Concord, MD | Distinguished Ag Alumni: 2000
Raised on his family’s 40-acrefarmin.Salem, Ind,, Marion Williams cultivated a love of the outdoors, an appreciation for the fruits of the earth, and a passion for health and nutrition. The elements-precursors to Williams’ career in food technology first were glimpsed in the shapes of apples, plums, cherries, and pears. “I started working odd jobs when I was 8 years old, and from age 11 to 18, I worked in an orchard, picking fruit in season and grading it out in the winter,” Williams recalls. “The most I ever made was $5. a day for a 10-hour day, but I managed to save enough for one semester at Purdue.” Once there, the objective was singular-succeed. “You .live with yourself 24 hours a day, and you do .whatever it takes to make. yourself comfortable,” Williams says. “I wanted to achieve, not fail. And that’s what drove me.” Williams excelled. Scholarships financed the rest of his Purdue education and a single conversation with Philip Nelson, who was completing his Ph.D. in food science at the time, defined his interests. “Something clicked when I talked to Phil about how science plays a role in getting a product from the fields to grocery stores,” Williams says. “I didn’t realize it as I picked apples and peaches, but fresh market produce was a latent interest of mine. It all came together at Purdue.” Today, a love for the great outdoors translates to weekly golf rounds and occasional company-sponsored tournaments. “I enjoy golf, but I think I’ll keep my day job,” Williams laughs. And yesteryear’s fresh fruits are today’s juices. An advocate of fruits and vegetables, Williams’ daily nutritional lineup includes a glass of purple grape juice-Welch’s, of course.