Keith Eckel is more than just a Penn State trustee. He's gone from being a farm owner to being a presidential appointment to an agricultural board, most recently.
Eckel, a member of the Penn State Board of Trustees since 2001, received a phone call three weeks ago from a White House representative to congratulate him on President George W. Bush's appointing him to the Board for International Food and Agricultural Development (BIFAD).
Penn State Live announced Eckel's appointment in a statement.
"I have been an agriculture advocate all my life," Eckel said. "I absolutely believe one of the great opportunities in this country is to help those less fortunate -- not only in this country, but internationally. I believe this gives me the opportunity to have input in doing that."
BIFAD is a seven-member board that advises the U.S. Agency for International Development on agricultural matters. Eckel's appointment, effective immediately, will allow him to serve on the agricultural board for the remainder of a four-year term expiring in July and will then begin a new term that will last until 2012.
Eckel said his business background and experience will help the board focus on providing cost-effective aid to foreign nations.
"I am sure that one of the challenges has always been 'how can we do the most good with our food assistance and development programs with the resources we have?' " Eckel said. "We've got to remember this is ultimately about people. We need to become more efficient at providing assistance to more people."
Eckel, the owner of Fred W. Eckel Sons Farms, which produces tomatoes, sweet corn, corn for grain, pumpkins and wheat, said he thinks the president chose him for his diverse background.
Paula Ammerman, director of the trustees' office, said Eckel's appointment will not negatively affect his position as a trustee but would rather "[enhance] it."
"It would be very helpful for him to bring his international perspective that he's going to be dealing with back to Penn State and sharing it," Ammerman said.
Eckel added that he thinks his Penn State connections will enhance what he is able to offer BIFAD.
"It will be very helpful because the university has a number of people with tremendous backgrounds in agriculture, and it will be source of great of information for me," he said.
Deanna Behring, the director of international programs for the College of Agricultural Sciences, said Eckel understands the value of the research produced by her college.
"We're very, very thrilled that it's somebody so familiar with not just Pennsylvania agriculture... but someone who knows what Penn State and major universities have to offer to the global challenges of development," Behring said.
© 2008 Daily Collegian via U-WIRE