Meet the Board - Fred Cholick
Dr. Fred Cholick was born and raised on his family’s diversified farm in Western Oregon. Today, Dr. Cholick is the President of Borlaug Training Foundation (BTF) and has spent his career in genetics and plant breeding. By the time college rolled around, his life and work on the farm prompted Dr. Cholick to study agriculture.
“I decided to go to Oregon State University (OSU) to get a degree in Agronomy because I knew it was important for me to go back to the farm,” started Dr. Cholick, “I minored in Business because I knew that in production agriculture, business is a good skill to have. During my sophomore year, I took a class on genetics. While most of the students were bored out of their skulls, nothing had ever made so much sense to me. My brain, for whatever reason, was wired in a way that made genetics click. I really enjoyed that class, and I started meeting with a breeder named Warren Kronstad. By the time it was time to register for my junior year, I sat down with my advisor and he told me I had straights A’s in science and straight C’s in business. My advisor looked at me and said, ‘That should tell you something.’ So, I went home and told my parents that I wasn’t going to come back to the farm and that I was going to grad school for genetics. I switched my whole emphasis to a research-oriented degree in science.”
After Dr. Cholick graduated from OSU with a bachelor’s degree in Crop Science, he had several offers from agriculture programs across the country. Dr. Cholick decided to study underneath Jim Welsh, the Colorado State University (CSU) wheat breeder.
“During my time [at CSU] an individual came and gave a lecture, and his name was Dr. Norman E. Borlaug. I was so fascinated by what he was doing in international agriculture, and that became a pivotal moment in my career. Afterward, I asked my major professor if I could go down and spend some time at CIMMYT. He agreed, and I spent two months with CIMMYT as a Special Trainee, which gave me the opportunity to work side-by-side with Dr. Borlaug, Dr. Anderson, and Dr. Rajaram – who were the core of the wheat program at the time.”
Upon completing his training at CIMMYT, Dr. Cholick returned to CSU where he finished his Ph.D., then moved back to Oregon for a post-doc research associate position at OSU. “I worked on a contract with USAID between OSU and CIMMYT called the Spring Winter Program,” said Dr. Cholick, “This gave me another opportunity to work and travel with Dr. Borlaug in South America. I loved it, we got to train a lot of students, and it was a fantastic 5 years of my career.”
Working as a traveling scientist, Dr. Cholick found it difficult to spend adequate time with his growing family. Thus, in 1980, Dr. Cholick shifted his career to academia at South Dakota State University (SDSU) as a classical professor and breeder. After 10 years of teaching, Dr. Cholick became the Department Head and Director of Research, eventually being promoted to Dean of the College of Agriculture, Food, and Environmental Science at SDSU. Dr. Cholick then moved to Kansas State University (KSU), where he was the Dean of the College of Agriculture and Director of Research and Extension for 10 years. From 2010 to 2015, Dr. Cholick was the President and CEO of the KSU Foundation.
“In some ways, you could say I could never keep a job, and in other ways, I could say there were many pivotal points in my life that moved me in different directions,” said Dr. Cholick.
As the President of the BTF, Dr. Cholick believes that the BTF is continuing the legacy of supporting field-oriented training. “The BTF is a group of dedicated individuals volunteering their time to address a need of field-based, science-based education while also raising money,” said Dr. Cholick, “We raise money to bring students to the CIMMYT program. Now, that doesn’t mean there aren’t other important areas of interest, but right now that’s our primary target. We’re also working on a farmer-to-farmer program with Tunisia to ensure that proper education can take place in that region. Overall, the BTF fits a niche to continue to help develop hunger fighters to meet our planet’s future needs.”