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Presidential Hats Off to Five ARS Executives

By Judy McBride
May 15, 1998

Five senior executives with USDA's Agricultural Research Service received Presidential Rank awards last week from Vice President Al Gore at a ceremony in Washington, D.C.

ARS Deputy Administrator K. Darwin Murrell received the Distinguished Executive award for sustained extraordinary accomplishment in carrying out government wide goals and policies as director of ARS' Beltsville (Md.) Area. He received $20,000, a gold pin and a certificate signed by the President. Murrell oversaw a 5-year savings of $5 million in energy and other costs that could be diverted to research. He also spearheaded a mentoring program for area employees that is being adopted by other government agencies.

Four other ARS senior executives honored at a May 5 ceremony received $10,000 each, a silver pin and a signed certificate for sustained accomplishment. They are:

  • Danny B. Laster, director of the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center in Clay Center, Neb.. Laster led development of a world-class food safety and genome research program. His leadership also saved $2 million in costs over the past 5 years and accelerated the flow of information and technology by organizing multi-disciplinary teams with the appropriate mix of talent.
  • Jane L. Giles, who recently retired as deputy administrator for administrative and financial management in Greenbelt, Md. Giles led the effort to consolidate these services--during USDA's 1995 reorganization--for ARS and other agencies in USDA's Research, Education and Economics mission area. Giles' streamlining goals led to service improvements while reducing staff.
  • Wilda H. Martinez, now director of ARS' North Atlantic Area in Wyndmoor, Pa., was cited for leadership as associate deputy administrator for agriproducts and human nutrition. By initiating video conferencing among ARS locations around the country, she saved significant travel costs while maintaining the ability of administrators nationwide to address emerging problems "face-to-face."
  • Joseph T. Spence, director of ARS' Beltsville Human Nutrition Research Center. Spence reorganized the center's research from a program based on nutrients to one built on effects of nutrition and health on well-being. He led planning to incorporate the nationwide food consumption survey and the national nutrient database staffs into the center with necessary resources for effective research.

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