Deland J. Myers takes office as AOCS president at the AOCS Meeting & Expo (April 29–May 2, 2012) in Long Beach, California, USA. Although inform previously published a brief biography of Myers as a candidate for the AOCS Governing Board, we asked him to expand on his background and relationship with AOCS for this profile.
|Deland Myers and his wife Eveadean (Evie).|
As a young man growing up in Kansas City, Missouri, USA, my goal was to be a medical doctor. After graduating from high school, I enrolled at the University of Missouri-Kansas City as a premedical student majoring in biology. During my junior year, my interests changed. I no longer wanted to pursue a medical degree and was looking for a field that would allow me to continue to my goal of having a career that would benefit people while remaining involved in science. My adviser, Daniel Stern, suggested that I consider the field of food science and technology. My response, which I still hear from prospective students today, was that I did not like cooking. He then explained to me that food science and technology is not about culinary arts but about applying basic science in the development and safety of foods.
Taking his advice, I applied for and was accepted into the graduate program in food technology at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa. I had indeed found my niche, as I thoroughly enjoyed my studies of the microbial safety of foods under the direction of Homer Walker. While in graduate school I also discovered another interest: teaching. To earn extra money, I began tutoring students in a variety of subjects including chemistry, biology, and statistics. I enjoyed it so much that sometimes I would forget to submit my pay time sheets.
Through my tutoring job I met the love of my life, Eveadean (Evie) Morrison Myers, who for the last 30 years has been a co-laborer in both my personal and professional life. We met innocently enough with a phone call. Evie was an elementary education student at the time and was having difficulty in chemistry. She had very little background in science and math and needed assistance in order to complete the class and obtain her degree. Although her science and math background was not very strong, she was an excellent student, and after several weeks of study, passed her final exams, obtained her bachelor’s degree, and was accepted to law school at the University of Iowa. We continued our friendship after she graduated and 18 months later we were married.
After earning our respective law and doctoral degrees in 1984, Evie and I moved to the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota, to work for the Pillsbury Co. As a product development scientist there, I was involved in the development of numerous consumer food products including Totino’s Pizza, Jeno’s Pizza Rolls, Toaster Strudel, and microwave popcorn and pancakes. Evie was a litigator in the legal department. During that time, we adopted our older son, Corey, and our daughter, Latisha, was born.
After five years in product development, my love for teaching drew me back to Iowa State University, where I joined the faculty of the Food Science and Human Nutrition Department as an assistant professor. Evie was also employed at Iowa State in the Office of Affirmative Action, and our son, Deland J. Myers II (DJ), was born. At Iowa State, I met Larry Johnson, AOCS president in 2004-2005, who would have a profound impact on my career. He introduced me to the potential of agricultural materials in nonfood applications such as adhesives, textile fibers, and plastics—a field that became the focus of my academic career for the next 18 years, resulting in patents, book chapters, and refereed presentations and publications on this subject.
Larry also acquainted me with an organization that he believed could assist me in the development of my professional career. That organization was AOCS. The first AOCS meeting I attended was in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1990. Larry introduced me to some of the world’s experts in fats and oils as well as key members of AOCS staff. As I attended that first meeting, I observed two characteristics about AOCS. The first was the warm reception and invitation to participate I received from the staff and members. The second was the strong communication and interaction that existed among professionals from industry, academia, and government. I believe both of these to be major strengths of AOCS and ones that I want to maintain and enhance during my tenure as president.
I first became active in AOCS, as do many members, at the division level. As a member of the Protein and Co-Products Division, I initially assisted in the development of the division’s annual meeting symposia and later served as division vice president and president. As a member of the Protein and Co-Products Division, I was also an associate editor for inform magazine from 1998 to 2000. I was later given the opportunity to serve as the technical chair for the Annual Meeting & Expo (AM&E) in Orlando in 1999, and as the chair for the AM&E held in Kansas City in 2003.
My participation continued to grow after being nominated and elected to the Governing Board and later as chair of the Education and Meetings Steering Committee in 2005. Working with AOCS staff, we implemented a number of changes to enhance the annual meeting that are still part of the program today including the dedicated poster and hot topics sessions (now the Forum on Emerging Technologies).
Through my association with AOCS, I have received numerous opportunities to present and publish my research both nationally and internationally (including in Hungary and twice in Brazil) and to learn leadership skills that assisted me in my promotion from assistant professor to associate professor and then to professor. For this, I will be eternally grateful to the staff and members of this great organization.
Evie and I are now living in Fargo, North Dakota, where we have both worked for North Dakota State University (NDSU) since 2007. I currently serve as the director of the School of Food Systems, where I lead the food science, cereal science, and food safety programs; Evie currently serves as the vice president for Equity, Diversity, and Global Outreach. I also serve as the National Collegiate Athletic Association faculty athletic representative for the university’s athletic programs.
As incoming president of AOCS, I plan to continue the mission of AOCS to be the primary source of information for fats, oils, soaps, detergents, and related materials. This mission comes with tremendous responsibility, as the fats- and oils-related industries face major global challenges such as survival in a global economy, environmental protection and sustainability, diet and health, product quality, and the identification of new chemical feedstocks. As industry, academia, and government grapple with these issues, AOCS will continue to provide the scientifically based knowledge and expertise needed to resolve these problems. In fact, I believe that AOCS is uniquely positioned to continue its role as the primary information resource. However, we are now challenged to find new ways to provide this information in a relevant, time-sensitive, and efficient manner.
I look forward to working with all of you, along with AOCS staff and our new chief executive officer, Pat Donnelly, to meet this challenge. By working together, we will fulfill our mission and be the scientific organization that our members need for networking and professional growth.
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