PULLMAN, Wash. — A $1 million gift to Washington State University from the estate of a Grant County farmer and stockman will bring new extension resources to the Columbia Basin.
The gift from the Paul Lauzier Charitable Foundation to the Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources will create an endowment to fund the Paul Lauzier Distinguished Professorship in Sustainable Agriculture.
For five years, the Lauzier Foundation also will support an extension educator who will conduct applied farming systems research and education in Grant County and portions of surrounding counties and fund a five-year, mini-grant program to support innovative projects in the Columbia Basin that involve farmers, researchers and extension.
“The systems approach looks at the whole farm: the biology, the technology, cropping and alternative crops in the context of what works economically for farmers,” said Phil Crawford, director of CSANR.
“More research and education are needed to help farming families and rural communities find and adopt innovative solutions that make farming more resilient while protecting farm enterprises and the natural resources on which they depend,” Crawford explained.
The gift is in keeping with what Lauzier would have supported if he were still alive, said Mike Tabler, an Ephrata attorney and trustee of the Lauzier Charitable Foundation and the Lauzier Scholarship Foundation.
“It’s going to have a lasting positive effect on lots of people in the agricultural and educational community in the state of Washington for years to come.”
James J. Zuiches, dean of the WSU College of Agriculture and Home Economics, said “The endowment recognizes Mr. Lauzier’s commitment to agricultural research and education and provides an invaluable resource for WSU to support agriculture in the Columbia Basin.”
Lauzier was the son of French immigrants. He grew up in the Yakima area and spent a great deal of time during his youth in the family sheep business near Naylor Junction.
After World War II, he expanded the family sheep business into other livestock and developed land in the Black Sands Area as irrigation water became available.
Lauzier died in 1995, leaving an estate worth about $15 million. Half of it has been used to create a scholarship fund for graduates of Grant County high schools. The remainder, administered by the Lauzier Charitable Foundation, will benefit other projects, including the donation to WSU to create the full professorship at WSU.
Bob Gillespie, WSU Grant-Adams area extension agronomist, will lead the farming systems program. Cooperative Extension will fill the vacancy he will leave.
“Bob is well qualified and already doing the type of work that will be required of the new position,” Crawford said. “He is an entomologist and agronomist by training and has an interest in soil and water issues.”
Gillespie has a bachelor’s of science degree in education from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, a master’s of science degree in entomology from the University of Idaho and a doctorate in biology from Montana State University.
Dora Rumsey, regional coordinator for extension, said Gillespie’s transfer should be effective May 1. She has already met with farm leaders and county officials to discuss his replacement.
Gillespie will work out of the WSU Grant County Cooperative Extension office in Ephrata.
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