Lincoln, Neb. —Arden Albert Baltensperger and Robert "Bob" Sorensen, University of Nebraska–Lincoln alumni, received the 2021 Department of Agronomy and Horticulture Alumni Lifetime Achievement Award.
This award is the highest honor bestowed upon graduates of the Department of Agronomy and Horticulture who have made significant contributions to their community, state and nation through professional service, public service and/or civic engagement.
Baltensperger’s first five years of his career were at the University of Arizona where he conducted research on grain sorghum and turfgrass and taught both undergraduate and graduate instruction and initiated a plant breeding course.
He then accepted the position as chairman of the Agronomy Department at New Mexico State University, which he held for 12 years. He then returned to a professor of agronomy position as a research scientist and teacher until his retirement.
Baltensperger's academic achievements have been recognized worldwide through his breeding of turf-type and forage bermudagrasses. His efforts led to the release of NuMex Sahara, the first improved seed-propagated turf-type bermudagrass along with six additional seeded varieties, including Princess 77. Princess 77 was used as the foundation of the playing surface used in the NFL's Super Bowl.
He was especially proud of the development of the graduate student program in the department and trained several graduate students including Roch Gaussoin, agronomy professor at Nebraska.
Much of Baltensperger’s life was devoted to teaching and plant breeding and he leaves a professional legacy of successful students and plant improvement.
Robert "Bob" Sorensen’s professional life as a professor of agronomy at Nebraska revolved around teaching for student learning and student welfare.
Students were always the center of his work. He taught over 6,000 students over 35 years at Nebraska. He was consistently among the highest-ranked teaching faculty in student evaluations.
According to colleagues, Sorensen was a creative instructor who cared about his students and wanted to educate the whole person, not just impart knowledge. He believed each student was an individual and based his teaching on meeting individual needs rather than on meeting generalized class needs. Students appreciated his dedication to their well-being, along with his concern regarding learning. His sincere interest in students, combined with his subtle sense of humor, led to student enjoyment of the learning process.
Sorensen was very active with the Nebraska Future Farmers of America Association and directed the FFA Agronomy contests from 1971 until his retirement in 1999. He was awarded the Honorary State FFA Degree from Nebraska FFA Association in 1993 and the Nebraska Department of Education FFA Distinguished Service Award in 1996.
Sorensen received many awards during his career from the university and North American Colleges and Teachers of Agriculture in recognition of his outstanding teaching.
Full biographies of award recipients are available at https://agronomy.unl.edu/alumni-lifetime-achievement-award-2021.
The award was founded in 2016 to recognize alumni who have enhanced the reputation of the department and the university by distinguishing themselves in their careers. Honorees are selected by the Agronomy and Horticulture Alumni Advisory Council.