By Debra Davis
Agriculture has been part of Bill Alverson’s life since he was a young boy growing up in Marshall County. Lessons learned from his father, who was a bank agent assigned to help local farmers, and his introduction to 4-H helped mold young Alverson as he developed skills focused on helping others.
Those proficiencies parlayed into a 41-year career with Auburn University (AU), first as an Extension farm agent in Lee and DeKalb counties (1965-1973) and as assistant dean of the College of Agriculture (1973-2006).
Former students speak his name with reverence, saying he played a pivotal role in their college experiences and eventual careers. His contributions earned Alverson the Alabama Farmers Federation’s Service to Agriculture Award, the highest honor given by the state’s largest farm organization.
Alverson, 76, will receive the award at the Federation’s 99th annual meeting in Montgomery Dec. 6.
“I am deeply honored to receive the award,” said Alverson, who lives in Auburn with his wife of 55 years, Snooky. “I never considered my work at Auburn as a job; it was just fun.”
Alverson, who holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from AU, credits his success to the people who surrounded him — students, faculty and administrators.
“I was fortunate to develop relationships with people all around the nation,” he added.
Federation President Jimmy Parnell joins a legion of AU College of Agriculture graduates who credit Alverson for inspiring them to develop leadership skills.
“Hundreds of Auburn agriculture alumni can trace their careers back to Dean Alverson,” said Parnell, who graduated from AU with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural business and economics in 1985. “He showed genuine concern for students, from recruitment to job placement. His contributions to the agricultural community continue through those he mentored, many of whom are now leaders in the Federation and other farm organizations and agribusinesses. Dean Alverson had a knack for helping match students’ interests and abilities to college majors that would give them the opportunity for success.”
Alverson initiated several programs at AU, including Ag Day, Ag Career Days, Ag Hill Picnic, Ag Ambassadors, Ag Alumni Association (now Auburn Agricultural Alumni Club), Ag Roundup and the Ag Hall of Honor. He was faculty advisor for ag communications students, served as the Ag Council advisor and judged many National FFA competitions.
Alverson served as secretary-treasurer and is an ex-officio member of the Auburn Ag Alumni Association. He was presented the National Ag Alumni and Development Association Distinguished Service Award in 1993. In 2000, the Auburn Ag Alumni Association honored him by establishing a scholarship in his name, the Ag Alumni Bill Alverson Scholarship.
Alverson received the Honorary American Farmer Degree in 1994 from the National FFA, the organization’s highest honor. In 2005, Alverson received the Algernon Sydney Sullivan National Award for humanitarian leadership and constant helpfulness to others.
Since retirement, the Alversons have enjoyed traveling and spending time with their two children and four grandchildren.