Baenziger gift reflects career-long grain research interest
He and fellow researchers have helped increase Nebraska’s annual wheat yields and have helped wheat growers provide food for millions more people each year.
What started as a dream of helping to feed the world is now one step closer to reality for University of Nebraska–Lincoln crop researcher Stephen Baenziger. A Purdue University trained scientist, he joined UNL 25 years ago. He and fellow researchers have helped increase Nebraska’s annual wheat yields and have helped wheat growers provide food for millions more people each year.
To further support the university’s crop science work, Baenziger made a major gift to the University of Nebraska Foundation for the Nebraska Small Grains Fund, a permanently endowed fund Baenziger helped create some years ago. By request, the gift amount is not disclosed.
Annual income from this is available to the Institute of Agriculture and National Resources to support research of small grains such as wheat, barley and triticale. Awards may support student scholarships and fellowships, faculty research stipends, equipment purchases, travel and more.
Ronnie Green, University of Nebraska vice president for agriculture and natural resources, said he’s grateful for Baenziger’s support and for the tremendous, selfless contributions he’s made within his field.
“In addition to having had major impact on wheat improvement through his career at the University of Nebraska, Steve is absolutely passionate about ensuring the long-term health and success of small grains breeding programs at UNL for generations to come,” said Green, who serves as Harlan Vice Chancellor of the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources. “He is truly an equal among the other great Bs in Nebraska’s history: George Beadle, Hank Beachell and Norman Borlaug — all heroes because of their work in feeding the world through science and innovation.”
Baenziger said he hopes his and other gifts made to the Nebraska Small Grains Fund will provide the university more agility and creativity to generate new innovation in small grains.
“So often, the money you get to run a university goes to what other people think is important,” Baenziger said. “This fund creates the flexibility to work on ideas that will allow true curiosity programs.”
Named the Nebraska Wheat Growers Presidential Chair in the Department of Agronomy and Horticulture at UNL, Baenziger feels very strongly about giving back to the university and to a research area special to him and to which he has dedicated his career.
“The University of Nebraska has been very good to me,” Baenziger said. “My years at the university have allowed me to do something I love while hopefully having an impact on something I care about through the education of students. It is with great pride that I can say I work for the University of Nebraska.”
In March, University of Nebraska President James B. Milliken named Baenziger winner of the 2011 Outstanding Research and Creative Activity Award, the university’s top award for research. In January, UNL announced Baenziger is recipient of the Nebraska Wheat Growers Presidential Chair, which was established with a $2 million endowed gift from Bayer CropScience, a gift marking a celebrated new relationship between UNL and the leading crop science company.
The partnership provides a huge amount of stability to the program, Baenziger says, because the endowment will help attract other renowned wheat experts to UNL to fill his shoes down the road.
Baenziger earned doctorate and master’s degree in plant breeding and genetics from Purdue University and a bachelor’s degree in biochemical sciences from Harvard University. He is one of only two Americans serving on the board for the International Rice Research Institute.
The University of Nebraska Foundation is an independent, nonprofit organization that has connected the dreams and passions of donors to the mission of the university for the past 75 years. In 2010, donors designated more than $136 million in gifts to scholarships, academic programs, medical research and other priorities at the university. The foundation’s current $1.2 billion fundraising initiative, the Campaign for Nebraska: Unlimited Possibilities, concludes in 2014. For more information, visit nufoundation.org.