Father's Day: Donors Honor Dads in the New Frontiers Agricultural Hall

New Frontiers new frontiers ferguson college of Agriculture

For many in the Cowboy family, agriculture is a way of life that has been passed on from generation to generation.

It’s a profession that takes grit and accountability. It takes doing work before the sun even rises, come rain or shine. It takes a love of the land and an unwavering attitude. And often, these values were instilled by a caring father.

It’s no wonder so many donors have honored their dads with named spaces in the New Frontiers Agricultural Hall, the soon-to-be new home for Oklahoma State University Agriculture. On this Father’s Day, we are sharing some of those stories and celebrating dads everywhere.

Callahan Conference Room in honor of Jarold Callahan

Courtesy of Brian Callahan

Brian Callahan broke from the family tradition and chose a different path from farming or ranching. Still, agriculture has left a long-lasting imprint on him, thanks in large part to his dad, Jarold.

A 1976 OSU animal science graduate, Jarold is the president of Express Ranches and owner of Callahan Cattle Co. He also is a former professor and current OSU/A&M Board of Regents member. Jarold’s background in agriculture instilled a few key values in his children, including hard work and the power of focus.

“I have never known of anyone who can spend more time looking at, evaluating and studying a set of cattle every day,” Brian said. “And if you put your focus on something you are likely to get good at it.”

Jarold also taught Brian to give back to those who have poured into him. Brian is following through on that lesson with his gift to the New Frontiers campaign, which provided a unique opportunity to honor Jarold with something he greatly cares about.

“I have deep appreciation for those who pursue a career in agriculture, which really is a way of life,” Brian said. “My dad has a saying: crops and cattle don’t sleep in or take vacations.”

Jerry E. & Marilyn Taylor Johnston Family | Soils Research Lab Huddle Room

Courtesy of JJ Stevak & Craige Johnston

Jerry Johnston earned a lot of important titles during his life, including company president, mayor and hall of fame member.

But being known as father, husband and grandfather were equally as important.

“Dad meant everything to us,” JJ Stevak said of her late father, who passed away in 2021. “He taught us to love life, and, in the end, he taught us how to find love and peace even as he battled a debilitating illness in the last year of his life.”

Jerry graduated from OSU in 1957 with a degree in agronomy — or weeds and seeds, as he liked to call it.

He moved back to his hometown of Braman, Oklahoma, to work his dad's business, the Ed Johnston Grain Company. It was there that he and his high school sweetheart, Marilyn, raised their two children.

Jerry demonstrated to his kids and grandchildren the value of hard work, service to others and the importance of responsibility and honesty. He also passed on his love of singing in the church choir and his loyal and true commitment to the OSU Cowboys.

His children thought the Soils Research Lab Huddle Room would be a perfect space to bear their father’s name.

“He and my mom worked side-by-side in the company every day,” Stevak said. “What better way for them to be remembered than helping the next generations continue to serve and feed their communities and the world.”

Dr. Robert Price | Agricultural Education, Communications & Leadership Department Head Office

Courtesy of Faye Ann Presnal

Dr. Robert Price had visions for change.

And he quietly — yet diligently — worked to make them a reality during his 17-year tenure as head of OSU’s Department of Agricultural Education in the late 1950s through mid 1970s.

In a society where racial segregation was still the norm, Robert reached out to black schools to broaden opportunities for training. He also helped pave the way for the department’s first two female students to fulfill their dreams of teaching agriculture.

“That was one of his greatest gifts to his children,” Faye Ann Presnal said of her late father. “He instilled in us a belief that all people are created equal and deserve opportunities.”

One of his continuing legacies was his vision to assist developing countries by creating an avenue for administrators and teachers to receive experience in agricultural and Extension education programs. For more than 30 years, Robert served as research advisor and committee chairman for 219 international students from 29 different countries.

Many of those students returned to their countries to assume leadership roles in universities and government after graduating.

Presnal felt the Agricultural Education, Communications & Leadership Department Head Office was a fitting place for her dad’s legacy to live on.

“During dad’s tenure he responded to significant changes going on in the world with vision and commitment and always saw possibilities in his students,” Presnal said. “We are proud of his successes and the impact he had on students, colleagues, and our family.

“Dad understood what his life was to be about: touching others in the world with hope, promise and possibilities.”

Don & Willadean Ramsey Conference Room

Courtesy of Brett and Greg Ramsey

Don Ramsey was a true believer that hustle and work ethic trumps talent most every day.

He was the first of his family to graduate from college, and it was that agricultural education degree from Oklahoma A&M that propelled him and future generations of his family forward.

