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An Interview with Rick Brandenburg (BS ’77) 2013 Entomology DAA

Rick L. Brandenburg, BS ’77, is the William Neal Reynolds Professor of Distinction in the Department of Entomology at North Carolina State University, Raleigh.  He is co-director of the Center for Turfgrass Environmental Research and Education and is an internationally recognized authority on insect pest management in turf and peanuts. Brandenburg has been invited to speak about turfgrass insects throughout the United States and in nearly 20 other countries worldwide.

Brandenburg recently joined an international project to improve the agricultural infrastructure in Liberia and is working to develop projects to address diet and nutrition problems in West Africa.  “This new direction in his career holds great promise of important new contributions in the future,” said his nominator, Michael Weiss, BS ’77, agronomic service representative for Syngenta in Pine River, Wis. “Rick Brandenburg represents the best characteristic of a Purdue alumnus. His accomplishments in turf pest management have had a broad impact nationally and internationally. He is recognized as the authority on the management of insect pests of warm-season grasses.”

Which Purue faculty member had the most profound impact on your professional career? There were three really important faculty members in my life as an undergraduate student at Purdue: Bob Taylor, MS ’59, PhD ’63, in ag economics; Martin Stob, BS ’49, MS ’51, PhD ’53, in animal science and Alan York in entomology. Bob Taylor was a man with a love for teaching and for students. I’ve yet to meet anyone with the same level of caring and passion for teaching as Bob Taylor. Martin Stob was a great teacher who was totally committed to his students. I remember that within a week of the first day of class, it seemed like he had already memorized the names of every student. And that was no small feat. There must have been 100 people in that class. Alan York gave me really good guidance and got me on the right track as a student. He taught me a lot more than just entomology.

What part of your visit back to campus in March are you most looking forward to? I’m simply looking forward to seeing the campus and the old sites where I used to hang out. I’m excited to bring my wife, who I met long after my Purdue days. I’ve only been back a couple of times since I graduated, so I am pumped!

Why did you select Purdue as the place to continue your education? I never really considered going anywhere else. I grew up familiar with Purdue and Purdue Extension, so coming to Purdue seemed like the natural, logical and best choice for me.

Where was your favorite place on campus to study? I usually studied in my dorm room or apartment and always with music playing in the background. My overall favorite place on campus was the CoRec gym. I was in awe of the place when I first arrived on campus.

What do you miss most about your college days at Purdue? I miss the camaraderie of the large group of friends I came to know. Most of us originally met on the eighth floor of Shreve Hall and stayed together on and off campus for years. They were a great group of friends.

Were you a good student when you were at Purdue? Yes. I knew I was privileged to have the opportunity to be at Purdue and I didn’t want to waste it.

What was the most difficult course you took at Purdue? What made it so difficult for you? Organic Chemistry. The amount of homework we had to do each night was quite impressive – and very difficult.

What is the best advice you got while you were at Purdue? Stay focused and be persistent.

What is the best advice you have ever given? Always put people before projects. Go with your strengths.