Eakes named PLANET AEF ‘Outstanding Educator’


HERNDON, VA.—The Professional Landcare Network Academic Excellence Foundation (PLANET AEF) has named the recipient of its 2013 Outstanding Educator of the Year Award: Dr. Joseph Eakes, the Jimmy and Chris Pursell Endowed Professor of the Department of Horticulture at Auburn University. The award was presented March 10 at PLANET’s Student Career Days event, hosted by Auburn University in Auburn, Ala.

The Outstanding Educator of the Year Award, developed by the PLANET AEF in cooperation with the PLANET Accreditation Committee, recognizes professors who have made significant contributions to landscape industry education. Educators nominated for this award have devoted time, energy, and enthusiasm to their programs and to the education of future leaders of the industry.

Eakes demonstrated his leadership potential right from the start. He was top of his class in the College of Agriculture at Auburn University, where he received his bachelor’s degree and later went on to earn his master’s. He then spent a few brief years teaching at Virginia Tech and later returned to Auburn, where he earned his doctorate and began teaching in 1989. Eakes started the Auburn PLANET Student Chapter early on in his career and is still the lead adviser. He has brought the group to Student Career Days ever since.

In addition to the PLANET chapter, Eakes has been involved with several programs supporting the landscape industry, two of which include the Auburn Landscape School—a program that Auburn hosts each summer for state and regional landscape professionals and extension service employees, and HortiCollege—an education program put on by FarmLinks at Pursell Farms, which is attended by industry professionals from across the country.

Students and peers admire his many qualities, including his humility, selflessness, dedication, patience, passion, diligence, confidence, and creativity. While he is known for answering questions with more questions, his students quickly mature from curiosity to knowledge to skill.

“This is the most meaningful award that I have received in my 27 years of teaching, because it was student-driven and the award selection was made by a group of successful industry professionals,” says Eakes. “I’m very blessed to have the opportunity to work with these young people.”

To view a video of Dr. Eakes’ nomination, put together by his students and peers, visit PLANET’s YouTube channel.

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