WAES friends, staff honored with awards, recognition

Award winners holding oversized "Hess buck dollars" and plaques stand on either side of Kathleen Bertoncelj, for whom the award is named. On the end is Bret Hess. All stand against a black background.
Rochelle Koltiska (left) and Joanne Newcomb (right) received the Kathleen Bertoncelj AES Staff Award. Bertoncelj (center), whom the award honors, presented the award with Bret Hess, Wyoming Agricultural Experiment Station director.

Shiny belt buckles specially designed for friends of Wyoming Agricultural Experiment Station (WAES) and a first-time award lit up the ballroom at the University of Wyoming Conference Center in Laramie February 15.

UW President Laurie Nichols and Pepper Jo Six, UW Foundation major gift officer, helped Bret Hess, associate dean of research in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources and WAES director, honor two people he said “went well beyond the call of duty to help us celebrate our 125th anniversary.”

Friends of AES Recognized

Leesa Zalesky and David Kruger were each presented a “Friend of AES” belt buckle.

Zalesky helped care for Pistol and Pete, the WAES Haflinger draft horses that made appearances throughout the state in 2016, often pulling the college’s sheep wagon refurbished for the 125th celebration. She launched the pair into celebrity by creating their Facebook page, a factsheet, and traveling banner. Hess credits her for helping Pistol and Pete become “icons and exceptional ambassadors for WAES.”

Kruger documented WAES history in the book 125 Years of the Wyoming Agricultural Experiment Station. He viewed the project as part of his responsibilities as UW library liaison with the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources and attended WAES field days and other events to sign the book and share WAES history. Hess acknowledged Kruger as one of WAES’s “best ambassadors.”

Kathleen Bertoncelj AES Staff Awards Presented

Friends and supporters of a former WAES staff associate, led by former WAES director Steve Miller, made gifts to establish the Kathleen Bertoncelj WAES Staff Award. The inaugural award was presented to Rochelle Koltiska, Sheridan Research and Extension Center (ShREC) office associate, and Joanne Newcomb, administrative associate for WAES. Bertoncelj is a former senior office associate in the WAES. She worked at UW for 38 years, the last 16 in the WAES.

Koltiska embodies the spirit of the award by providing outstanding service and commitment to the improvement of WAES and its endeavors, said Hess. He noted when she arrived she was tasked with building an efficiently running office in the midst of great transitions, which included multiple station directors and a change in structure of the ShREC.

She has adapted procedures to meet the center’s expansion and has met the challenges of her own expanding roles, said Hess.

“Our team has complete confidence in her ability to ensure every detail is attended to for any of our public events, as this is an area where she really shines,” he said. He also acknowledged her contributions are helping grow the ShREC internship program.

Newcomb was praised for her professionalism and skill for anticipating needs. Newcomb ensures major programs and initiatives run smoothly and are efficient, effective, and highly professional, said Hess. He called her “the ultimate planner and organizer” and noted her ability to manage details.

“Anybody who has had the pleasure of working with Joanne can rest assured every possible scenario has been thoroughly explored and adjustments made before any possible situation is encountered,” said Hess.

He concluded, “When someone always knows your name and makes you feel as though you are friends, even when she works with hundreds of people, you know she is good at what she does.”

Staff Years of Service, Careers Recognized  

5 years with WAES: Rochelle Koltiska, Joanne Newcomb.

10 years with WAES: Kelly Greenwald, administrative associate at the James C. Hageman Sustainable Research and Extension Center (SAREC); Larry Miller, assistant farm manager at SAREC; Keith Schaefer, assistant farm manager at the Powell Research and Extension Center; and Travis Smith, assistant farm manager at the Laramie Research and Extension Center (LREC).

20 years with WAES: Mike Moore, manager, Wyoming Seed Certification Service.

WAES employees who retired in 2017 are Denny Hall, manager, Wyoming Seed Laboratory; Dale Hill, assistant farm manager, LREC; and David Perry, grants coordinator, College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.