Frank Robinson (2007)

robinsonAffiliation at the time of the award: University of Alberta, Agricultural, Food and Nutritional Science.

Citation: Had you been one of the 700 people attending the sixth edition of There’s a Heifer in Your Tank at Farmfair International (Canada’s Premier Livestock Showcase) recently, you would have seen Frank Robinson’s students on stage, responding to off-beat and intriguing, but carefully-researched, quiz questions about agriculture: “Will a double-yolked egg hatch twin chicks?” “If your car burned methane, how far could you travel on methane from one cow in one day?”

In class, Frank uses students’ innate curiosity about animals to “sneak up and educate them when they least expect it.” Out of class, he uses the same principle to advocate for agriculture in Alberta and beyond. Frank’s citation into the Alberta Agriculture Hall of Fame—he’s the youngest inductee in 55 years—states, “Like the Pied Piper, Frank has led scores of people, from students to seniors, to a greater appreciation of the impact agriculture has on everyday lives.”

“If you eat food or wear clothes,” says Frank, “you are involved in agriculture.” Whether designing syllabi his colleagues describe as “instructional master-pieces,” teaching students in the field—“learning with dirty feet,” running his now infamous “There’s a Heifer in Your Tank” competitions for Alumni of his class, or bending the ear of the Ministry of Agriculture, Frank Robinson raises awareness of agricultural issues for everyone, and in particular he is making it cool for his students to study chickens (his specialty) in cow country. When it comes to instruction, Frank echoes Sister Mary: “It’s a brand new day.”