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COD : William E. Field

2009 Certificate of Distinction Winner William E. Field

William E. Field

Lafayette, IN | Certificate of Distinction: 2009

Bill Field is Extension Safety Specialist and Professor of Agricultural and Biological Engineering at Purdue University. A native of New York, Field graduated in 1971 with a B.S. in Industrial Arts from State University College at Buffalo. He received both his M.A. in Agricultural Education and his Ed.D. in Vocational Education from the University of Minnesota in 1976 and 1978, respectively.
Before joining the Purdue faculty in 1977, Field worked in New York as a high school agriculture instructor and as an agricultural mechanics instructor for upstate New York’s Otsego Area Occupational Center and as a power and machinery instructor for the University of Minnesota Technical College of Waseca. During his more than 30 years on the Purdue Agriculture faculty, Field has become recognized nationally and internationally as the leader in helping protect the safety of farm and rural residents and helping those with disabilities pursue livelihoods in agriculture and related fields.
In 1979 he established the Breaking New Ground (BNG) Resource Center at Purdue to serve farmers and ranchers with disabilities who desired to remain active in their chosen profession. Since 1979 the center has responded to more than 45,000 requests for technical information on modifications to agricultural machinery and worksites and has conducted more than 350 workshops in the U.S., Canada and five other countries, produced over 60 technical publications and published over 30 issues of a national newsletter. BNG’s database of assistive technology for agricultural worksites is the most widely used in the world. Field led the development of one of the first World Wide Web sites on farm safety (, and now oversees several that serve specific audiences. Field has made extensive use of the media to promote safer, healthier workplaces, preparing more than 575 news releases and participating in more than 335 interviews that include special reports by NPR, CNN, ABC, CBS’s 60 Minutes, Ag Day and other national syndicated programs. For nine years he administered Purdue’s THE CHAPs Program that provided therapeutic horseback riding and horse care experience for local children with disabilities. At its peak, THE CHAPs had three employees, over 100 volunteers and served 65 children a week. His greatest impact, though, may be through the employees and graduate students he has mentored. He has supervised the completion of 32 graduate degrees and is currently supervising 10 graduate students conducting research in agricultural safety and health.
Field has served as a director and leader of numerous Indiana health and safety organization boards and advisory councils including: Indiana Society to Prevent Blindness (board member 1979-1990; chairman, Farm Eye Safety Committee 1978-1984); Hoosier Safety Council (1982-2001, chair of steering committee 1984-85; treasurer 1986-88; president 1991-92); Indiana Easter Seals Society (1988-1995); Indiana Rural Health Association (1998-2004); Indiana State Department of Health’s Injury Prevention Advisory Council (2003-present); Indiana Occupational Safety Standards Commission (1992-present); Indiana Arthritis Initiative (2002-present). On campus, Field served in the Purdue University Faculty Senate from 1985-87 and was president of the Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service Specialists Association (PUCESA) in 1980-81.
He has served extensively with the National Safety Council including: Board of Directors (1993-97); Member, agricultural division (1979-2001; secretary 1988-90; chairman 1995-97); chairman, Joint Task Force to Study PTO-Related Accidents (1980-85); and chair, National Farm Safety and Health Week Committee (1997-99). Other regional and national service includes: American Society of Agricultural Engineers (T-2 Safety Committee, secretary 1979-81, chair 1984-86); National Institute for Farm Safety (board 2003-06); Rehabilitation Engineering Society of North America (chair, Rural SIG Committee 1987-89); North Central Temporary (NCT) Agricultural Safety and Health Research and Extension Committee (chair 1998-99); National Institute for Farm Safety (co-chair summer conference planning committee, 1997); Assistive Technology in the Heartland Conference (chair, 1998-99). He is currently an associate editor of both ASAE’s Journal of Agricultural Safety and Health (since 1994) and Haworth Medical Press’s Journal of AgroMedicine (since 2008).
Field has won numerous awards, including most notably: ASAE’s National Blue Ribbon (27 times for ag safety and rural rehabilitation materials); ASAE Young Extension Worker (1985); First Hoosier Safety Council Award (1987); USDA Superior Service Award (1989; two awards, one for rural health, one for drought response); Innovative Caregiver from the National Council on Aging (1997); Progressive Farmer Leader of the Year (2000); Frederick L. Hovde Award of Excellence in  Educational Service to the Rural People of Indiana (2000); M. L. King Sprit of Justice Award (2004). In 2002, Governor Frank O’Bannon named Field a Sagamore of the Wabash.