University of Vermont

Rachel Johnson Named to First Endowed Professorship in College of Agriculture & Life Sciences

Announcement at College's Centennial Observation

(Photo: Sally McCay)

The University of Vermont College of Agriculture and Life Sciences has named Rachel K. Johnson, PhD, RD, the inaugural Robert L. Bickford, Jr. Green and Gold Professor — the first endowed professorship in that college. Dr. Johnson has been a member of the college’s faculty since 1991 and served as its dean from 2001 to 2008. Her appointment as the Bickford Green and Gold Professor begins July 1, 2011.

The Bickford Green and Gold Professorship is named in honor of Robert L. Bickford, Jr., a 1943 graduate of the university’s College of Agriculture and former chair of both the UVM Board of Trustees and the Board of Advisors for the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Bickford and his wife, Oletha Bickford, established the Bickford Green and Gold Professorship through their estate plans. Following her husband’s death in January 2007, Oletha Bickford arranged to inaugurate the professorship in conjunction with the college’s centennial observance on May 14, 2011.

“We are indebted to Bob and Lee Bickford for their invaluable contributions to the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences over many years,” said Thomas C. Vogelmann, dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. “We are especially grateful to Lee Bickford for her generosity in making it possible to announce the college’s first endowed professorship as we reach the century mark in our history.”

According Vogelmann, Johnson is a perfect fit with the criteria for the professorship, established to advance the teaching and research of a distinguished professor whose work is focused on the intersection of nutrition, biochemistry and human health. “Our college has benefited from Rachel Johnson’s exceptional teaching, research and leadership in these areas over the past two decades,” he said. “We take tremendous satisfaction that she now continues that work as the first Bickford Green and Gold Professor.”

Johnson said she is “deeply honored and humbled” to be selected for the professorship and thankful to the Bickfords for making it possible. “Bob Bickford was an enduring friend and passionate supporter of our college and forever pushed us to achieve the excellence he knew we were capable of,” she commented. “Lee is a kind and gracious friend who is sustaining Bob’s legacy and their mutual affection for UVM with their magnificent gift.” She also expressed gratitude to Dean Vogelmann and UVM Provost Jane Knodell for their confidence and support in selecting her for the Bickford professorship. She will leave her position as UVM’s associate provost for faculty and academic affairs on June 30 and return to the faculty as a professor of nutrition and professor of medicine. “After many years in academic administration, I am excited at the prospect of returning to my home department and my wonderful colleagues and students in the Department of Nutrition and Food Sciences,” she said.

Johnson is a registered dietitian and holds Ph.D. and bachelor of science degrees in nutrition from the Pennsylvania State University and a master of public health from the University of Hawaii. Her research expertise covers national nutrition policy, pediatric nutrition and obesity, dietary intake methodology and energy metabolism. She has published numerous scholarly papers and book chapters on these and other topics, serves on the U.S. President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition Science Board, and is the chair-elect of the American Heart Association’s Nutrition Committee.

“Rachel Johnson has always been one of our favorite people,” said Oletha Bickford, “so I’m delighted that she’s the first to occupy the professorship named in Robert’s honor.” The Bickfords were recipients of honorary Doctor of Laws degrees from UVM at commencement in 1996.

The College of Agriculture and Life Sciences centennial observation was held in conjunction with its 18th annual Alumni and Friends Dinner on Saturday, May 14. In addition to announcing the Bickford Professorship, the college also presented its annual awards:

The 2011 Lawrence K. Forcier Outstanding Senior Award was presented to Erin Elizabeth King, Class of 2011. Named for former dean Lawrence K. Forcier, this award recognizes the accomplishments and character of an outstanding senior in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences who has maintained an excellent academic record, demonstrated a record of achievement and leadership, exhibited the highest standards and promise in research and scholarship, and provided distinguished service and commitment to the college, UVM and the community.

The 2011 Robert O. Sinclair Cup Awards went to Valerie M. Chamberlain, Class of 1951, and John C. Page, Class of 1950. This award honors former dean Robert O. Sinclair and recognizes retired faculty or staff members who have served the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences or UVM Extension for a major portion of their career with distinction, achieved excellence in their profession, and demonstrated an exemplary record of service and a commitment to fulfill the land-grant mission to serve the people of Vermont.

The 2011 New Achiever Alumni Award was presented to Dennis J. D’Amico, Class of 2002, Graduate College MS 2004, PhD 2008. This award celebrates alumni who have graduated from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences in the past 15 years and have demonstrated outstanding professional achievement; show potential for future accomplishments, significant contributions for betterment of society and service to community or worthy causes; have served in leadership positions on committees, boards, and other service in a chosen field; and have given support or service to the college and/or the University of Vermont.

The 2011 Outstanding Alumni Awards went to Frank A. Blazich, Class of 1971, G’73; Diane Bothfeld, Class of 1987, G’90; and Sam Cutting III, Class of 1955. This award commends alumni of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences who have achieved excellence in their professional field; demonstrated significant leadership; followed the land-grant ethic; contributed to their community, state or nation; and/or given support or service to the college or the university.

Also at the dinner, dean Thomas C. Vogelmann noted that the college is marking its centennial year with a Centennial Scholarship Fund Drive, an effort to raise $1 million in endowed scholarship support for deserving students.