ACES in Arizona

ACES in Arizona

Mar 3
Kimberly Meenen, Senior Director of Advancement

As a development officer for several departments and programs within the College of ACES, I have the occasion to travel and share information with our alumni and friends. Sometimes the destinations are glitzy. Sometimes they look similar to what I left behind in my rearview mirror. Last week, I was able to go to Arizona to visit alumni and friends who have made much warmer locational choices for the winter.

My trip was jam-packed with first-time meetings in and around Phoenix as well as visits with long-time stakeholders. A highlight was attending a gathering of ACES alumni and friends at the home of Dr. Orion Samuelson (‘01 honorary PhD, Univ. of Illinois) and his wife Gloria on Feb. 17. What an honor to host dinner and conversation alongside this legendary and generous couple. When asked if his book, You Can’t Dream Big Enough, could be purchased and signed, Orion graciously obliged. A signature and photo by the pool with Orion was a real thrill for several guests who grew up listening to him.

Dr. Bruce Sherrick, director of the TIAA-CREF Center for Farmland Research and professor in the department of ag and consumer economics, joined me for part of this excursion. Dr. Sherrick spoke to the Phoenix Ag Club’s Annual Outlook Meeting on Feb. 18. This club consists of individuals who own or have owned farmland and are smart enough to stay out of the cold weather in the winter. Dr. Sherrick, an expert on farmland investments, shared his perspective on the historic performance of farmland and prospects for the future. It was a quality presentation.

At the meeting’s conclusion, Orion was presented with the Phoenix Ag Club’s “Stewardship and Sustainability Award” in recognition of his distinguished career in broadcasting and for serving as a spokesperson for the people, land owners, farmers, educators, and agribusiness professionals striving to achieve a better understanding and appreciation of the value of agriculture to society.

Eventually, I did return to the frozen Illinois tundra. But I did so with a much sunnier disposition. I hope future months of February contain Arizona, the ACES “Globally Preeminent, Locally Relevant” mission, and good friends like the Samuelsons.


Dr. Bruce Sherrick, director of the University’s TIAA-CREF Center for Farmland Research; Kimberly Meenen, senior director of advancement, ACES; and Gloria and Orion Samuelson hosted a gathering of ACES alumni and friends at the Samuelson home on Feb. 17.