News Release

Three Recognized with Torch and Shield Award at U of M Crookston

By Elizabeth Tollefson on
Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Chancellor Fred Wood; Mary Jo Eastes 1979; Dick Hebert 1968; and Keith McNamara, president, Sugarbeet Research and Education Board; and Albert Sims, director of operations, Northwest Research and Outreach CenterTwo alumni and an organization were recognized with the Torch & Shield Award in late October during the annual recognition. The three recipients for 2015 were Mary Jo Eastes 1979, Richard “Dick” Hebert 1968, and the Sugarbeet Research and Education Board. The Torch & Shield Award recognizes individuals and organizations who have provided leadership and who have aided in the development of the University of Minnesota Crookston, the Northwest Research and Outreach Center, and Extension.

The recipients for 2015 are distinguished for their many contributions:

Mary Jo Eastes, a 1979 graduate of the University of Minnesota Crookston, has lived and worked in southern California since 1985. After graduating with her bachelor’s degree from the University of North Dakota, she moved to Los Angeles, she held several entry level jobs in the produce industry, became specialty produce buyer for TOPCO Associates, and later, was in charge of citrus sales and marketing with Pandol Brothers and The Sam Perricone Company in the San Joaquin Valley. From 1994-2007, she was the owner of Videos on Broadway in Crookston. Her legacy is best traced in her countless volunteer activities, grant writing, and organizing events, particularly with Arts Visalia in Visalia, Calif. She has worked to raise funding for children's art classes and gallery exhibits and other projects.

She recently marked her ninth year producing the St. Patrick’s Day Parade and the Waiters Race, both held in downtown Visalia. Eastes organized the Neighborhood Watch in her community; started the Monthly Birthday Party for the Visalia Rescue Mission in 2004, an ongoing event for the mission; has been involved with Banner of Hope, a fundraising effort to fight cancer; and partnered with a local newspaper and 18 non-profits to raise money in Newstands for Non-profits.

Eastes and her husband, Rick, reside in Visalia and are avid art collectors. They have donated two works by artist Gary Ernest Smith to the campus. She was honored as an Outstanding Alumni in 2009 and serves on the University of Minnesota Crookston College Advisory and Advancement Board.

Richard “Dick” Hebert is currently chairman of the board of D & D Commodities Ltd., a company he founded in 1987, which today packages premium caged and outdoor pet food as well as small animal feed. The company has evolved and grown to become a leader in the bird and small animal food manufacturing industry.

Hebert attended the U of M Crookston from 1966-68, then transferred to North Dakota State University in Fargo where he earned his Bachelor of Science in agronomy and soils.  While employed at Minn-Dak Growers, he gained insight and knowledge about the specialty crops industry working closely with Dr. Robby Robinson from the University of Minnesota particularly regarding the sunflower industry.  Hebert wrote the state grade standards for confection and oil sunflowers.

A member of the Wild Bird Food Institute (WBFI), he was a founding trustee of the WBFI Research Foundation, an organization whose purpose is to advance the knowledge of wild bird feeding through scientific research on food and feeder preference.

Hebert is a new member of the U of M Crookston College Advisory and Advancement Board and was the recipient of the Outstanding Alumni Award in 1993.

The Sugarbeet Research and Education Board is organized for educational and scientific purposes including to further develop the sugarbeet industry of North Dakota and Minnesota through coordinated research and educational programs; and to provide a structure whereby sugarbeet interests can participate in and contribute to cooperative research and educational efforts.

They also identify needs for strengthening the sugarbeet industry and make recommendations for research and educational programs and serve as a forum for the sugarbeet industry in Minnesota and North Dakota.

The Board funds research projects by universities and private researchers. These projects focus on sugarbeet production, although the board occasionally funds other projects of general interest to the valley sugarbeet industry.

The Board is funded by a check-off on each acre of sugarbeets planted. This is a grower self-help program that administers research and education programs to benefit sugarbeet growers. The award was accepted by Keith McNamara, president of the Sugarbeet Research and Education Board.

The University of Minnesota Crookston now delivers 34 bachelor's degree programs, 22 minors, and 39 areas of emphasis on campus as well as 14 degree programs entirely online.  These degrees are offered in the areas of agriculture and natural resources; business; liberal arts and education; and math, science and technology.  With an enrollment of 1,800 undergraduates from more than 20 countries and 40 states, the Crookston campus offers a supportive, close-knit atmosphere that leads to a prestigious University of Minnesota degree.  "Small Campus. Big Degree."  To learn more, visit

In the photo, left to right, are Chancellor Fred Wood; Mary Jo Eastes 1979; Dick Hebert 1968; and Keith McNamara, president, Sugarbeet Research and Education Board; and Albert Sims, director of operations, Northwest Research and Outreach Center.


Elizabeth Tollefson
University Relations

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