UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Pennsylvania Secretary of Agriculture Russell Redding, who holds two degrees from the College of Agricultural Sciences, will be one of 19 Penn State alumni honored Oct. 21 for their outstanding professional accomplishments and given the lifelong title of Alumni Fellow by the Penn State Alumni Association.
The highest honor bestowed by the association, the award is given to select alumni who, as leaders in their professional fields, are nominated by an academic college and accept an invitation from the president of the University to return to campus to share their expertise with students, faculty and administrators.
Redding received a bachelor's degree in agricultural education in 1982 and a master's degree in agricultural and extension education in 1999. He also is a 2005 graduate of the Penn State Agribusiness Executive Program.
"Russell Redding has earned a reputation as an extraordinary and highly effective public servant and administrator," said Rick Roush, dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences. "He has a unique ability to connect with diverse stakeholders, a thorough understanding of the issues affecting agriculture, and a vision for creating opportunities for the next generation of agricultural professionals.
"I've also found Secretary Redding to be a great supporter of the college and an excellent colleague in addressing the challenges facing Pennsylvania agriculture," he said. "We're delighted for him to receive this well-deserved honor."
Redding was confirmed by a unanimous vote of the Pennsylvania Senate on May 14, 2015, as the 26th secretary of agriculture for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. In that capacity, he leads a department that encourages, protects and promotes agriculture and related industries while providing consumer protection through inspection services that impact the health and financial security of Pennsylvania's citizens. Agriculture and related industries contribute nearly $75 billion to Pennsylvania's economy.
It is Redding's second stint in the cabinet post, having served as secretary from 2009 to 2011. He joined the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture's leadership team in 1995 and served for several years as executive deputy secretary.
From 2011 to 2015 he was dean of the School of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences at Delaware Valley University, where he provided leadership for all academic-related matters, including program development, evaluation, faculty development, strategic planning and budgeting. He also taught classes in the graduate policy studies program and worked with students to start Hope of the Harvest, a community partnership that uses university land to grow food to fight hunger in local communities.
Redding's extensive experience in state government also includes working as the vocational student organization coordinator with the Pennsylvania Department of Education, where he provided leadership to the Pennsylvania FFA Association. In addition, he was a member of the Department of Labor and Industry's executive staff, helping to shape policies to keep Pennsylvania businesses thriving while bolstering the state's workforce.
Redding also has made contributions at the federal level. He spent time on Capitol Hill as agriculture policy advisor to U.S. Sen. Harris Wofford, and he currently serves as chair of the USDA Advisory Committee on Biotechnology and 21st Century Agriculture.
Redding has an innate understanding of production agriculture, stemming from his youth on his family's dairy farm and his time as a dairy farm operator. He was named an Outstanding Alumnus by the College of Agricultural Sciences and was inducted into its Armsby Honor Society in 2006.
Redding and his wife, Nina, a Penn State Extension district director who holds a graduate degree from Penn State, are members of the Penn State Alumni Association and live in the Gettysburg area with their sons, Garrison and Elliot.
Since the award was established in 1973, more than 700 alumni have been honored with the title of Alumni Fellow — designated a permanent and lifelong title by the Penn State Board of Trustees — out of more than 631,000 living alumni. The 2015 Alumni Fellows will be honored at an awards ceremony on Oct. 21.