Iowa has a great history of leading the way in innovative educational opportunities for students. With the establishment of the area college system with multiple program offerings and a leadership development component, Iowa has lead many initiatives. We are celebrating forty years of post-secondary agricultural education in Iowa as well as twenty-five years of post-secondary student leadership development through the Professional Agricultural Student Organization (PAS).

However there is one person who has been through it all and continues to strive for Iowa excellence in the Agricultural Education programming. That gentleman is Gerald R. Lamers, who was employed by the Iowa Department of Education. Even though he has retired from the Department of Education, he provides assistance for new programming and continues to assist the Iowa Professional Agricultural Student Organization.

It is his contribution and dedication to the education of Iowa youth and young adults that I am gathering information and putting together the history of leadership development in Agricultural Education at the community colleges in Iowa.

I would like to recognize two other individuals who have dedicated a great deal time and effort to PAS of Iowa. A special thanks to Marlene Higdon, Jerry’s secretary at the Iowa Department of Education and to my former secretary at Hawkeye Community College, Charlotte Kirchhoff. Their support over the years has most certainly increased the capacity to provide PAS activities to the members.

Respectfully Submitted:

David R. Blecha
Retired PAS State Executive Director


Professional Agricultural Students (PAS) is an organization associated with post-secondary agricultural, agribusiness, horticultural, and natural resources education programs. It is an integral part of career and technical education at the post-secondary level. It provides an opportunity for individuals to develop or further enhance their leadership, technical, and personal skills while in college. It also provides the members great networking opportunities with business and industry as they prepare for and seek employment.

The National PAS Organization (NPASO) was organized in April 1979 under draft by-laws and was officially founded in March 1980. PAS is one of ten Vocational Student Organizations (VSO’S), which has been approved by the

U. S. Department of Education as an integral part of vocational/technical/career education instructional programming. It was originally organized for post-secondary programs awarding associate degrees or less and has since expanded to include baccalaureate degrees programs.

The Post-Secondary Agricultural Students of Iowa (PAS of Iowa) Organization activities consist of local community college and university activities; state activities of monthly state officer/senate members meetings, a fall conference, and a spring conference; a regional conference; and a national conference. The PAS activities are available in participating Iowa Community Colleges and at Iowa State University.

The Iowa fall conference is a business and industry leadership conference that consists of seminars on personal, technical, and leadership development, networking, and tours to business and industry sites.

The Iowa spring conference in February consists of career development competitive events, workshops/seminars, keynote speakers, general business sessions, election of officers, and social activities. The career development events (see Appendix), which consist of individual and team competitions, are based on the activities and content included in the college curriculum's.

A national conference is held each March at different locations throughout the United States. It also consists of career development competitive events, seminars/tours, keynote speakers, a career show, business sessions, election of officers, and social activities.

Iowa educators took an active leadership role in organizing and establishing the PAS organization on the national as well as the state level. Virgil Christensen of Hawkeye Institute of Technology, Larry Statler of Kirkwood Community College, Daniel Brown of Ellsworth Community College, and Jerry Lamers of the Iowa Department of Education assisted with many of the organizational planning activities.


The history of PAS begins with the expansion of vocational technical education at the post-secondary level. With state and federal legislation in the 60’s and 70’s, the agricultural education movement expanded greatly with more and more post-secondary agricultural programs. This movement started the creation of many local college student agricultural organizations at the two-year institutions.

On the national level, the formation of PAS began with a National Seminar in 1966 in Cobbleskill, New York. A Committee on “Youth Organizations and Activities for Two-Year Post High School Students in Agriculture” was created. It was decided that PAS should be separate from FFA but be in harmony with. It also recommended that the organizations begin first with the local, then state, and proceed to a national organization.

The idea of a National Organization was again reviewed at the National Agricultural Education Seminar held in Muscatine, Iowa in 1969. However, there was not enough interest in forming a national organization at that time.

In 1973 a National Standards conference hosted by the state of Minnesota recognized the potential need for a student organization. A NPASO Development Committee was formed and was to meet each year at the American Vocational Association (AVA) convention.

In 1976 the committee held a brain storming conference in the Quad Cities. Some of the major decisions included (1) the terminology of Agriculture and Related Occupations for students enrolled in two-year institutions; (2) that the organization would be independent of the FFA and the FFA Alumni; and (3) the development of a procedure for funding and obtaining industry support.

In 1977 with a grant from White Farm Equipment Company, an ad hoc committee met at the FFA Center to develop the strategies for a national post-secondary student organization. The purpose was to verify the need for and feasibility of organizing an organization.

In 1978, as a continuation of the White Farm Equipment Company grant, a National Seminar for Educators in Post-Secondary Institutions was held in Kansas City, Missouri. The seminar concluded with acceptance of six reports including the acceptance and endorsement of the need for a National Post-Secondary Student Organization for Agriculture/Agribusiness and Natural Resources students and the need to proceed immediately to finalize the organization.

In October of 1978, Jerry Lamers, led the process of establishing a state organization in Iowa. Informing the community college superintendents/presidents and the vocational/technical deans on the establishment of a national organization and the steps that were needed to establish a state organization started the process.

