Alumni award given to farming leader

The award is given to international alumni who become leaders in their career fields.

Angela Gray

While honoring Paul Ming Hsien Sun, a recipient of the Distinguished Leadership Award for Internationals on Friday, the selection committee cited his visionary leadership.

The award ceremony was at the microbial and plant genomics building with administration, friends, colleagues and former professors of Sun’s in attendance.

Sun is one of six people this year to receive the Universitywide award, which recognizes international alumni and friends who have distinguished themselves in their post-university work as leaders in their careers.

“Approximately 400,000 individuals were eligible for this award, with 30,000 to 40,000 being international alumni and scholars,” said Eugene Allen, associate vice president for International Programs.

“It’s so great to have students come to the U.S. as international students and then return to their native countries and see the impact they make as teachers,” he said.

Nevin Young, a Distinguished McKnight University Professor, nominated Sun for the award.

“Dr. Sun has been one of Taiwan’s most significant agricultural leaders,” Young said.

In 1992, Sun was appointed chairman of the Taiwan Council of Agriculture and in 1996, he became national policy adviser to the president of Taiwan, he said.

Young said he worked with Sun’s staff for five years and heard that University President Bob Bruininks had traveled to Taiwan to meet him.

“I knew this was the kind of person that should be recognized,” Young said.

Sun said he received his master’s degree in plant pathology at the College of Agricultural, Food and Environmental Sciences at the University in 1966.

“I studied day and night, even on Christmas, and finished my master’s in a little over a year,” Sun said.

Carol Ishimaru, head of the University’s plant pathology department said that after Sun’s time at the University, Sun made disease-resistance discoveries and was responsible for the transformation of systems that increased production of higher-value horticultural crops.

Ishimaru also discussed Sun’s career as agricultural commissioner of the Taiwan Provincial Government.

Sun established the Soil and Water Conservation Bureau and the Indigenous Species Research and Conservation Center. He also implemented a government health insurance system for Taiwanese farmers, Ishimaru said.

Michael Schmitt, associate dean of the College of Agricultural, Food and Environmental Sciences said the University, strives for people like Sun to come through the institution and make a difference.

“On behalf of the University, we are proud to have Dr. Sun include us in his travel portfolio,” Schmitt said.

Young said Sun has been active in promoting international agricultural cooperation with developing countries.

Sun, who is now retired, serves as the chairman of the board of directors of the Asian Vegetable Research and Development Center, is an ambassador for Taiwan’s department of agriculture and is chairman of Harvest Farm Magazine, Young said.

“There is a reason why people really make it, and it goes beyond being smart,” he said. “I believe Sun has that.”

At the end of the ceremony, while Sun’s wife adjusted the boutonniere on the lapel of his coat she said, “I am very, very proud of my husband.”