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Agricultural News

Larry Watkins of Stillwater Named Posthumous Winner of Governor's Outstanding Ag Legacy Award

Fri, 30 Mar 2018 12:08:18 CDT

Larry Watkins of Stillwater Named Posthumous Winner of Governor's Outstanding Ag Legacy Award Governor Mary Fallin’s Excellence in Agriculture Awards will be presented during a special ceremony hosted by the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry and sponsored by the Oklahoma Association of Electric Cooperatives at 2 p.m. April 10 in Senate Assembly Room 535 in the state Capitol. The public is invited to attend the ceremony held as part of the state’s annual Oklahoma Ag Day celebration.

The Governor’s Outstanding Legacy in Agriculture Award will be presented posthumously to Larry Watkins of Stillwater. This award honors individuals who made significant life-long contributions to Oklahoma agriculture. This distinguished award recognizes posthumously the unique or extraordinary contributions these individuals made to Oklahoma and establishes role models for the agricultural industry.

Teacher, director, servant, spokesperson, leader, mentor - a man of many hats, Watkins played many roles throughout his life, all of which involved agriculture. At events and meetings alike, he could always be seen wearing a suit with cowboy boots.

Watkins grew up in Purcell, Okla., where he was heavily involved in FFA. It was during this time that he discovered a deep passion for agriculture, which would serve as a foundation throughout his life. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural education from Oklahoma State University in 1969. After serving his country, he returned home to teach agriculture. His students achieved success both in and out of the classroom, and his program was named the 1974 Top Single Vocational Agriculture Department in the state. Though he left the classroom after five years, he continued to be a voice for agricultural education, 4-H and FFA throughout his lifetime.

Watkins utilized his agricultural background as the director of the Agricultural Development Division for the Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce. Through his recruitment initiatives, the city became known as the Horse Show Capital of the World and brought in more than $9 million annually to the area. He also planned and managed the world’s largest youth livestock show, now known as the Oklahoma Youth Expo (OYE), and the National Finals Rodeo.

In 1979, Watkins began a 30-year career with the Oklahoma Association of Electric Cooperatives. In just five years, he was promoted to executive vice president and CEO of the company. As in his other roles, he excelled in this position. Watkins oversaw 30 cooperatives and the 60-member board of trustees and managed the $3 million budget for the company.

Watkins had a passion for horses and enjoyed ranch life on a property west of Stillwater. He bred and trained quarter horses and won a championship buckle in ranch sorting on a mare from his breeding program. Along with his wife Natalea, he supported Turning Point Ranch, a therapeutic riding center in Stillwater where horses are utilized to help children and teens with emotional, physical or mental disabilities. Watkins’ mare, Chiquita, is the longest-serving horse in the program.

Supporting rural Oklahoma and the future of agriculture were of the utmost importance to Watkins. He served on the OSU Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources Dean’s Advisory Council and was a member of the board of directors for several groups, including the Vo-tech Foundation, Rural Enterprises Incorporated, Oklahoma Self Insured Guarantee Fund, Sirloin Club of Oklahoma, and the Southwest American Livestock Foundation. He also dedicated his time to groups like the Oklahomans for Energy and Jobs and the National Rural Electric Statewide Managers Association.

Watkins devotion to his alma mater and the agricultural industry led him to being named the OSU Agricultural Education Distinguished Graduate by the department and the 2003 CASNR Distinguished Alumni. Because of his involvement with youth in agriculture and promoting opportunities through livestock exhibition, he was named the OYE Honoree in 2004 and was given the highest awards from both state and national FFA associations.

Even after his death in November 2016, Watkins’ legacy continues to live on. His passion to improve rural Oklahoma and agriculture continues through the many lives he touched. Both his children and oldest granddaughter also attended OSU, and Watkins loved being a “Papa.”

During his last two years, he continued teaching through a young adult Sunday school class at Union Hill Baptist Church in Purcell. He bought each member a new study bible, but he didn’t tell them that within the pages he hid a $100 bill. The point was that while the teacher can lead and inspire, the student must put in the work to reap the rewards.

Watkins’ wife Natalea said, “He had time to think of how he wanted to be remembered and said, ‘I cared and I tried.’ He would be so honored by this award and it’s indication that others noticed his efforts, but anyone who knew him would expect him to use a line he repeated so often, ‘It’s better than I deserve.’”

For a list of previous Oklahoma Governor’s Excellence in Agriculture Award recipients, click here.

Source - Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food & Forestry



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