November 2, 2001

Cooperative Extension Names Assoc. Director

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Prof. Helene R. Dillard, plant pathology, NYS agriculture experiment station in Geneva, N.Y., was appointed to the team of Cornell Cooperative Extension’s (CCE) associate directors on Oct. 15, replacing Prof. Margaret Smith. She joins three other associate directors specializing in programs that deal with the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, the College of Human Ecology, and the individual 57 offices that make up the extension throughout New York state.

Dillard will continue her plant pathology research effort while serving part-time in the extension’s position. She conducts her research on plant pathology from Geneva and travels to Ithaca regularly.

“It is hard making the position a part-time one. It seems like it can take a lot more time than one would anticipate. It is hard to turn down problems as they come up,” Dillard said.

Dillard’s new job as an associate director has a broad description, providing leadership and programming with a focus on the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

“I do cross over with tasks held by the other three directors at times. A lot of this job is shared. My next biggest challenge will likely deal with our state budget, and funds currently available,” she said.

D. Merrill Ewert, director and associate dean of the CCE, praised Dillard for her abilities as a researcher and as an administrator.

“Dr. Dillard is not only an outstanding scientist, she has a passion for using her science on behalf of New York agriculture. She is not content with

simply discovering new knowledge,” Ewert said. “Her commitment to research, and passion for outreach makes her a wonderful choice as an associate director.”

Dillard’s research focuses on fungal and bacterial diseases of vegetables, and on applied research which involves developing cost effective ways to control diseases in plants.

“It’s about helping farmers stay competitive in today’s global market,” she


One application of Dillard’s work can be seen in fungus control on bean

plants, and how there are different methods farmers can use to control it. She collaborates with individual growers, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Environmental Conservation, and commodity group organizations on a regular basis.

“Dr. Dillard puts her knowledge to work on the problems facing the vegetable growers of this state,” Ewert commented.

The CCE system is headquartered on campus in Roberts Hall, and has offices

in all 57 New York state counties in addition to New York City. As this state’s land grant university, Cornell is responsible for developing programs that address the needs of its people and communities, according to Ewert.

The various CCE programs are designed to promote and strengthen agriculture and food systems, and improve health, nutrition and safety of communities and individuals. In addition, staff members focus on strengthening the economic and social vitality of communities and improving the quality and sustainability of human environments and natural resources, according to Ewert.

“The CCE’s education system enables people to improve their lives and

communities through partnerships that put experience and knowledge to work.

It brings together the research from the university with the experience of

county-based extension educators, helping local communities address their

own problems and issues,” Ewert remarked.

The CCE has just gone through a strategic planning process entitled “revitalization” within the organization that resulted in a document called “committed to excellence,” according to Ewert.

The document states CCE’s commitment to its specific goals, from making the CCE more accessible, responsive and accountable, to evaluating its mission, renewing its practices, and focusing its direction. “It’s all about building strong and vibrant communities,” he said.

The extension was established in 1914, by the Smith-Leveer act, which created a national partnership between federal, state and local governments. The idea was to make all land grant university research more accessible to every citizen in every state, according to Ewert.

The CCE has nearly 400 county based educators working in communities across the state, and is supported primarily through local county governments.

In addition, 250 additional faculty members invest some of their time in outreach through the CCE. The partnership between county educators and

faculty is the foundation of extension at Cornell, according to Ewert.

Unless students were involved with the CCE through 4-H or any extension in the past, they will likely find that they won’t have much contact with it unless they conduct research with faculty members employed by CCE.

“The extension is so important now in the year 2001 because the need for

research-based knowledge addressing the problems facing New York citizens

has never been greater. The potential to make a difference also has never

been greater,” Ewert said.

“We are nationally recognized for high quality educational programs that

help New Yorkers build strong and vibrant communities across urban and rural areas. We are doing a lot of outreach because of the September 11th attacks and have educational resources available on request,” Dillard said.

All educational resources and a breakdown of the CCE’s programs, are available from

Archived article by Chris Westgate