A collage of the winners of the 2024 Friends of Extension awards!

Looking back at our 2023 Friends of Extension honorees

January 09, 2024 Written by Katie Young, Digital Communications Specialist, CANR

As we kick off the new year, we are celebrating four outstanding community members named our most recent Friends of Extension: Senator David Wilson, Lynne Betts, Jeff Brothers, and Calvin Keeler.

The 2023 Delaware Cooperative Extension Annual Conference was held this fall to bring together Extension agents and staff from the University of Delaware and Delaware State University for a day of camaraderie, reflection and, once again, the Friends of Extension Awards. 

The awards were presented by Jenn Volk, Interim Director of UD Cooperative Extension and Environmental Quality Extension Specialist. “We are so fortunate to have many supportive partners, collaborators, and volunteers who help us achieve our Extension mission of extending knowledge and changing lives,” she said. “We look forward each year to acknowledging and thanking key contributors during our annual conference.”

The Friends of Extension Award was developed to recognize the value of collaborative partners and outstanding efforts and support of Extension’s outreach. Staff from each of the Extension program areas met to nominate an individual or organization for consideration as a key leader and partner in their respective disciplines.

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Senator David Wilson

Delaware 4-H

Senator David Wilson is a longtime and well-respected public official, having served the people of Delaware as the Register in Chancery and Register of Wills in Sussex Count and as a member of both the House of Representatives and State Senate. Currently, Senator Wilson serves as a member of the prestigious Capital Bond Bill committee, which makes significant statewide investments in all aspects of industry in Delaware, particularly agriculture.

Senator Wilson's impact is perhaps felt strongest, however, among the children of farm families throughout the state, as his time and talents are ingrained in the missions of Delaware 4-H and UD Extension.

As part of this work, Senator Wilson has a constant presence at the Delaware State Fair, not just in his leadership role as a board member but as a judge, volunteer, parade marshal, and master auctioneer. His generous and giving presence exemplifies the goodwill, good nature, and kindness that come from a personal commitment to caring and serving others.

A talented auctioneer, Senator Wilson leads the auctions at several 4-H events, including the Delaware State Fair Livestock Auction and the Kent County 4-H Basket Auction. Between the generosity of Delawareans and his diligent work, both events raised record-breaking amounts in 2023: $293,000 and $36,000, respectively!

The Senator's commitment to Delaware 4-H doesn't end there. His assistance with the annual 4-H Legislative Day provides a unique opportunity for our youth to experience the Delaware government first-hand, and his attendance at Sussex 4-H Achievement events supports our youth and offers a special significance to their achievements.

His constant and consistent support enriches Delaware 4-H and UD Cooperative Extension far beyond that which is asked of him, making Senator Wilson a true friend of Extension.

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Lynne Betts

Health and Well-being

Lynne Betts has been part of Extension's Health and Well-being Team since the late 1990s. Over the years, Betts served as a Master Food Educator, Master Wellness Volunteer, and most recently, she has taken on the role of UD Extension's "School and Community Garden Coordinator." 

Over several years, Betts worked to assist with the coordination and implementation of two food access projects in the Seaford area at the Society of St. Vincent DePaul at the Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church and the Sussex Montessori School. She coordinates the building of raised beds, liaises with school leaders and volunteers, tends to the gardens, and assists with seed planting, lesson plans, and harvesting. Her fact sheets and recipes are used and much loved by the participating students. 

Lynne also works with the Seaford Community of Hope Garden Club and other Extension programs to bring them to communities in need. Since being a Master Wellness Volunteer, she has logged more than 110 volunteer hours, assisting Extension in reaching more than 1,000 citizens of Delaware.

Additionally, Betts is a Master Naturalist, volunteering with Local Organizing Partner Delaware Nature Society’s Abbott’s Mill Nature Center. In this role, she lends her private outdoor nature preserve for use in education and outreach.

Overall, Betts’s contributions to UD Cooperative Extension are exponential. She embodies the definition of service and partnership, is a true community leader and advocates for communities that don’t always have a voice. In this way, she is a true Friend of Extension.

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Jeff Brothers


In his position as an environmental program manager with the Delaware Department of Agriculture (DDA), Jeff Brothers has long been invested in Delaware agriculture and maintained an enthusiastic, strong, and positive relationship with UD Cooperative Extension’s Ornamental Horticulture team. His leadership within the Plant Industries Section of DDA, and his collaborative spirit have made him the “go-to” nursery and greenhouse production resource for our staff. Jeff’s teamwork manifests in many ways. 

He consistently cooperates with UD’s Plant Diagnostic Clinic personnel concerning pathogens or insects of regulatory concern and helps prevent the introduction, establishment, and spread of plant diseases and insects in Delaware. Brothers also coordinates regulatory inspections at various green industry establishments, ensuring that the inspections are carried out efficiently and effectively by involving the appropriate team members, including DDA's Integrated Pest Management Specialist and student interns. This provides an opportunity for the interns to gain real-life experience in entomology and explore a potential career path.

Jeff also helps us plan educational programs for Delaware’s green industry and often serves as a presenter at these same events. In one outstanding example of innovation, Brothers met Extension staff on-farm to record a presentation for the LEADelaware Class VI fellows, when an in-person program was not possible.

Jeff is always willing to assist and is a massive asset to Extension's Ornamental Horticulture team and is a valuable Friend of Extension.

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Calvin Keeler

Agriculture and Natural Resources

Calvin Keeler joined the UD in 1987 as a faculty member in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences. His primary research focus is on the application of classical genetic techniques and contemporary genomic technologies to poultry disease research. To help prepare and protect Delaware's poultry industry, Keeler coordinates the avian disease diagnostic activities in both Newark and Georgetown as the director of the Avian Biosciences Center.

He has always emphasized the practicality of his research. During a microbiome research project, he took his graduate students to visit Georgie Cartanza’s poultry farm to collect samples and learn about the industry. By connecting his students with Extension, Keeler aimed to broaden their perspectives and emphasize the value of research for the agricultural community.

With his exemplary leadership experience, Keeler was announced as interim dean of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) in December 2020—during the height of the pandemic when his leadership was needed most.

In this role, Calvin Keeler was invested in Cooperative Extension and helped in gaining approval for alternative COVID policies for off-campus work and programs. He actively participated in Extension's work by attending webinars and programs and by visiting the Delaware Cooperative Extension booth at the State Fair. Keeler also made sure that Extension's work was visible to University leaders by visiting Kent and Sussex County offices. Additionally, he supported new faculty appointments, included Extension in fund development efforts, and helped increase its capacity to deliver effective programs.

Extension has been very fortunate to have had such a strong supporter and friend in Calvin Keeler.


As we reflect back on the partnerships that made 2023 such a great success for Cooperative Extension, we look forward to new opportunities in this new year!

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