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Congratulations to Randy Stout, Field and Maintenance Supervisor, Susanne Howard, horticulturist and biotechnician, and Pam Mayer, library associate and workshop coordinator for their awards for excellent service to Missouri State University. (Photo provided)

by Marilyn Odneal, Horticulture Adviser

(Mountain Grove) – Several of our staff members were honored for their service to Missouri State University at the annual service awards program at the Hammons Student Center on Jan. 9.

Pam Mayer, library associate and outreach coordinator, was awarded a plaque for 25 years of service. Susanne Howard, horticulturist and biotechnician, was awarded a certificate for 15 years of service, and Randy Stout, field and maintenance supervisor, was awarded a certificate for 10 years of service to the University. Dr. Frank Einhellig, chancellor of the Mountain Grove Campus and head of our academic unit, congratulated the award winners along with University President Cliff Smart. Dr. Anson Elliott, director of the Darr School of Agriculture and the State Fruit Experiment Station, also attended the ceremony.

I thought I would interview my colleagues for this article. I asked them how they became interested in their field, what they liked most about working at the State Fruit Experiment Station and what their best gardening advice was to people who are just starting out.

Pam Mayer said that she really didn’t have a career path in mind when she went to school, but “always liked figuring out answers and solving puzzles. Library work is perfect for me – I have to find information to help others with their work. It is always interesting because you are dealing with a variety of people.” Pam went on to talk about working for Missouri State at Mountain Grove. “I appreciate that Missouri State gives me the freedom to use and develop my skills. Missouri State always encouraged employees to follow our passion and find our place – long before they used the slogan!”

I asked Susanne how she became interested in horticulture. “I grew up in Germany in a gardening family and learned to love plants. In fact, I planted my first garden when I was only six years old. I remember saving the seed from my pansies to use next year in the garden.” Susanne completed her master’s degree in horticulture at Southern Illinois University where she worked on peach research. Susanne went on to say, “What I like most about working here is working in a smaller group. You can get lost in a large University. At Mountain Grove, we all have to pitch in and work on things that sometimes are out of our specialty. It is never dull!”

I did get Randy to come in from our 180-acre field and research area to answer my set of questions. Randy said, “I was interested in farm management since I grew up on a farm. We always had a garden, some cattle and worked outside driving tractors. But what I like most about working here is the people. I work with good people; the work is interesting, and we do lots of different things and work on many crops. I like the variety.”

And now here are Pam, Susanne and Randy’s words of wisdom for new gardeners. Pam said, “Experiment; just try something, wherever you find yourself. Learn from your experience.” Susanne’s said, “Start small.” Randy advises, “Get good information before you start or find someone with experience to help you get started. We have a lot of people that come to the station for workshops and questions – don’t be afraid to ask. We are here to help you.”

Direct comments or questions concerning this column to Marilyn Odneal via email at; write to Missouri State Fruit Experiment Station, 9740 Red Spring Road, Mountain Grove, Mo. 65711; or call (417) 547-7500. Visit our Web site at

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