AWA’s 50th Anniversary Celebration Honors its Founding Members with the 2023 AWA Founders Award

Over the past 50 years, the Association of Women in Agriculture has journeyed through legacy moments, achievements, perseverance, and resilience and in doing so, helped develop exemplary women leaders. No one knows this better than the 2023 Founder Award recipients, the Founding Members of the organization. In recognition of 50 years of the Association of Women in Agriculture, the AWA Founders Award was presented to the 10 founding members of AWA: Donna Cooper Humphreys, Emily Knigge Uhlenhake, Jody Spanul, Barb Lee, Sue Lazarcik Lerner, Sue Fritz Alderman (deceased), Sue North Gall (deceased), Kathy Waite Braun, Patty Prust Heckart and Phyllis Gerner Agnew.
It’s the year 1973, here’s what these women were thinking before they started AWA, “Would our focus be social? Or, professional? Were there other women interested in forming something like the well-established men’s ag living units like AGR, Babcock, and DTS? What about a living unit? We were a small core group with lots of ideas and endless questions but a firm commitment that an ag women’s group was going to happen. We were very enthusiastic about our goal and believed it was about time the women on the ag campus started a group since one-third of the students on the ag campus were women. The sky was the limit." 
In the spring of 1973, AWA’s Founding Members, 10 women majoring in agriculture formed the Ag Women's Cooperative. Soon after, they learned they couldn’t use the word “cooperative” so in the fall of 1974, the name was changed to the Association of Women in Agriculture, and bylaws were drafted. Dues were set at $1.00.
One year later in the fall of 1975, 12 members shared rent for $375 a semester at 308 N Prospect St which was referred to as the AWA house. Meetings were held there, and membership quickly soared to 47 members. An advisor was needed. A professor had been asked to be the advisor; however, she wasn’t too willing to get involved until they were a more viable group. Dr. Larry Satter stepped up to be the advisor and later went on to become the Director of the USDA Dairy Forage Research Center world-renowned in his field.
These women had a dream and a vision for more. The house at 308 N. Prospect was furnished but they needed a freezer because several of the women were meat and animal science majors and would be able to slaughter, cut, and wrap their meat. Plus, their future goal was for AWA to own a house of their own.
AWA treasurer Kathy Waite Braun attended the July 9th, 1975, Ag and Life Sciences Alumni Association Meeting (today known as WALSAA) to ask for their support of this new group and the alumni association agreed to two things 1) they would provide a mailing list of CALS women graduates and cover the mailing costs and 2) they put an article in their next alumni newsletter to describe the organization and provide publicity for the group. Ironically, Rick Daluge, another great supporter of AWA from the beginning signed those secretary/treasurer minutes where this information was pulled from. From that mailing campaign, AWA raised $605.00, and $323 of that was used to purchase the freezer. That same freezer was later used as equity toward our blue and white houses purchased in 1983 at 1909 and 1915 University Avenue.
This describes the beginning of AWA. If it wasn’t for these 10 Founding Members’ resilience and perseverance to believe in women in agriculture, UW-Madison’s Association of Women in Agriculture would not be the thriving organization it is today. The founding members established an organization of women passionate about agriculture, who created memories, lifelong friendships, a network of support, and professional development to become leaders in every way possible.