Steven Sipes Named 2017 Dean Merrell Lifetime Achievement Award Recipient

By Angela Askey, Executive Director Public Relations and Marketing

Steven Sipes of Casa Grande, AZ, has been named the 2017 Dean Merrell Lifetime Achievement Award recipient by the South Central District of the Arizona Association Future Farmers of America (FFA).

Sipes was raised in the small farming community of San Simon in southeastern Arizona. His agricultural background blossomed as he worked on the family’s small farm and ranch where he learned about raising crops and livestock.

“My parents were the greatest influence on my success; respecting others, working hard, playing fair and never giving up when things get tough are values they lived by.” stated Sipes. “They taught me all of life’s valuable lessons and I am indebted to them for that.” 

In 1984, Sipes graduated from San Simon High School and attended the University of Arizona where he graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Agricultural Education four years later.  In 1998, he completed a Master’s Degree in Agricultural Education.

Following in his father’s footsteps, Sipes began his professional career as an agricultural educator at Casa Grande Union High School in 1988. Seven years later he took a position teaching agriculture at Coolidge High School, but later returned to CGUHS. After spending 25 years in the classroom, Sipes accepted the position of Career and Technical Education Director for the Casa Grande Union High School District.

When asked why he chose to teach, Sipes explained, “Seeing the spark in a child’s eye when they watch a calf being born, witness a plant seed germinate, harvest their first vegetable with their own hands or run their first bead with an arc welder is an amazing feeling. Agriculture is the lifeblood of America and I wanted my students to learn to love, respect and appreciate the industry that is responsible for their very existence.”

“Much like Dean Merrell, Sipes has practiced what he preaches,” stated Karen Geldmacher, Professor of Agriculture at CAC. “We are honored to present this award to a man who has dedicated his entire career to working with Pinal County youth. Steven is truly deserving of this prestigious recognition.” 

Sipes first met Dean Merrell as a freshmen in high school while attending a FFA Cotton Judging Contest hosted at CAC. When he was hired to teach Ag at CGUHS, their professional relationship began. 

“I am honored to be named the recipient of the 2017 Dean Merrill Lifetime Achievement award.  Dean was a great man that influenced many students during his agricultural career. He mentored me as a young teacher, like he did with many others, and helped me through those first couple of years that are always the hardest,” said Sipes. “Not only did I have a professional relationship with Dean we developed a personal relationship as well. Three of Dean and Connie’s children were agriculture students of mine early in my teaching career.”

Sipes and his wife Julie have been married for 27 years. They have two children, who both recently graduated from The University of Arizona with Bachelor’s Degrees in Agriculture. They enjoy spending time as a family and enjoying the outdoors.


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