Formal Organization and Early Programs
In the mid-twenties, W. O. "Brick" Mills was hired as a field man for the Purdue College of Agriculture. One of his first assignments from Dean Skinner was to visit all Indiana counties, identify their Ag Alumni and initiate their organization into county Ag Alumni Clubs. On January 13, 1927, the Annual Meeting of the Purdue Agricultural Alumni Association was held during the January Ag Conference week. A capacity crowd of 200 attended the banquet in the Memorial Union. F. C. Gaylord was elected President, H. J. Reed, Vice President, and W. O. Mills, Secretary
The Board Meeting minutes of the next few years indicated that the formal association got off to a fast start. The "Purdue Threshing Ring" program was initiated as a night program in December over Chicago radio station WLS, which was owned by Prairie Farmer. The name referred to the sound of a threshing machine that began the program. It carried agricultural information from Purdue people. Local county associations were encouraged to hold their meetings featuring the programs. This radio activity continued throughout the 1930's. However, in the mid thirties, the special relationship with WLS was discontinued, and the program was picked up by WOWO, Fort Wayne, WFBM, Indianapolis, and WHAS, Louisville.
The Distinguished Purdue Ag award program was established. A first, it was limited to superior production records of alumni farmers. The requirement was having won two or more gold medals in extension activities during the year (particularly in the special clubs mentioned earlier). Harry Caldwell of Connersville and Claude Wickard of Camden received the first certificates in 1928. In 1936, rules were amended to permit award eligibility to alumni other than farmers. From this time on, the Certificate of Distinction has been received by outstanding Purdue Alumni for excellence in a wide diversity of activities.
The senior recognition dinner was initiated in 1928. This activity has continued throughout the years as a form of induction ceremony of the new Ag Alumni. Four district-wide Ag Alumni summer picnics were held which were organized and supervised by county agents of the area. Additionally, county clubs were urged to sponsor some sort of Farm Record Project. During 1931, steps were taken to initiate a museum type collection of old farm tools and implements. The collection was to be housed in the Agricultural Engineering Building.
Special research cooperation with the Botany Department was initiated. Experimental plots of the new hybrid corn were grown by farmers throughout the state. Cooperative work with other seeds and poultry and livestock breeding was also started. In 1932, thirty Ag Alumni farmers had cooperative seed plots with the university.
In 1928, the annual Ag Alumni Meeting, with 300 attending, was held during conference week. It was set up as a big farm dinner in the laboratory of the Agricultural Engineering Building. President Elliott, in his remarks, noted that it was the noisiest and most enthusiastic meeting he had ever attended. In 1931, the January meeting attendance increased to 500, and a special quartet from Indianapolis entertained. At one board meeting in a later year, it was suggested that the annual meeting be broadcast over radio. However, it was concluded that such activity would "cramp the style of the meeting and be very unsatisfactory."
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