Shirley Ball and Lars Dunn receive award in Indianapolis

Source: By Katie Fletcher, Ethanol Producer Magazine • Posted: Thursday, June 12, 2014

The cream of the crop were recognized at the 2014 International Fuel Ethanol Workshop & Expo in Indianapolis on June 10.  Lars Dunn, director of technical service for DuPont Industrial Biosciences, received the Award of Excellence for his extensive research and service to numerous producers in the ethanol industry and Shirley Ball, chairperson of Ethanol Producers and Consumers, received the High Octane Award for her service, fortitude and much deserved respect in the ethanol industry. Ball was unable to make it for the award presentation but was presented with it later in the day.

Award of Excellence winner Dunn assists in the commercialization of new enzyme technology and helping numerous ethanol plants improve their operations.

“What I do right now is the biggest highlight of my career,” Dunn said. “People trust me to come into their plant and make changes in their process or advise them on how to change it for the better. I’m traveling around the country visiting old friends and getting paid for it—that is hard to beat.”

He has worked with corn his entire career, starting in the lab and classroom and expanding outside the academic realm to working for ethanol producers. Dunn first began looking for full-time employment while he was living in Illinois a mile or two from a few ethanol plants. “I was looking for a job in the ethanol capital of the world,” he said.

Dunn has contributed research to the industry. He has over 25 patents and publications, on topics ranging from polymers from carbohydrate, structure, polyurethane foams derived from soybeans and corn-based plywood adhesives to his most recent publication on a project to enhance starch solubility using ultrasonics to increase glucose production for yeast fermentation. He was part of a team that started up a plant to extract spent yeast from beer in Perkin, Illinois, and he was the first plant manager of Lincolnway Energy in Nevada, Indiana. In the past 5 to 6 years he has provided service to over 100 ethanol plants, but it all began with teaching others. “That was the longest position I have held, and most rewarding in terms of the impact I had on the students,” Dunn said.

He continued his love of teaching even after switching jobs. He is currently an adjunct professor at Iowa State University. “I would like to do more if time allows,” Dunn said.

In 1991, High Octane winner Ball and others recognized the need for an ethanol educational group and organized EPAC, a non-profit organization to conduct educational and promotional activities with members throughout the nation and three foreign countries. She was chosen as the executive director and is currently chairperson. Ball has been involved in promoting the flex-fuel vehicles powered by E85 as well as demonstrating that distillers’ grains can be used as human food, with presentations at many national conferences, including in Washington, D.C.

“It started with cookies,” Ball said. All who attended EPAC conferences were in for a DDG treat. “I made trips into Washington to work on the issue of ethanol carrying cookies each time.”

Ball became interested in ethanol production as an additional market for grain during the oil embargoes in the ’70s. “I’m a proud farmer, and if it was something that could help agriculture I didn’t see how I could not work for it,” Ball said.

She stayed busy in many different activities during her career, including serving as a delegate to the National Gasohol Commission in the early ’80s, serving for nine years as energy chair for Women Involved in Farm Economics, was appointed to a USDA panel to study the cost effectiveness of ethanol, served on the Montana Renewable Energy Advisory Council for four years and was an elected member of the county committee for Farm Service Agency before being appointed in 1992 to the state committee, where she served for eight years. She also served a three-year term on the advisory council for Small Business, Labor and Agriculture with the Regional Federal Reserve Bank in Minneapolis.

“The ethanol industry has been a passion of mine since 1977 when I first heard about it, and I see how it has grown and it makes me feel lucky to have been a part of that growth,” Ball said.

Ball and Dunn join a list of FEW award winners that goes back to 2000. Last year Kevin Hicks of the USDA Agricultural Research Service was named the Award of Excellence winner, and Dan Schwartzkopf of ICM Inc. was the High Octane Award recipient. In 2012, Gerald Shurson of the University of Minnesota and consultant Larry Johnson received honors and in 2011, Bruce E. Dale or Michigan State University and Rick Tolman of the National Corn Growers Association were named.

In addition to the awards, scholarship money was once again given away at the event. The scholarship program honors Kathy Bryan, co-founder of the FEW and former president of BBI International and is given to two deserving individuals who work in the ethanol industry or plan on a career in the ethanol industry, alternative energy or environmental fields. Rebecca Woller and Colby Cook are the 2014 Kathy Bryan Memorial $2,000 scholarship recipients.

Woller is a five-year employee at Homeland Energy Solutions LLC in Lawler, Iowa, where she works in the lab. Woller’s scholarship money will go towards her enrollment in the MBA program at Walden University in Minneapolis. Woller has chosen to emphasize in accounting for managers during her MBA studies in the hopes of becoming the best accountant she can be to help Homeland Energy remain a profitable ethanol plant. Woller is currently a student member of the Institute of Management Accountants, and hopes to complete the testing to become a certified management accountant after graduation.

Colby Cook is the son of Randy Cook, the general manager at Permolex Ltd. in Red Deer, Alberta, Canada. Cook’s scholarship will go directly to the University of Manitoba where he will be headed this fall. He is working towards a Masters of Landscape Architecture degree. He plans on focusing his thesis project on natural systems for ethanol plants that can filter waste water sent to treatment plants.