” Wheeler said. “Missouri Soybean has made it a priority to partner with the Missouri FFA Association so students across the state can have opportunities grow, learn and succeed.”
Wheeler will receive the award during the 94th National FFA Convention & Expo, in Indianapolis, Ind., on October 29, 2021. All recipients will receive a plaque and medal, and their names will be permanently recorded as recipients of the highest FFA honor.