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CALS to honor Robert and Carol Black, Roger Cliff, Karl Klessig, Martin Burkhardt and Ken Shapiro

Robert B. and Carol J. Black of Columbus, Roger A. Cliff of Verona, and Karl S. Klessig of Cleveland will receive the Honorary Recognition Award from the University of Wisconsin-Madison College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) on Oct. 18. At the same event, the college will present its Distinguished Alumni Award to Martin E. Burkhardt of Wausau and its Distinguished Service Award to Professor Emeritus Kenneth H. Shapiro of Madison.

These are the highest honors bestowed by CALS. The Honorary Recognition Award, established in 1909, recognizes individuals who have made significant contributions to their professions, their communities and the university. The Distinguished Alumni Award, which recognizes outstanding lifetime achievement and service, has been presented since 2009. The Distinguished Service Award, first presented in 1994, recognizes meritorious service by CALS faculty and staff members.

The awards will be presented at the CALS Honorary Recognition Banquet at the UW-Madison Memorial Union on Oct. 18. Friends of the honorees and of the university are invited to register for the event at

About the honorees:

Robert and Carol Black raise Dorset sheep and are longtime leaders in efforts to educate Wisconsin sheep producers and promote the state’s sheep and wool industry. Among his many contributions, Bob Black co-chaired the Wisconsin Sheep Industry Conference beginning in 1981 and since 1984 has served as chair of that event, which in 2002 was expanded and renamed the Wisconsin Sheep & Wool Festival (WSWF). The annual event draws close to 8,000 visitors, many of them nonfarmers. He has held several leadership positions in the Wisconsin Sheep Breeders Cooperative (WSBC) and currently serves as editor of its quarterly publication, the Wisconsin Shepherd. Carol is also a key force behind the WSWF, serving as publicity chair and manager of the Wisconsin Wool Works, a retail effort of the Wisconsin Sheep Breeders Cooperative that sells and promotes wool items at the WSWF and at the Wisconsin State Fair. Carol also operates Ewesful Gifts, a small mail-order company that sells sheep-related items.

Roger Cliff has served as chief administrative officer of the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation since 2004 and has held a number of other leadership posts since joining the organization’s staff in 1973. During those four decades he has worked effectively with eight governors and countless state and federal legislators on both sides of the aisle to develop agricultural policies that promote the preservation of farmland, reduce the tax burden on farmers and enable environmental stewardship programs that protect the state’s soil and water resources. He has also provided invaluable guidance and advocacy on behalf of the UW System on a number of legislative fronts. For example, he was instrumental in efforts leading to passage of legislation that established the Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine, the Pioneer Farm at UW-Platteville and UW-Extension’s Discovery Farms program. He has regularly advocated for CALS in efforts to obtain federal research funding and has supported the CALS Farm and Industry Short Course and other programs that prepare young people for agricultural careers.

Karl Klessig and his wife, Liz, co-own Saxon Homestead Farm, a fifth-generation family partnership that combines rotational grazing, dairy cattle, dairy steers and seasonal calving. The family also operates Saxon Creamery, a farmstead cheese factory that produces award-winning artisan cheese. The Klessigs strive to produce high-quality milk in a system that provides for exceptional animal comfort, efficient and profitable production, environmental stewardship, and family and employee well-being, and they ardently support university research and education programs that focus on these objectives. An example is their participation in the UW Discovery Farms program, in which UW researchers and producers partner to pilot new management strategies and collect data on working farms. Karl Klessig currently serves on the Sheboygan Area School District’s food service advisory committee and on the board of directors for the Manitowoc County Agricultural Education Center project. The Klessig family, which includes their children, Jordan, Valerie and Max, host an annual barn dance to raise funds for organizations that conserve farmland and natural resources—including the CALS-based Wisconsin School for Beginning Dairy and Livestock Farmers. Klessig has been active in a long list of organizations that support Wisconsin agriculture, economic development and environmental production, and he and his family have received a number of awards for these efforts.

Martin Burkhardt earned B.S. degrees in agriculture and mechanical engineering and an M.S. degree in agricultural engineering in the early 1960s. What he learned served him well in a career that included teaching positions at both UW-Platteville and the State University of New York/Cobleskill and several positions at Wausau Insurance, the most recent of which involved advising industrial clients on ways to prevent injury and illness in the work environment. He says that one of the most valuable parts of his education was assisting the late UW agricultural engineer Ham Bruhn on several research projects in exchange for a small stipend.  This made him a strong advocate for programs that linked students’ financial assistance with hands-on work experiences. Along with his wife, Kathleen, he established the Burkhardt Fund to support such opportunities for students in three departments: biological systems engineering and nutritional sciences in CALS, and environmental textiles and design in the School of Human Ecology. The fund also established the Martin J. and Georgina Burkhardt English Garden in the UW Allen Centennial Gardens in honor of Martin Burkhardt’s parents, both of whom were CALS grads. He also supports the college as a founding member, former officer and one of the hardest-working volunteers of the Wisconsin Agricultural and Life Sciences Alumni Association.

Ken Shapiro, professor emeritus of agricultural and applied economics, joined CALS in 1982 as associate dean and director of the Office of International Programs and until recently was chair of the agricultural and applied economics department. Throughout his tenure he worked tirelessly to ensure that international agricultural collaborations are an integral part of the college’s research, teaching and outreach activities. His efforts have bolstered the status of CALS and UW-Madison in the international arena. He is skilled at identifying ways to apply the unique strengths of a land grant university to tackle some of the world’s most pressing problems. He developed opportunities for UW faculty and staff to address challenges in Sub-Saharan Africa through projects in The Gambia, Zambia, Uganda and elsewhere; in South America in Bolivia and Peru; and in Central America in Mexico, Guatemala and Costa Rica. In recent years he has provided leadership for the college’s engagement with China and India. Among his many accomplishments, he helped co-found the Khorana Program for Scientific Exchange, which partners with the Indian government, universities, non-government organizations and the private sector to bring top Indian science students to the UW-Madison and send UW students to India for research experiences. That program is now expanding to include other schools in the Big Ten and around the country.

For more information: Janis Simons, (608) 262-4930,