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Chancellor: Impact of ag professor's 40-acre gift to MSU-WP 'inestimable'


The Missouri State University-West Plains campus recently expanded by about 40 acres, thanks to a generous gift from Dr. Linda Wulff-Risner, a professor of agriculture there for about 30 years. The donation of her property, Risner Stables, will allow the university to expand its agriculture program as part of the matching portion of a MoExcels grant applied for through the Missouri Department of Higher Education.

The facility is located just south of West Plains and will be named the Wulff-Risner Agriculture Science Center in honor of the Wulff and Risner families.

“With that ‘teacher-heart’ that’s so evident in all she’s done at Missouri State-West Plains, Linda has done something that only a few of us in education can dream of doing — extend her love for students and her love for agriculture far into the future, if not in perpetuity,” MSU-WP Chancellor Dennis Lancaster said of the donation.

“The gift of her farm will ripple out to educate, train and influence thousands of students yet to set foot on campus, even yet to be born. And what this does for agriculture — in our region, in our country and beyond — is inestimable but oh, so exciting and full of hope for the generations to come,” Lancaster added. “From the first time she mentioned to me her desire to gift the farm to the university, Linda’s focus has been on what this will mean for our students. Her vision is now our vision.”

The university, seeing a need to expand its agriculture program to accommodate the interests of students, will add a veterinary assistant certificate program this fall and MSU-WP also plans to start a veterinary technician program.

The university already offers two associate degrees and seven certificate programs in agriculture-related fields. Dr. Michael Orf, vice chancellor of academic affairs, said other programs are in the planning stages.

The donated property includes two large stables, offices, a tack room, hay barn, storage and kennel areas, and a 7,200-square-foot indoor riding arena. Another brand-new extracurricular activity that will begin competing this fall is an intercollegiate rodeo team which will be able to practice there to prepare for competitions as part of the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association, under the guidance of Matt Hughes.

Lancaster described the donation as the "last piece of the puzzle" in the team's formation. Rodeo team members will be able to house horses and equipment, in addition to having a place to practice. The creation of the team is a benefit and incentive that meets students where their interests lie, he added, and expands the selection of activities for potential new students that range from traditional sports like basketball, volleyball, and baseball to online gaming competition through the eSports team.

Such activities also help connect MSU-WP to students across the region and can boost enrollment while still meeting academic needs, Lancaster noted.

“Dr. Wulff-Risner’s donation of her farm is a transformative gift for our agriculture programs,” said Orf. “The farm will provide far more and greater opportunities for our students and provide many more hands-on opportunities than we are currently able to offer. This will allow us to consolidate all of our applied learning classes in one location, including our animal science and plant science courses, and it will give the university the needed space to develop and house additional agriculture programs in the future.”

Through her decades of experience, Wulff-Risner knows the economic value of agriculture to the area and how it expands to the nation and world, she said in a recent statement regarding the donation. Education is essential to prepare for leadership in that future, she added.

“Through this gift I hope to expand the ability of MSU-WP to continue educating agriculture students through hands-on learning and ‘sweat equity,’” she said. “It has been my lifelong goal for my work and the property to be a positive part of the community and for agriculture students now and into the future. I hope this will lead to investment by area agri-businesses and individuals to grow the agriculture program at MSU-WP."

“The leadership at MSU-WP is dedicated to growing the agriculture program, and I would like to see them use the facility and the program to collaborate with the community and make the facility into an asset that is beneficial for all,” she added.

University officials, in a recent statement, said the effects of this gift will be felt for years at MSU-WP. “Through this gift, Dr. Wulff-Risner’s impact on our agriculture programs will continue long after she retires from her active role at MSU-WP,” Orf said.

“From agricultural education to agriculture business, there are examples all over Missouri and Arkansas of Dr. Risner’s impact,” said Rachel Peterson, director of development and annual giving. “This generous gift reflects her love for her students, alumni and the future of the agriculture industry, and we are thankful.”

For more information about the agriculture programs offered at MSU-WP, visit WP.MissouriState.edu/. For more information about giving opportunities at MSU-WP, visit WP.MissouriState.edu/ or call 417-255-7240.