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Spencer Donors Establish Scholarship for Graduate Program in Sustainable Agriculture Students

AMES, Iowa – Gary and Ann Holck of Spencer, Iowa, have established an endowed scholarship for students in Iowa State University’s Graduate Program in Sustainable Agriculture (GPSA).

The Gary and Ann Holck Graduate Scholarship in Sustainable Agriculture will support GPSA students studying or doing research in sustainable agriculture.

“It means a lot to us that Gary and Ann are investing our program and our students,” said J. Arbuckle, professor of sociology who is the faculty chair of GPSA. “Our students are what make this such a great program, with their dedication to solving difficult sustainability challenges in agriculture. The Holcks’ generous commitment to a scholarship will be a huge helping hand.”

“We’ve been increasingly concerned about the sustainability of our agricultural systems, especially the impacts of nitrates on water quality,” said Gary Holck. “We felt that funding GPSA scholarships would be a great way to encourage graduate-level research focused on improving water quality and sustainability of agricultural production.”

The SUSAG program, as it is also known, was started at Iowa State in 2001. It was the first sustainable agriculture graduate program in the country, and is the best known, said Arbuckle. Currently, 28 students are enrolled in GPSA pursuing advanced degrees, and the program has graduated 190 students since its inception.

Gary and Ann Holck met as students at Iowa State University, where Gary received his bachelor’s degree in animal science in 1960 and Ann majored in nutrition. After ISU, they attended the University of Vermont, where Gary earned his master’s degree in animal science and Ann finished her bachelor’s degree in dietetics. They returned to the Midwest to continue their education at the University of Missouri, where Gary received his doctorate in swine nutrition and Ann her master’s in food science.

Following several years conducting swine nutrition research for a feed company in Indiana, the Holcks returned to Spencer, where Gary and his brother founded a livestock feed business, Holco Agriproducts.

The Graduate Program in Sustainable Agriculture (GPSA) is an interdisciplinary program that integrates knowledge and problem-solving skills from the agricultural sciences with those from ecology, the social sciences, and ethics. The program offers master’s and Ph.D. degrees, providing advanced disciplinary training while facilitating interdisciplinary research focused on topics such as food security, environmental quality, and community development. By bringing together more than 70 faculty from 22 disciplines, the program seeks to promote innovative research that reflects the university's commitment to public service and excellence in scholarship. By emphasizing scientific principles and analytical thinking, the program seeks to prepare students to address challenges to agricultural sustainability in Iowa and other regions of the world.



J. Arbuckle, Professor of Sociology and Chair of the Graduate Program in Sustainable Agriculture., 515-294-1497,