Dr. Laddie Elling receives University’s highest honor

Nichol Nelson

In the 129-year history of the University of Minnesota, only 899 alumni have received the institution’s highest honor, the Outstanding Achievement Award.
Tuesday afternoon, Dr. Laddie Elling became the 900th.
Elling, a former professor of agronomy and plant genetics, received the award Tuesday night to a standing ovation from more than 100 friends, family and colleagues.
Elling received his master’s and doctorate degrees from the University. He left Minnesota to serve in the Army Air Corps in World War II, then returned to the University in 1946 to serve as a research assistant. Elling became a full professor in 1968. He retired in 1985 to become a professor emeritus one year later, teaching courses in plant breeding, crop production and crop identification for 50 years.
Burle Gengenbach, a professor of agronomy and plant genetics, worked with Elling for 26 years. He described Elling as a man who dearly loves the University and his students.
“He contributed to the education of students through courses and extracurricular activities,” Gengenbach said.
One of those extracurricular activities was the crops team that Elling coached for 18 years. The crops team competed against other collegiate agricultural teams in areas such as seed identification and grain evaluation.
Although Elling retired in 1985, many former students were on hand to thank him for his coaching role in their lives.
Lynn Wilson was a member of Elling’s crops team in 1974. Wilson, the first female to win top honors in the competition, recalled her participation on the team as one of the great highlights of her life.
“His concern was for his students, that they maximize every opportunity to learn,” Wilson said in her speech.
Elling received the Horace T. Morse All-University Teaching Award in 1971 for his commitment to teaching.
Colleagues also praised Elling Tuesday night. Donald Barnes served as Elling’s first undergraduate assistant. He called Elling an exceptional mentor who was able to make experiences real for students.
“He took the time to sit down and talk to me about his observations about life,” he said.