Everett Rhodes Named 2016 Dean Merrell Lifetime Achievement Award Recipient
By Angela Askey, Executive Director Public Relations and Marketing
Everett Rhodes of Casa Grande, AZ, has been named the 2016 Dean Merrell Lifetime Achievement Award recipient by the South Central District of the Arizona Association Future Farmers of America (FFA).
Rhodes’ agricultural roots were instituted during his early childhood while working on several farms near Coolidge and Florence. He attended elementary school in Florence and high school in Coolidge. He was an active 4-H and FFA member.
With a growing interest in the farming industry and the influence of Mr. Cy Henry, his ag teacher at Coolidge High School, Rhodes pursued a career in agriculture. He attended the University of Arizona, receiving a bachelor’s degree in 1971 and Master’s Degree in Agricultural Education in 1985.
“He (Mr. Henry) seemed to have a special and caring way to motivate a very shy farm boy to become an FFA officer and to actively participate in many leadership activities,” commented Rhodes. “His practical approach to teaching agriculture and the opportunity to complete many fun crop and livestock projects during my four years at Coolidge High School provided a great foundation to my lifetime career in agricultural education.”
Rhodes began his professional career as an agricultural educator in January 1972, as a Vocational Agriculture Teacher and FFA Advisor at Casa Grande Union High School. In 1986, he was hired by the University of Arizona as a 4-H Youth Development Agent for Pinal County Cooperative Extension. He graduated from Project CENTRL (Arizona’s Center for Rural Leadership) Class III in 1987 and later served as CENTRL’s Director from 1997 through 2013. Rhodes retired from his life time career in agriculture education on July 1, 2015, after completing two years of service as an Agriculture Agent for Pinal County Cooperative Extension.
Throughout his career, Rhodes was awarded multiple recognitions. He was selected by his fellow agriculture teachers to receive the Arizona Ag Teacher of the Year award and served as past President of both the Arizona Agriculture Teachers Association and the Arizona 4-H Agents Association. He received the Outstanding Director Award from International Association of Programs for Agricultural Leadership (IAPAL) in Chicago in 2011.
“I am deeply touched to receive the 2016 Dean Merrell Lifetime Achievement Award. It was my pleasure and great fortune to have worked closely with Dean Merrell in my early years as an FFA Advisor and in later years with Pinal County 4-H,” said Rhodes. “I have many fond memories of bringing my Ag students to the South Central District FFA Field Day hosted by Dean Merrell and CAC. After leaving FFA to become a 4-H Agent, I also remember the special contributions Dean gave to so many Pinal County Fairs as our 4-H/FFA show ring announcer. Dean’s lasting legacy of leadership and service have touched the lives of so many youth and adults in agriculture.”
Karen Geldmacher, Professor of Agriculture at CAC stated, “We are honored to present this award to Everett Rhodes. He has successfully served our county and the state during his professional career of 43 years in agricultural education.”
Rhodes is married to his high school sweetheart, Linda, who also has been a lifelong educator for over 44 years. They have three married children, Brian (April) Rhodes, Shawna (Eric) Diveley, and Rachael (Andrew) Ramsey and eight grandchildren, between the ages of one and thirteen.
Considered to be the founding father of agricultural education at CAC, Merrell practiced what he preached. He farmed for over two decades. Additionally, he was a pest control adviser, owner and operator of Hacienda Ag Labs, and served as president of the Farm Bureau, the Pinal County Fair Board and the Vocational Agriculture Teachers Association. Dean also was an adviser of the CAC Rodeo Club, an academic adviser and livestock committee chairman.
Each year, CAC's Dean Merrell FFA Field Day brings together students from the south central Arizona region to compete in events such as agricultural issues, agricultural mechanics, agronomy, dairy management, entomology, horse evaluation, job interview, livestock evaluation, meats evaluation, nursery operations, range management, and soil and wildlife management.