2017 Friend of ACES award recipients honored
aerial of Mumford Hall
By Debra Levey Larson
October 11, 2017
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URBANA, Ill. - The University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES) bestowed the 2017 Friend of ACES award on two remarkable individuals. Evelyn Brandt Thomas of Springfield, Illinois, and George Obernagel III of Waterloo, Illinois, were honored on Oct. 7 as this year’s recipients during the Illinois 4-H Recognition Program in Champaign. The Friend of ACES Award recognizes non-alumni friends who have made outstanding contributions to the growth and success of the College of ACES.

Evelyn Brandt Thomas is a businesswoman, philanthropist, and civic leader. Growing up on a small family farm near Pleasant Plains, Illinois, Thomas was active in 4‐H. After graduating from Springfield High School in 1940, she earned an accounting degree from Illinois Business College, an unusual step for a young woman of that era. She and her brother Glen started a fertilizer business in the early 1950s to supplement the family’s income on the farm.

For over 60 years, she and Glen have remained active in leading the family business, which has grown to become BRANDT Consolidated, Inc., a multi‐million dollar international company dedicated to helping farmers adopt new and profitable technologies to enable their success on the family farm. In 2012, BRANDT was named to Inc. Magazine’s list of 500 Fastest Growing Private Companies. Thomas also has a personal passion for NASCAR. She and BRANDT have been sponsors for several racers.

“Evelyn knows the importance of supporting young people in their pursuit of a college education,” says Angie Barnard, executive director of the Illinois 4-H Foundation, who nominated Thomas for the award. “In addition to scholarships for 4‐H members, she and her late husband Gordon provided scholarship funds at Lincoln Land Community College, the University of Illinois Springfield, the College of ACES, and for the National FFA Organization. Evelyn and Gordon hoped to reduce the debt, and related stress, that young people have to accept in order to obtain higher education. She strives to make the lives of scholarship recipients a little easier and hopes they are able and willing to pay the generosity forward in the future.”

George Obernagel III graduated from McKendree College in Lebanon, Illinois, and completed graduate trust school at Northwestern University. In addition to his successful career in the financial industry, Obernagel is the owner/operator of a family farm with acreage in Nebraska, Arkansas, and Illinois. He also manages a purebred Angus herd, is part owner of 12 Wm. Nobbe & Company John Deere dealerships, and owns the Waterloo Republic Times newspaper and other businesses.

“George Obernagel is no stranger to the University of Illinois, College of ACES, 4-H or community service,” says Steve Loerch, former professor and head of the College of ACES Department of Animal Sciences, who nominated Obernagel for the award. “His dedication to U of I puts him in the same category as loyal alumni. In fact, many have suggested that it seemed that George is an ACES alumnus based on his commitment. He is an avid supporter of 4-H and FFA, and encourages opportunities for College of ACES students. He values hands-on learning and supports travel and professional development activities for the University of Illinois livestock judging and evaluation team.”