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Kansas State University will have a new president on Valentine’s Day as Richard Linton has been selected to be the university’s 15th leader.

Much work is ahead and the Kansas Board of Regents need to be congratulated as Linton has made all the right comments since his selection.

In agricultural country we’ll be watching closely. K-State has been in the news over the past decade as Manhattan has been gearing up for the National Bio Agro-Defense Facility. As a project with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Homeland Security, NBAF is designed to help protect the nation’s agriculture, farmers and citizens against the threat and potential impact of serious animal diseases.

K-State is a land-grant university. The Morrill Act of 1862, as authored by U.S. Sen. Justin Morrill, of Vermont, according to www.ourdocuments.gov, made it possible for new western states to establish colleges for their citizens and these institutions were to emphasize agriculture and mechanical arts, opened opportunities to thousands of farmers and working people previously excluded from higher education.

Over the years, particularly those alumni who have followed those career paths, might wonder if the commitment remains. This is no criticism of current K-State President Richard Myers. A college president has a balancing act that includes the role of academics and athletics.

Linton is currently dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at North Carolina State University. His work indicates his commitment to the roots of what K-State and other land-grant universities are about. He has a bachelor’s in biology, master’s in food science and doctorate in food science from Virginia Tech. He was a food science faculty member, director and founder of the Center for Food Safety Engineering and associate director of agricultural research at Purdue University. He also served at Ohio State University. He has published over 670 referred journal articles, 11 textbooks and over 75 Extension publications.

Linton promises to be a good listener and learn from Kansans.

“I will be spending a lot of my early time getting to know all of you both on campus and off campus and listening and learning about the Kansas State culture and your programmatic direction,” Linton said. “I want to know your aspirations and your dreams for the future, and I want to help find pathways to get there. I can’t wait to be your president and go Cats!”

Linton certainly from his background and comments has the right approach.

The challenges are many, as all presidents understand, from keeping a university at the center of a community but also the endless needs of fund raising and securing tax funding to support the entire educational process. It is an asset that Linton has an extensive background with Extension and research. Those programs provide a vital need to rural communities from across the state. They are an important lifeline to farmers and ranchers, whether it is informational meetings to county fairs. All are essential to the rural economy in each county.

At the center of it all must be the young minds who will be the cornerstone of our future through their research to defeat pests that plague our crops and livestock industries but also cancer and declines in rural populations.

Linton will replace Myers who has been helping Linton with the transition process.

All college presidents have faced or will face additional challenges but drawing upon the alumni and residents of their state offers strength as they help prepare students to become future problem-solvers.

Welcome incoming President Linton, to your wife, Sally, and your two high school-aged children, Lily and Chris. We are here to you help you, too.

Dave Bergmeier can be reached at 620-227-1822 or dbergmeier@hpj.com.

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