Five Ohioans awarded Friend of Extension honors

Photo: OSU Extension

COLUMBUS, Ohio–A lifetime 4-H supporter, an Ohio State Fair general manager, and three Darke County judges are being honored for their work, commitment, and dedication to Ohio State University Extension.

Pat Brundige, the biggest individual benefactor in the history of The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES), along with Virgil Strickler, the longest-running general manager in the history of the Ohio Expo Center & Ohio State Fair, and Darke County judges Jonathan Hein, Julie Monnin, and Jason Aslinger, are each being honored with a Friend of Extension award from the Ohio chapter of Epsilon Sigma Phi (ESP) for their outstanding support and personal involvement in Extension efforts.

The award is the highest state-level recognition for non-Extension laypersons, companies, or organizations presented by chapters of ESP, the national Extension fraternity. Part of the mission of Epsilon Sigma Phi is to foster standards of excellence in the Extension system. Every state in the United States has an Extension program through the land-grant university system. ESP also recognizes Extension professionals and local supporters at the national level.

Pat Brundige will be Ohio’s nominee for the 2023 national Friend of Extension award.

“Realizing the land-grant mission in every community across Ohio requires strong and lasting partnerships,” said Jacqueline Kirby Wilkins, associate dean and director, OSU Extension. “We are thrilled to be recognizing a few of our most steadfast supporters and collaborators with this prestigious recognition.”

OSU Extension is CFAES’ outreach arm.

Raised as a 4-H member, Brundige never forgot her 4-H background as she studied home economics education at Ohio State and later, as she entered the food industry workforce in the 1960s. Together, she and her late husband Thomas Brundige operated a successful company, Total Ultimate Foods Inc., which eventually led to her ability to expand her philanthropy.

Brundige has made numerous donations to CFAES, including the expansion of a modern leadership hall at 4-H Camp Ohio, an Ohio 4-H research endowment fund, funding for 4-H support personnel in Franklin County, and a gift to build the Kunz-Brundige Franklin County Extension Building on CFAES’ Waterman Agricultural and Natural Resources Laboratory on Ohio State’s Columbus campus.

Her most recent gift supported the creation of the Brundige Legacy Foundation, with the purpose of providing opportunities for Franklin County 4-H clubs to apply for funding for their programming. Brundige’s service to 4-H has included many years on the Ohio 4-H Foundation’s board of directors and as an advisor for the Fantastic Futures 4-H Club.

In addition to her transformative gifts, Brundige has been a strong supporter of the college over the years, creating two endowment funds and one current-use fund.

The Thomas P. and Patricia L. Brundige Food Science and Technology Program Fund, named in part for her late husband, has provided scholarships since 1999 to undergraduate and graduate students in CFAES’ Department of Food Science and Technology.

The Patricia Kunz Brundige Youth Development Fund, created in 2012, supports seed grants for research in positive youth development through OSU Extension. In addition, a current-use fund established in 2018 supports programming and furnishings at the Kunz-Brundige building.

Virgil Strickler

Strickler, who has served as the longest-running general manager in the history of the Ohio Expo Center & Ohio State Fair, has also served as a mentor and coach for Extension professionals. He has supported and educated Ohio youth about agriculture through the “Ag is Cool” program at the Ohio State Fair; and his creation of the Youth Reserve Program supports hundreds of 4-H and FFA youth each year, including a multi-million-dollar scholarship program that supports students pursuing an undergraduate education in any field of study at an accredited institution.   

Strickler has been a steadfast advocate for Ohio youth and OSU Extension. His efforts have resulted in the Ohio State Fair being recognized as one of the top fairs in the nation, including ensuring that OSU Extension is well represented at the fair and receives financial support each year to engage youth and families in the multiple shows and judging events that take place at the Ohio State Fair annually.

The Darke County Judicial System

Currently consisting of judges Jonathan Hein, Julie Monnin, and Jason Aslinger, the Darke County Judicial System has been a supportive partner of OSU Extension in Darke County for some 30 years. All three judges assist community outreach efforts by promoting OSU Extension programming in Darke County, and referring clientele to OSU Extension on a regular basis.

As a result of this partnership, OSU Extension has been able to reach nontraditional Extension clientele with OSU Extension programming, including:

  • Successful Co-Parenting, which supports couples who have minor children and are seeking divorce or dissolution.
  • the 4-H CARTEENS program, which works to reduce the number of repeat juvenile traffic offenders, decrease the number of teen traffic offenders, and increase teen awareness of traffic safety.
  • the eJail/Day Reporting program, an alternative to prison, taught in part by OSU Extension family and consumer sciences educators who provide educational programming to program participants.
  • the Targeted Alternatives to Prison program, with which OSU Extension serves as a community partner by providing educational programming to inmates.

This partnership has allowed OSU Extension to provide educational programming to hundreds of Darke County residents who might not otherwise have been exposed to Extension programs.

Tracy Turner
For more information, contact: 

Jackie Kirby Wilkins

Cheryl Buck