[ACEL]: Hi Ralph! You majored in agricultural education at Ohio State. What made you choose that major?
[Stonerock]: Because I really didn’t know what I wanted! However, I had a great vo-ag teacher in Don Mercer, great 4-H advisors, great experiences. Additionally, everything surrounding agricultural education was fascinating and allowed me to expand personally.
Why did you choose to attend The Ohio State University?
I had no financial support from my parents, nor did I expect any. I scored very low on ACT and was expected to fail the first quarter. Ohio State had to accept me. The challenge, the experiences, and the adventure to leave the security of hometown was something I couldn’t ignore. If I were to fail, it would be at Ohio’s largest university and most taxing.
How did your education at Ohio State influence your choice of career or your career path?
Exposure to the world of knowledge became addictive. Each course, each instructor, each graduate student assistant, each classroom experience was adding to my choices, yet proving to be directional. I worked in the Poultry Science Department and became more impressed with faculty and staff. I saw curiosity take hold in exploring unknowns. Both Poultry Science and Agriculture Education departments became a home and a stabilizing asset when I lost a sister and my mother in the same year. My life at Ohio State opened a lot of doors toward opportunities. Even the elective courses were broadening. One in particular on photography where I expected an A since mid-term and finals were aced. However, a B was given. I elected to visit the professor, he admitted that I knew the mechanics and technical theory, but did not display artistic use. Then he kindly showed me other students work. That was an epiphany moment. The experience opened me to greater possibility thinking. I retold that experience to many of my students in Peace Corps, as an agriculture teacher, employees, and most recently in Africa to farmers. It benefited me and serves to guide others.
Another experience was setting up a poultry genetic study I misunderstood the sexing separation for Dr. Japp and nearly ruined the trial. Ivan Cottril and Dr. Japp corrected me and opened me to seeing research as observation, a functional tool. Those experiences combined with learning communication brought success and encouragement to others.
How were you involved in student life at Ohio State?
Campus 4-H, an Agricultural Education Society officer, Poultry Science Club, Poultry JudgingTeam , initiated and served as president of the International Society, Towers Honorary. I was also employed at the Poultry Science Laboratory and off campus.
What classes did you enjoy the most while at Ohio State?
Biology, math, chemistry, all agriculture classes. In particular Agricultural Engineering because of its practical application. Dr. Marsh’s poultry diseases class because it taught me to explore causes after seeing symptoms. International Economics and Agriculture Economics since it explained how people reacted and affected by markets. Animal nutrition taught by Dr. Cline because it opened more potential exploration questions that at the time were not known.
Which faculty or had the most impact on your time at Ohio State?
Dr. Bender and Dr. Boucher guided my course selections. Doctors Marsh, Japp, Cook, Cline because their accomplishments were inspirational. Dr. Japp was recognized by the French government while I worked for him and his graduate students. He should have been nominated for a Nobel as the first to discover the function of Bursa. It took the medical researchers nearly 10 years later to find bursa functional cells in humans. He also impressed me with his dedication to discovery.
What is your favorite memory related to your time at Ohio State? Sports, dedication, meeting people that later became connections and vital to my success. Participation in celebrating a Rose Bowl victory and going to the Union to watch Neil Armstrong on the moon. Graduating with graduate students that were my instructors receiving their PhD’s.
What was your first job following your education at Ohio State?
Peace Corps in the South Pacific teaching agriculture at two schools and managing a UN funded breeding project for swine improvement and chickens. Upon returning I taught vocational agriculture at Gallipolis, Ohio, before entering graduate school at University of Florida.
For what schools, companies and/or organizations have you worked throughout your career?
I managed a egg layer complex and a broiler complex on Grand Bahama Island. I have been the production superintendent for Vigortone Feeds. Production and marketing supervisor for Kuder Farms in Florida. Marketed Hisex Egg layers in Indiana and Ohio. Marketed products produced by Carl Akey, later as a poultry nutritionist and researcher. Biomin Poultry Director worldwide before retiring. I do some poultry consulting and volunteer assignments with USAID. Additionally, I farm, research/explore use of Beauveria bassiana for row crops.
During your career, have you received any awards or honors? If so, what are those?
Numerous times I have stood at the podium while peers praised my work. But the awards I favor most are those by clients saying thank you. I was first to publish studies in crop function by cropectomy, first to publish a non-fast molting nutritional profile for laying hens that became a world standard, first to outline a nutritional profile on phase feeding laying hens which was later adopted by commercial breeders. Co-founder of the Poultry Health Management School, now a successful 16 year history. Chaired five different committees for Poultry Science and president of Southern Poultry Science. Chosen by producers to serve president for Ohio Poultry Association two years. Finally, to be recognized by my home town high school for accomplishments.
As of today, what is your favorite career highlight?
Invited speaker on gut nutrition in Queensland for World Poultry Science and to speak at the Austral-Asian Poultry Researchers in Bussan, Korea. Addressing a group of Russian veterinarians on poultry nutrition just 200 kilometers from the North Pole. Seeing their excitement as I spoke. Having traveled six continents and having made friends in all locations. Discovering the symbiotic relationship of Beauveria bassiana in row crops when applied to seed (found in Union county).
What advice would you give to a current student?
Take every class seriously. Learn to admire with awe the sacrifices others have made on your behalf. Enjoy meeting people. You will likely encounter them again.
What did ACEL cultivate in you? How?
It started in my home community with Ohio State graduates that taught school or volunteered. They gave a sense of purpose and encouragement. Agricultural education and communication refined the skills for helping others find their path. I am pleased for the involvement.