In a nearly 30-year career at Colorado State University, Lee Sommers, professor emeritus in the Department of Soil and Crop Sciences, held a number of leadership roles including department head, associate dean for research, interim dean, and director of the Agricultural Experiment Station. His time as AES director is what earned him an Excellence in Leadership Award for the Western Region from the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities. The award recognizes those who “personify the highest level of excellence” in their leadership of AES and Experiment Station Section of APLU.
17 years as AES director
Sommers served as AES director at CSU for 17 years, immediately after 11 years as head of his department. As director of AES, he provided leadership and oversight for the mission-oriented agricultural research programs supported by AES across the CSU campus, not just in the College of Agricultural Sciences. His work included administrative, programmatic, and fiscal oversight for eight off-campus research centers, and he served as an administrative adviser to several multi-state research projects and coordinating committees.
“It is an honor to be selected by my peers for this award,” said Sommers. “It was a privilege to work with the dedicated AES faculty and staff at CSU who are conducting cutting-edge research to address the problems facing agriculture.”
A national leader
Recognized across the country and around the world for his research and leadership, Sommers was elected a fellow of the Soil Science Society of America as well as the American Society of Agronomy. Later, he would go on to serve as president of both societies. He has been recognized with numerous awards, including the Environmental Quality Research Award and the Agronomic Service Award, both from ASA, as well as the Professional Service Award and the Soil Science Distinguished Service award, both from SSSA. He also served as co-chair of the international World Congress of Soil Science held in Philadelphia in 2006.
“Dr. Summers is most deserving of this award for his effective leadership and his ability to work with diverse groups of scientists, administrators, and educators,” said Mark Brick, head of CSU’s Department of Soil and Crop Sciences. “He has always been a team player that listens to all the issues before making decisions and charting the best path forward. He is also a kind, empathetic person who cares deeply about agriculture and the environment.”
Sommers received his B.S. in agriculture from Wisconsin State University-Platteville and an M.S. and Ph.D. in soil science from the University of Wisconsin–Madison.