Very few educators have touched as many minds and hearts at Washington State University as Ron Mittelhammer.
Across nearly 45 years at WSU, Mittelhammer, current Regents Professor in the School of Economic Sciences, has been a student, a scientist, mentor, dean of his college, interim provost, and a founder and the inaugural director of his School.
A proud Cougar alumnus, he has dedicated his entire professional career and nearly all of his adult life to education and research at WSU, teaching and inspiring thousands of students and colleagues.
This spring, Mittelhammer was honored for his rare dedication, receiving the V. Lane Rawlins President’s Award for Distinguished Lifetime Service.
Celebration of excellence
The Rawlins award honors WSU faculty and staff who give a substantial part of their career to WSU, helping the university through service in administration, teaching, research, extension, and their profession.
The award was presented Friday, March 29, 2019, as part of the university’s annual Showcase, a weeklong celebration of academic excellence.
Recognized for his lifetime service, Mittelhammer was noted for his leadership, selfless involvement, and ability to bring others together.
Preparing the next generation
Arriving from his home state of New Jersey with his wife Linda in 1974 to seek his doctorate in agricultural and resource economics, Mittelhammer never left WSU.
He was hired by the USDA’s Economic Research Service as an agricultural economist within a year of beginning his doctoral program, and then hired in 1977 as an assistant professor a year before his official graduation date. Since then, Mittelhammer began a lifelong passion for teaching and research that’s never faded.
From mentoring hundreds of students, to the successful creation of the School of Economic Sciences, to leading one of WSU’s largest and most complex colleges, Mittelhammer continuously works to make his institution better. A celebrated instructor and scholar, he teaches with rigorous discipline and visible Cougar pride.
“In every one of my classes, I see our next generation of economists, scientists, and teachers seizing big ideas and making them their own,” said Mittelhammer. “I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”
Answering the call
When the university and college called on him, Mittelhammer has stepped up, serving as dean of the College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences for five years, and also as university interim co-provost in 2015-16.
With his wife Linda, a student experience coordinator with the WSU Office of International Programs’ INTO program, Mittelhammer has been a constant supporter of community efforts, including food and back-to-school drives for children and families in need, Pullman downtown improvement efforts, and local Chamber of Commerce events. His servant leadership included the Presidency of the national Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, chairing and serving on a myriad of campus committees, directing a research center, and planning and implementing the Academic Showcase.
Mittelhammer was a principal founder of the School of Economic Sciences. In 2003, he led a committee that created its design, merging two different departments from two different colleges. To lend it some much-needed stability, he agreed to become the School’s first director, serving for six years.
While serving as School’s director, he agreed to direct the IMPACT Center, an economic modeling group devoted to improving the competitiveness of Washington agricultural industries.
Along the way, many honors have come, among them the WSU Eminent Faculty Award, a 2018 WSU Alumni Achievement Award, and one of the original appointments as Regents Professor, the highest faculty rank at WSU.
“Ron is a phenomenal faculty member,” said Rich Koenig, Mittelhammer’s colleague and associate Dean in CAHNRS and interim chair of the Departments of Crop and Soil Sciences and Horticulture. “He’s never lost the vision of what it means to be an outstanding researcher, teacher, and leader in the college.”
“He is a great role model for young faculty,” added Jill McCluskey, Distinguished Professor of Sustainability and Associate Director of the School of Economic Sciences, and a friend and colleague. “He started at WSU, and showed you can be world-famous and produce at the highest levels.”
“Washington State University is a place like no other,” Mittelhammer said. “Every student, and every faculty and staff member is called upon to make this institution better than when we found it. That’s what I’ve always tried to do.”