“(Don) knew first-hand how much education could change a life,” Brett Ramsey said of his late father. “He valued his time spent at Oklahoma A&M above most of life's influences.”

After graduating in 1950, Don went on to be an agricultural education instructor in Oklahoma for 22 years. He often said being a teacher is one of the best jobs a person can have and credited OSU for helping him achieve that goal.

After his teaching career, he founded Blue & Gold Sausage Co. The company currently provides product for the fundraising efforts of more than 1,000 groups, which collectively generate more than $6 million annually.

His sons wanted to ensure his legacy would live on through the future of OSU Agriculture.

“Dad was the one in a million that truly started with less than nothing and built stability into our family,” Brett said. “He created opportunities for Greg and I that we may never be able to repay.”

Bob D. Sanford | Associate Vice President of Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service Office

Courtesy of Michael Sanford

Michael Sanford’s biggest fans were always his parents.

The Sanford family had a stable and loving home that was molded by their father, Bob Sanford. Along with Michael’s mother, Maxine, Bob was always lending constant support and guidance to his children.

“They never challenged any of my decisions, only making simple suggestions to keep me on the right path,” Michael said of his late parents. “Our family benefited greatly from such a super father.”

Bob was able to attend Oklahoma A&M after serving in World War II with assistance from the G.I. Bill. In 1951, he graduated with a degree in animal science, later going on to earn his master’s degree in animal science.

His work took him all across Oklahoma, and he eventually served as the extension director for the Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service in Carter County for more than 20 years.

A farm boy from rural eastern Oklahoma, Bob was able to make something of himself through honest, hard work, Michael said.

“Dad was a strong supporter of higher education, especially agricultural programs,” Michael said. “He was a generous and kind man, and I want his legacy to live on for generations to come.”

Dr. James White International Agriculture Suite and Dr. James & Carol White Courtyard Study

Courtesy of Dava White

Dava White’s first few birthdays were attended almost exclusively by OSU graduate students. And she wouldn’t have had it any other way.

Her late father, Dr. James White, was a Cowboy through and through. He earned all three of his degrees from OSU and returned to Stillwater to serve as a professor for almost 25 years. Throughout Dava’s childhood, the White house was often the venue for agricultural education and FFA events.

“Dad was a student favorite,” Dava said. “He enjoyed his time as Collegiate FFA advisor and especially loved advising graduate students.”

Dava’s mom, Carol, was also involved, attending events, being available to students, and being a leader of “Ag Ed Wives.”

Later in James’ career, he took a larger interest in international ag, participating in exchange programs and taking on international graduate advisees.

“These students were like family,” Dava said. “One of them even lived at our house when Dad was in the hospital.”

“When Mom and I saw the International Ag Suite listed as a naming opportunity, it felt like a perfect fit,” Dava said. “And the study area named for both of them honors their love of teaching, mentoring and interacting with students.”

These stories are just a few ways donors have honored loved ones with a New Frontiers naming gift. Heidi Williams, associate vice president of constituent development, said it’s been an honor to work alongside members of the Cowboy family as they’ve created meaningful tributes at OSU.

“We’re incredibly pleased so many individuals and families have found this project worthy of investment and a way to expand a father or family legacy within the Ferguson College of Agriculture,” Williams said. “And we continue to have several naming opportunities available.”

The New Frontiers Agricultural Hall will strengthen OSU research, teaching and Extension missions while addressing two key challenges of attracting and retaining scientific leaders and students and equipping collaborative teams with state-of-the-art teaching and research laboratories.

“It has been exciting to share the naming opportunities with donors and see them select a space where their name will be on display in the building, and for many, that has evolved into a way to create a family legacy and honor a mentor or loved one,” said Thomas G. Coon, vice president and dean of OSU Agriculture.

With less than $700,000 to go, the end of the $50 million fundraising campaign is near. A total of 596 donors (518 since the campaign launch) have helped reach 98.7% through gifts and pledges.

“Even when we reach our $50 million goal, our work will not be done,” Coon said. “We will continue to raise funds for available naming opportunities and building features that will elevate teaching, research and Extension efforts.”

To learn more information about campaign progress, construction updates and donor stories, visit OSUgiving.com/new-frontiers.

The New Frontiers campaign was launched in January 2020 to build a new state-of-the-art facility for OSU Agriculture. The New Frontiers Agricultural Hall, expected to open in fall 2024, further advances teaching, research and Extension efforts that are critical to the state’s economy, citizens’ safety and quality of life. By advancing OSU Agriculture and its programs, New Frontiers is fostering innovation to help feed the world.