West Lafayette, IN | Certificate of Distinction: 2007
Dave Downey is Professor Emeritus of Agricultural Economics at Purdue University where he taught for more than 40 years. Downey graduated from Purdue with a B. S. degree in Agronomy in 1961. He continued his graduate studies at Purdue, earning both an M.S. and a Ph.D. in Agricultural Economics in 1963 and 1967, respectively.
Downey began his Purdue teaching career as an instructor of agricultural economics while in graduate school. Upon receiving his doctorate, he joined the faculty, a position he held until his retirement in 2005. During his career Downey was known as an innovative and visionary teacher. He recognized long before other academics the crucial role that sales play in the marketing strategy of an agribusiness firm, and set about building a program to develop the leaders that the agricultural industry would need to staff their sales and marketing efforts.
He developed a creative course in agricultural selling in the early 1970’s that has grown to enroll more than 800 students annually at Purdue—and more than 10,000 over the course of his career. Students in this course participate in Downey-created experiences such as Sashay With A Salesperson (SWAS) and Ready Set Sell (RSS) which engage students with sales professionals to experience what a sales career would be like, and to get feedback on their performance from these professionals. From this course, Downey developed the Sales and Marketing Option within the Agricultural Economics Department that was for many years the only four-year program in agricultural sales in the United States.
Downey’s influence on teaching professional agricultural sales reaches far beyond the Purdue campus. He authored AgriSelling: Principles and Practice which is used as the required text in over 30 university sales classes in the U. S. and as a handbook for new sales professionals in many agribusiness firms, and he has counseled numerous instructors from across the country on how to adopt his highly engaging approach to sales education.
In 1986, with colleague Bill Dobson, Downey launched Purdue’s Center for Agricultural Business (CAB), now known as the Center for Food and Agricultural Business, an innovative model for providing executive management education and applied research to the food and agribusiness industries. Downey served as the Center’s director during its first 15 years. The Center is now one of the world’s premier public providers of management education for the food and agribusiness industries and employs nine full-time staff, delivering more than 30 programs annually involving more than 1000 industry managers from around the globe.
Downey was selected in the 1980’s to lead a blue-ribbon panel, the National Agribusiness Education Commission that developed recommendations that directed agribusiness education in the U.S. for the next 15 years. In 2003 he was selected to chair the steering committee for the National Food and Agribusiness Management Education Commission. Downey is a charter member of Purdue’s Book of Great Teachers and is a member of Purdue’s Teaching Academy. His teaching awards include: two major national teaching awards from the American Agricultural Economics Association; the Amoco Award as one of the three best teachers at Purdue; and the Helping Students Learn Award which annually recognizes outstanding contributions to teaching innovation. Purdue’s agribusiness program was recently ranked number 1 in the nation in a study done by Oregon State University, a tribute, according to his Purdue colleagues, to Downey’s pioneering efforts to establish a program that develops and delivers both premier educational programming and well-trained graduates to serve the needs of the food and agribusiness marketing industry.