On October 27, in the Pine Room of the Memorial Union on the campus of Iowa State University, over 30 college students and staff from 9 area schools attended the first meeting to address the benefits and concerns of a state organization. Those attending this meeting strongly recommended the moving forward to organizing activities on the state level in Iowa. Therefore, October 1978 to January of 1979 was a key period in the development of the Iowa organization.

A second planning meeting was held November 29, 1978 at Des Moines Area Community College in Ankeny. Through a series of workshops, those attending identified the activities, events, etc. for the organization and selected a state committee to plan the first state conference.

In February of 1979, the first state leadership conference for post-secondary agricultural students in Iowa’s community and vocational technical colleges was held.

The first national conference for the National Post-Secondary Agricultural Student Organization was held in April of 1979.


Individuals, a business and industry, and an organization made this publication available due to the commitment to and support for PAS in Iowa. We realize that many hours, numerous discussions, and prepared justifications and research are required to accomplish such as task. Even though our appreciation has been expressed to the individuals responsible by the 2005-2006 officer team, we want to include the recognition's.

David Blecha, a retired Agri-Business instructor from Hawkeye Community College, has committed numerous hours and days developing this publication. It required going through several notebooks, boxes of records, and researching information from many individuals in the community colleges. Even though David received some monetary compensation, we know that he and Susan spent many of their personal resources in accomplishing this task.

Wayne Nattress, Executive Director of the Iowa FFA Foundation and the Board of Directors of the Foundation have expressed their support of making this document available. They approved the commitment to acquire resources for the printing as well as and for the 25th Anniversary social, banquet, and other state conference activities.

Cargill Animal Nutrition, through the efforts of the Iowa FFA Foundation, sponsored the printing of this document. We want to thank Scot Harold, Business Development Manager for Cargill at West Branch, Iowa for arranging for the finances as well as the actual printing. Scot, a past State FFA President, has been very active in the efforts of the Foundation. His commitment and Cargill’s support have created many opportunities for PAS and FFA members on the state and national level.

Once again, we say Thanks:

2005-2006 State Officers

Jerry Lamers, State Advisor


Advisory Council Members

(Listed with employer at the time)

  • Ronald Baum, Case – IH
  • Daniel Cooper, Iowa Department of Agriculture (deceased)
  • Marcia Dudden, Dudden Farm
  • Wes Fausch, Pioneer Hi-Bred International
  • John Odum, Pfizer, Inc.
  • Scott Smith, Quaker Oats Company
  • Barbara Sylvestor, Iowa State Horticultural Society
  • Al Wagner, Case – IH

2000 National Conference Committee

(Listed with employer at the time)

  • David Blecha, Hawkeye Community College
  • Dean Byerly, Northeast Iowa Community College
  • Carol Davis, Iowa Farm Bureau
  • Troy Downey, Purina Mills Inc
  • Steve Ferguson, Iowa Ag Development Authority
  • Marlene Forsberg/Higdon, Iowa Department of Education
  • Jerry Lamers, PAS state advisor
  • Craig McEnany, Des Moines Area Community College
  • Wayne Nattress, Iowa FFA Foundation
  • Louise Payne, National PAS Vice President
  • Mike Praska, Iowa PAS President
  • Carol Schnieders Collins, Past State and National Officer
  • Robert Shaw, Pioneer Hi-Bred International
  • Cheryl Tevis, Meredith Corporation
  • Jeff Ward, National Pork Producers Council
  • Gary Wergin, WHO Radio (deceased)

25th Anniversary Committee

  • Monica Erharhdt – Chair, Past State and National Officer
  • Ryan Adkins, Past State Officer
  • Carl Horne, Past State and National Officer
  • Louise Knop, Past State Officer
  • Melissa Robinson, Past State Officer
  • Isaiah Shnurman, Senate Member
  • Craig McEnany College Advisor
  • David Blecha, Executive Director
  • Jerry Lamers, State Advisor

Colleges and University:

The following Iowa colleges and university provide their students the opportunity to participate in the PAS of Iowa activities while receiving their post-secondary agricultural education:

  • Des Moines Area Community College
  • Ellsworth Community College
  • Hawkeye Community College
  • Iowa Lakes Community College
  • Iowa State University
  • Iowa Western Community College
  • Muscatine Community College
  • Northeast Iowa Community College
  • Western Iowa Tech Community College

Career Development Events:

Individual Competition Career Programs:

  • Employment Interview
  • Prepared Speakers for Agriculture
  • Impromptu Speakers for Agriculture
  • Equine Specialist
  • Career Planning
  • Career Progress
  • Ag Sales

Team Competition Career Program:

  • Dairy Specialist
  • Livestock Specialist
  • Crops Specialist
  • Floriculture
  • Landscape Design/Nursery Management
  • Soil Science Specialist
  • Agricultural Machinery Service Technician
  • College Bowl

State (only) Events:

    Agribusiness/Agri-Marketing Specialist
  • Natural Resources Specialist