Noel Callahan is the retired founder of Callahan Enterprises, Inc. and Callahan Seeds. A native of Rush County, he graduated from Purdue University in 1954 with a B.S. in Agricultural Education. He served for two years after graduation as an artillery officer in the United States Army, and then was employed from 1956 to 1964 at the Agricultural Alumni Seed Improvement Association as Assistant Manager in charge of production and sales. In 1964 he and wife Jo founded Callahan Enterprises, Inc., the beginning of the entrepreneurial ventures that he would lead to bring innovations to the seed industry.
Callahan began Callahan Enterprises, Inc. as a company supplying the seed trade with foundation seedstock of hybrid corn and other related products, but by the 1970’s he envisioned and helped create an entirely new business segment within the U. S. seed industry – genetic stock and field seeds for soybeans, now a huge segment of the seed and biotechnology markets. Callahan Enterprises, Inc. became a foundation seedstock supplier of corn and soybean varieties to the U.S. seed industry and to Western Europe. In 1988, Callahan sold his company to Rhone-Poulenc and continued to work for the new owners, retiring as an employee three years later, but continuing for another year as a consultant. Ever the innovator, while employed for Rhone-Poulenc in 1989, he built a new research laboratory near Lebanon, IN that had a molecular marker laboratory when seed molecular genetics was in its infancy. In February, 1993, Callahan began consulting for Agricapital, Inc., a New York firm that provides investment banking services to agribusiness, including providing financial consulting and initiating and/or negotiating mergers and acquisitions, as well as arranging financing and facilitating the transactions throughout the world. One nominator described Callahan as “part innovator, part motivator, part coach and friend” and said that “people’s careers, lives and livelihoods have been improved by Noel Callahan.”
Callahan’s professional activities included service to the American Seed Trade Association and the Indiana Crop Improvement Association in various capacities. He was part of the original group that worked to form the Indiana Seed Trade Association (ISTA), and in 1984 he was awarded honorary membership in ISTA in recognition of his dedicated service and contributions. In addition, he has served the agricultural profession as a member of the board of directors of the Indiana Institute of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition, Inc. and as a member of the Resource Committee of the Indiana Corn Growers Association.
His community service activities reflect his deep interest in supporting education, youth leadership activities and Purdue University. Callahan is a past member of the board of directors of the Indiana 4-H Foundation, Inc. where he served as director and chairman of the Indiana 4-H Foundation Sponsors Board. Callahan is a past member of the Dean’s Advisory Council of the College of Agriculture. He has also served as a member of the alumni board of Delta Chapter, Alpha Gamma Rho, and is a former member of the National FFA Membership/Development Board.
Callahan has been honored for his many contributions with numerous awards. In 1985 Lt. Gov. John Mutz awarded him an Honorary Commissioner of Agriculture for Indiana citation. Purdue honored Callahan in 1993, naming him as one of its Old Masters, defined as “an exceptional person who has made significant contributions to his or her own field.” In 1992 the John Purdue Club presented him its Distinguished Service Award.