The director of the Texas AgriLife Extension Service urged colleagues nationwide to uphold their role in giving people access to cutting edge research and teaching.

“The Extension education model is sound, timeless, and much needed in today’s complex world,” said Dr. Ed Smith of College Station.

Smith spoke recently in Syracuse, N.Y., to professional educators who carry out the Extension education function of each state’s land-grant university. He reminded the audience about federal legislation, starting with the Morrill Act, that created the national network known as the land-grant university system.

“I would argue that the evolution of the land-grant system from 1862 to 1914 led to impacts both nationally and worldwide that not only exceeded the economic and social goals envisioned by our forefathers, but are just as necessary today,” said Smith.

 Legislators charged one university in each state, which was connected to research and teaching in agriculture and life sciences, to extend education for the public good, beyond those enrolled at the school, he explained.

“We have land-grant system leaders who fail to recognize or uphold Extension when it represents the only mission of land-grant systems that delineates their uniqueness,” Smith said.

 “Extension is not just ‘service,’‘engagement’ or ‘outreach,’” Smith said. “If it were, then every university would have in place all components of the land-grant system and, therefore, the designation would recognize only a historical funding mechanism and not the institutional contract with society that continues to add significant value to this nation.”

Smith, the AgriLife Extension director since 2005, spoke as the recipient of the Distinguished Service Ruby Award for 2011.The Distinguished Ruby is the highest award presented by Epsilon Sigma Phi, the national Extension professional fraternity. The mission of the 6,000-member organization is “to foster standards of excellence in the Extension system and developing the Extension profession and the professional.”