MURRAY — Murray State University’s Hutson School of Agriculture announced the winners of several alumni awards during Homecoming 2018 in October, including Dr. Sheila Wilson Phillips as the recipient of the Outstanding Young Alumnus Award as well as Stan Brunston and Kyle Yancey as joint recipients of the Outstanding Agriculture Alumnus Award.
“Hutson School of Agriculture graduates are exhibiting greatness all around the region and nation,” said Dr. Tony Brannon, dean. “These alumni have distinguished themselves as being among the best of the best.”
The Outstanding Young Alumnus Award is given each year to a Murray State alumnus who has excelled in their career and graduated a minimum of 10 years before the time of selection. Dr. Sheila Wilson Phillips received the award for 2018.
Phillips, originally from Owen County, graduated from Murray State with a bachelor’s degree in agriculture in 2011. As a Murray State student, Phillips served on the Agriculture Leadership Council and was the chair of the Agriculture Ambassadors organization in 2011. She was a member of the Alpha Zeta agriculture honor society and the Sigma Alpha professional agriculture sorority, where she served as alumni coordinator and scholarship chair. Additionally, during her time in the Block and Bridle student club, Phillips held many offices and even organized a “Wild West Tour” that allowed 30 student members and two advisors to tour across the Midwest.
Phillips also received numerous awards as a student, including the Agriculture Leadership, Outstanding Senior Woman in Agriculture and Outstanding Senior in Pre-Veterinary Medicine awards. She was named a 2011 Who’s Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges recipient and graduated as an Honors student and presidential scholar.
Following her 2011 graduation, Phillips went on to earn her doctorate in veterinary medicine from Auburn University. She now works at Trigg County Veterinary Clinic.
Phillips has remained an enduring supporter of Murray State and the Hutson School of Agriculture as a member of the University’s Alumni Association and Young Alumni Council. Most recently, Phillips and her husband Jeremy established and endowed the Wilson Phillips Excellence in Pre-Veterinary Medicine Scholarship to assist students in obtaining an education to prepare for a career in the field of veterinary medicine.
“Shelia is a great role model for our young alumni,” Brannon said. “She has taken the same attributes she exhibited as a student — bright, energetic, hard working, cheerful — and now added to them a spirit of giving back. She sets the standard for students getting an education instead of just a degree.”
The Outstanding Agriculture Alumnus Award is given annually to an individual who has made significant contributions to the agriculture industry, to the Hutson School of Agriculture and to Murray State’s Agriculture Alumni Association. Stan Brunston and Kyle Yancey were named joint recipients for the award in 2018.
“For the first time in the history of this award, we are honoring two recipients instead of one,” said Curtis Dame, president of the college’s Alumni Association, during the recognition ceremony. “It is very fitting that we do this because this year’s honorees have a lot in common: They grew up in the same county, graduated from the same high school, worked for the same employer their entire professional careers and have held the same title.”
Brunston attended Ballard Memorial High School as a young man, spending his spare time working on his family’s farm. He started his college career as an accounting student at what was then known as Paducah Community College before transferring to Murray State and changing his major to agricultural business.
During his time at Murray State, Brunston completed student teaching at Christian County High School and worked 15 hours per week with the University’s hogs. He ultimately graduated with his bachelor’s degree in 1976.
Later that same year, Brunston began to work for PCA as a loan officer in LaCenter. As he continued to earn promotions within the company, Brunston helped initiate a merge in the 1980s between PCA and the local Federal Land Bank. The merged company became known as the Jackson Purchase ACA, which Brunston ultimately became president and CEO of in 2006. Then, in 2012, the company merged with Chattanooga ACA to become the River Valley AgCredit.
Brunston ultimately retired in December 2015 and now resides in Calloway County with his wife Tammy.
In support of Murray State’s agriculture programs, Brunston led River Valley AgCredit in providing ongoing financial support for the Student Award Banquet and the Agriculture Alumni Picnic, ensuring the annual events remain free to all attendees. He also served on the ACRES campaign committee that led to the Hutson School of Agriculture expanding through the acquirement of Hutson Farm.
“Although separated by several years, both these gentleman [Brunston and Yancey] have distinguished themselves with their contributions to regional and national agriculture and with their support of the Hutson School of Agriculture,” Brannon said.
Yancey was born and raised in Ballard County and graduated from Murray State in 2005 with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural business. Following his time at the University, Yancey began working with the Jackson Purchase ACA. He started as a loan officer with the company in 2006 and continued to rise through the organization’s ranks. In 2016, a few years after Jackson Purchase ACA merged with Chattanooga ACA to form River Valley AgCredit, Yancey became the company’s president and CEO.
Yancey, his wife Marissa and their son Tatum live in Kevil, Kentucky. In addition to Yancey’s work with River Valley AgCredit, he is a director on the Graves County Economic Development Board.
In support of Murray State and the Hutson School of Agriculture, Yancey regularly attends career fairs and banquets at the University, promoting several River Valley AgCredit initiatives and starting a new internship program for students. He also helped to establish a River Valley ACA Fund for Excellence that allows for the implementation of many new and expanded projects in the Hutson School of Agriculture.
“Each year we take the opportunity to recognize our outstanding alumni nominated from among our more than 3,500 agriculture alumni,” Brannon said. “These award winners are great representatives and totally deserve to join our Alumni Wall of Fame.”