Cynda Clary recognized with Leave the Ladder Down Award

Ki Cole, Faculty Council Chair, left, and Michelle Stewart, Chair of Staff Advisory Council, right, present Cynda Clary, middle, with her award. (Photo by Oklahoma State University)

By Kaitlyn Weldon

Cynda Clary, associate dean of the Ferguson College of Agriculture, received the Leave the Ladder Down award at the fall 2022 University Awards Convocation.

The Leave the Ladder Down award is given to an individual who has mentored and encouraged others to reach their fullest potential at Oklahoma State University. The recipient is selected by a committee of campus leaders through a nomination process.

Karen Hickman, Ferguson College director of undergraduate research, honors programs and academic assessment, nominated Clary for the award.

“She’s a highly positioned female leader who has left the ladder down and helped others climb up the ladder,” Hickman said.

Before coming to OSU in 2012, Clary served in administrative positions at New Mexico State University for 19 years. In her current role as associate dean of the Ferguson College, Clary is committed to helping students, staff and faculty achieve success, and her enthusiasm for agriculture is apparent to anyone who speaks with her.

Hickman described how Clary has given her several opportunities to learn new leadership skills and how this has impacted her professional career. Clary encouraged Hickman to participate in several leadership trainings, such as LEAD21.

Additionally, Clary has mentored other faculty across campus. Kristen Baum, associate dean for research in the College of Arts and Sciences, said Clary was her mentor for the Women’s Leadership Academy in 2013.

“I learned an incredible amount from Cynda’s mentorship, and I try to emulate many of her approaches in my mentoring relationships,” Baum said. “I now have the opportunity to work with her as a colleague, and I continue to value her insight, guidance and balanced perspective.”

Clary says it brings her joy to see students and faculty succeed in the Ferguson College. 

“When students come to college, they are developing their reputation and learning new things,” Clary said. “They have to find their path – and it is a privilege to be part of that journey with them.”

Ferguson College agribusiness graduate student, Gretchen Skaja, said Clary saw potential in her before she saw it in herself.

During Skaja’s freshmen year, Clary took her to Our Daily Bread to volunteer and to lunch at Hideaway for the first time. Skaja said Clary showed her that Stillwater could be a second home for her and not just her college town. Skaja believes the guidance she received from Clary allowed her to be successful in Stillwater.

“Dr. Clary wants everybody to succeed,” Skaja said. “When you meet with her and leave her office, you feel ready to take on the next challenge. As a mentor, she helps you plan the next steps to achieve your goals and she will connect you with the resources you need to be successful.”

Skaja is not the only student who benefits from Clary’s mentorship. Clary is also known for providing leadership and support to students, staff and faculty throughout the Ferguson College and beyond OSU.

On the day Clary was honored with the prestigious award, Ferguson College administration and staff arranged for her family to attend the ceremony.

Clary said the special surprise of having her husband, children and granddaughter at the convocation was the most memorable part about receiving her award. She said her family has sacrificed so much for her career, and seeing them in the audience – proud of her and her accomplishments – was meaningful.

OSU Agriculture is dedicated to improving the quality of life of Oklahomans through science-based information and education. It is comprised of the Ferguson College of Agriculture and two state agencies: OSU Ag Research and OSU Extension.

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