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Donation Benefits NMSU Graduate Students in Agricultural Economics

LAS CRUCES - Graduate students in agricultural economics at New Mexico State University have new support, a professor's legacy will endure, and an association for farm managers and rural appraisers has a clearer vision for its future.

Rossana Alvarez-Diemer, Sally Harper and Joel Diemer display a check from the National Society for Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers that will benefit graduate students in agricultural economics through the Wilmer Harper fund at New Mexico State University. Wilmer Harper, a longtime agricultural economics professor and graduate adviser, died in 2001. (11/18/2002) (NMSU Agricultural Communications Photo by J. Victor Espinoza)

That's the bottom line of a successful collaboration involving the agricultural economics and agricultural business department, the Wilmer Harper fund and the American Society of Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers.

When leaders of Denver-based ASFMRA wanted help with strategic planning, they turned to NMSU's Jim Libbin, a member of the group's executive council from 1997 to 2000. Libbin connected them with colleague Joel Diemer, who has expertise with search conferences for strategic planning. "We conducted a search conference to help the Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers develop a vision for their future and a plan to get there," Diemer said.

Pleased with the results, the organization made a $6,500 donation to the Wilmer Harper fund, which benefits graduate students in agricultural economics.

"The donation was Joel's idea," said Doug Slothower, executive vice president of the society, which has about 2,600 members. "When we asked how we should pay, he suggested supporting a scholarship at NMSU."

The money will boost the Wilmer Harper fund to recognize outstanding graduate students in agricultural economics. Throughout his career, Harper, who died in 2001, nurtured graduate students, including Rossana Alvarez-Diemer, who helped conduct the search conference and compile the results.

"I'm pleased that the department and college are acknowledging Wilmer's years here and his commitment to academic excellence,"said Sally Harper, his widow. "I'm accepting this award on behalf of our three children."

Harper taught classes, advised graduate students and served as a faculty senator. He was involved in agricultural development projects that took him to Egypt, Yemen, Sierra Leone, Honduras, Bolivia and Paraguay. He and his family owned and operated Del Valle Pecans, a local company that produces and markets organic pecans.

The department has recognized two outstanding graduate students, Liz Holland and Luis Saenz, with a Harper award that consists of a plaque and small cash award.

The donation will allow the department to make longer-term plans for the award, Libbin said. "This is a tremendous opportunity for us and for students," he said.