MARYVILLE, Mo. — Through their donation to Northwest Missouri State University’s Agricultural Learning Center, Mark and Carol Watkins joined Northwest’s Homesteaders society, a group of lead donors partnering with the university to give $25,000 or more in support of the new facility, a press release stated.
Mark Watkins, a 1972 Northwest alumnus with a business economics degree, has had a strong interest in agriculture since his youth. After moving to Maryville in 1957, his father Lou started Watkins True Value, now Westlake Ace Hardware. The family business, along with the work Watkins did on his grandfather’s farm caused him to develop an interest in the agriculture field. After his graduation from Northwest, Watkins worked at the family business for 43 years, opening stores in Iowa and Nebraska.
According to a news release, he sold the business in 2015 and expanded the family’s small cow and calf operation, which started as a hobby and has turned into an almost full-time job.
“If things were different in life, I wouldn’t have minded being a full-time farmer from the beginning,” Watkins said. “I’ve had a strong interest in agriculture since I was young.”
Watkins’ experience in the agriculture field and his attention to the growth of Northwest’s agriculture programs inspired him and his wife to support the ALC, according to a news release.
“I always felt that the agriculture program had been underappreciated at the campus for many years,” Watkins said. “The Agricultural Learning Center will give a more hands-on experience than has ever been available to students before and differentiate Northwest from other campuses.”
The ALC, a new 29,500-square-foot multipurpose facility, is a significant addition to Northwest’s School of Agriculture Sciences. The facility was built to enhance the school’s curriculum with laboratories, a kitchen, classrooms, study spaces, a large exposition space and an outdoor education plaza, a press release stated.
In addition to their support of the ALC, the Watkins family represents three generations of Bearcats and remains involved in the Northwest community.
“I am proud of the campus and what it produces student-wise,” Watkins said. “It makes me want to be a part of the community.”
For more information about the Agricultural Learning Center or to make a gift to support Northwest, contact the Office of University Advancement at 660-562-1248 or visit www.nwmissouri.edu/ForeverGreen/.