Larry Walker honored with 2023 CANR Dean's Pinnacle of Excellence Award

Larry Walker, Ph.D., will receive the inaugural 2023 CANR Dean's Pinnacle of Excellence Award during ANR Week.

Larry Walker
Larry Walker, Ph.D.

Larry Walker, Ph.D., of Ithaca, New York, will be honored with the Michigan State University (MSU) College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) Dean’s Pinnacle of Excellence Award at the March 10 ANR Awards Program.

The award is presented to alumni who have obtained the pinnacle of achievement in their field and brought distinction to the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. Created in 2023, this award is the highest accolade awarded by the dean. Dale Darling and Larry Walker are the 2023 CANR Dean’s Pinnacle of Excellence Award recipients.

“I am honored to present Dean's Pinnacle of Excellence Award to such deserving Spartans,” said Kelly F. Millenbah, Ph.D., CANR dean. “Their outstanding professional contributions have brought distinction to the college, and we are proud to claim them as our own. Larry Walker and Dale Darling are just the type of alumni who inspired me to create this award, and I know that their accomplishments will inspire future students to dream big, work hard, and give back to their communities.”

Walker earned a bachelor’s degree in physics, and both master’s and Ph.D. degrees in agricultural engineering from MSU — becoming the second Black American in MSU’s history to earn a Ph.D. in agricultural engineering. He also studied biochemistry, molecular biology and biochemical engineering at Purdue University.

He currently serves as an adjunct professor for the MSU Department of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering, working closely with Doug Buhler, Ph.D., MSU assistant vice president of research and innovation, and others researching holistic agriculture innovation. Additionally, Walker served as a CANR Alumni Association board member from 2016-2021.

Walker spent his career at the forefront of agricultural-based bioindustry research and development. Following a short stint with the Tennessee Valley Authority as a process engineer, he joined Cornell in 1979 and retired as a full-time professor and director of the Cornell Biofuels Research Laboratory in June 2015.

Throughout his career at Cornell, Walker was involved in a number of biomass to energy projects, including an assessment of New York State’s biomass resources available. During his last few years at Cornell and his current work at MSU involves deploying systems biology tools to build metabolic reconstruction of important industrial microorganisms.

Walker served in numerous leadership roles, including serving as co-editor-in-chief for the journal Industrial Biotechnology, adviser for the Renewable Fuels Roadmap and Sustainable Biomass Feedstock Assessment for New York, and several other advisory boards, committees and panels. He also serves on the Governing Board of K.J. Somaiya Institute of Engineering and Information Technology and the Academic Council of Somaiya Vidyavihar, Mumbai, India.

Walker has received numerous accolades for his service. In 2009, he was elected as a fellow in the American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering, awarded the Black Enterprise Magazine Master of Innovation Award and received the Outstanding Faculty Award from the Cornell University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

In 2008, Walker was awarded the MSU CANR Outstanding Alumnus Award, and was named to the CANR Farm Lane Society in 2015. Additionally, Walker received the MSU College of Engineering BAE Distinguished Alumni Award in 2017 and received the Leadership and Legacy Award from the Biotechnology Innovation Organization for his industrial biotechnology leadership in 2018.


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