It’s not about the what – it’s about the who

It’s not about the what – it’s about the who

Mar 6
Jennifer Shike, Director for Communications and Marketing

DVMs. Trial judges. Farmers. PhDs. Extension agents. Bankers. USDA leaders. Professors. Youth program coordinators. Marketing directors. Scientists. Game changers.

I know our ACES alumni go on to do amazing things and literally change the world around us. But I never cease to be impressed. Every year I look forward to attending the University of Illinois Meats and Livestock Judging Reunion with my husband, Dan, and learning about the judging team alums and what they are up to these days. And this year was no different.

As a former livestock judge myself, there is just something unexplainable about the camaraderie and life-changing friendships that develop through the intense competition and practice schedule that collegiate judges experience. If you’ve marked cards before, you know what I mean. In 2000, I transitioned from being a collegiate judge to being a judging coach’s wife. I began to see things from an even different perspective. For 11 years, Dan coached the livestock judging team as a graduate student and then as a visiting assistant professor. Today he oversees the livestock judging program and co-coaches the meat animal evaluation team each spring.

At the reunion, we heard from judging team members who judged anywhere from 60 years ago to as recently as a few months ago. As they shared their stories, one theme remained clear. They all centered around the people they met at the University of Illinois.

Gene Schwarm, a member of the 1976 meats judging team, served as a chief circuit judge and trial judge for 20 years. He shared, “Judging was a wonderful experience for me. Several people encouraged me to do it because of the coach, Dr. Tom Carr. They told me I’d learn from a person of integrity who loves to compete. I’m so glad I listened to their advice.”

2006 meats judging team member Rachel (Smith) Adams laughed that she couldn’t remember every contest or city they traveled to, but what she does remember are the friendships and connections that she made who continue to be her colleagues as she serves as the youth programs coordinator for the American Meat Science Association.

Dick Jurgens, a member of the 1966 livestock judging team and vice president of United Producers Livestock Marketing Association, said times have changed since he was on campus. He said the best part of his U of I experience was the people. “I always felt so fortunate to interact with the movers and shakers on the livestock industry,” Jurgens said.

Perhaps my favorite quote of the night came from former Lake Land College Agriculture Division Chair Curt Rincker, a member of the 1976 livestock judging team (always the era with the best hair and suit jackets!). “After 40 years, there are just some things we don’t forget that we gained as members of the judging team: work ethic, team effort, and the impact our coaches had on our lives. It all comes down to the people,” Rincker said.

In the College of ACES at the University of Illinois, we are definitely producing the great leaders of tomorrow – the movers and shakers who are going to make true impacts in the world. As a wise person said, it’s not about the what, it’s about the who. And as I looked around the room Saturday night, I couldn’t help but think how privileged that group was to have each other – people that could sharpen and challenge each other to be their very best. Sure, they do amazing things, but who they are is even more telling of their success in life.

Meats judging team members gather around their coach Dr. Tom Carr, center.

2006 Livestock Judging Team members catch up at the reunion. From left, coach Dr. Dan Shike, Brandon Yantis, Micah (Taylor) Jansen, and Aaron Orebaugh.

1976 alum Curt Rincker shares his memories of participating on the livestock judging team.