The DSM Keynote Event: WCMA Recognition Awards

Wednesday, April 7 | Noon – 12:55 P.M. CDT

The WCMA Board of Directors is proud to honor the below individuals for their tremendous impact on the Dairy Industry. Honorees from 2020 and 2021 will be recognized during CheeseExpo Global Online.

WCMA Life Member Award

This award recognizes people who have played a significant role in the success of the Association through leadership, support, and service to the institution and its activities.

Roger Krohn – 2020 Life Member Award

A third-generation cheesemaker, Roger Krohn began his career at age 14 working in a family business alongside his father. Now, with more than 40 years in the business, Krohn is certified as a Wisconsin Master Cheesemaker for Mozzarella and Provolone cheeses. Krohn is Cheese Technical Manager for the Luxemburg location of Agropur where he produces award-winning cheese varieties. Roger Krohn is a long-time and active member of WCMA, having served as on the Association’s Board of Directors, including as President from 1998-2000.

WCMA has offered the Life Member Award since 1918, and Krohn will be the 89th recipient.

Mark Schleitwiler – 2021 Life Member Award

Mark Schleitwiler now serves as an industry consultant, most recently having worked as Director for Wohlt Cheese, now a division of Ellsworth Cooperative Creamery. From 1988-2017, he worked at BelGioioso Cheese, first as Operations Manager, then Vice President of Operations, Vice President of Finance, and finally as Vice President of External Relations. He launched his career as an accountant and administrator at Churny Company, a cheese manufacturer and importer.

Schleitwiler is a longtime and active member of WCMA, having served several terms on the Association’s Board of Directors, including as President from 2010-2012 and as Treasurer from 2009-10. Mark also participates in WCMA’s Technology and Policy Committees and continues to support WCMA outreach efforts.

Schleitwiler​ will be the 90th recipient of the WCMA Life Member Award.


WCMA Cheese Industry Champions

Awards that are given to industry leaders who, through their everyday business decisions, have created tremendous opportunity for others.

Max Gonzenbach and Rudy Nef – 2020 Cheese Industry Champions Award

Max Gonzenbach and Rudy Nef assumed full leadership of Valley Queen Cheese Factory of Milbank, South Dakota in 1970, taking over for their fathers, Alfred Gonzenbach and Alfred Nef, two Swiss immigrants who founded the company in 1929. Under their direction, the company’s growth dramatically accelerated, and today, Valley Queen converts more than 1.5 billion pounds of milk each year into natural cheeses, dried lactose, WPC 80, and anhydrous milk fat. In August 2019, Nef stepped down from his role on the Valley Queen Board of Directors; on that occasion, South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem proclaimed it “Rudy Nef Day” across the state. Gonzenbach continues to serve on the Board. Valley Queen Cheese Factory employs more than 280 people, and plays a significant role in supporting community projects and philanthropic campaigns.

Wilbur Nielsen – 2020 Cheese Industry Champions Award

Wilbur Nielsen co-owns Independence, Iowa-based Wapsie Valley Creamery alongside his son, Mark, and grandson, Ryan. Nielsen has been involved in the daily management and direction of Wapsie Valley Creamery for more than 60 years, having picked up the torch from his father, the first owner of the business. One of three cheese factories operating in Iowa today, Wapsie Valley Creamery sells its cheese wholesale to companies around the country to use in processed cheese, cheese spreads,shredded cheeses and calf milk replacer. Wapsie Valley Creamery employs more than 80 people, with an expansion project currently in the works, and purchases milk from 220 Midwestern farms.

John Jeter – 2021 Cheese Industry Champions Award

John Jeter served as CEO of Hilmar Cheese Company for 31 years. From his start in 1984, Hilmar Cheese grew exponentially, with Jeter focusing on research, the latest technology, and staff excellence. Before his retirement in 2015, Jeter completed construction of a second production plant in Texas, and established Hilmar Cheese as a major dairy exporter.

Don Menzner – 2021 Cheese Industry Champions Award

Don Menzner joined Marathon Cheese Corporation in 1960 as a packaging line worker, later advancing to the position of Director of Purchasing. By the early 1980s, Menzner became Vice President of Operations. In 1990, he was named President, and in 1996 accepted the position of CEO. He also served as a Board Member for the National Cheese Institute and National Cheese Exchange. Before his retirement from Marathon Cheese Corporation in 2001, Menzner received the National Cheese Institute Laureate Award. Menzner is credited with innovative cheese shredding and packaging methods that transformed the way cheese was sold throughout the country.


WCMA Distinguished Service Award

Reserved for respected and highly-valued supplier partners to the cheese manufacturing industry, this award is unique in that the Association allows members to vote on prospective honorees.

David Carpenter – 2020 Distinguished Service Award

David Carpenter served as the President of Chr. Hansen, Inc. before his retirement in 2018. He joined the company in 1999, previously working as Director of Sales and Marketing, Dairy Ingredients Division; Senior Vice President Bio Ingredients; and Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing. Carpenter grew up on a dairy farm in Northern Arkansas and began his career at Coleman Dairy in Little Rock, AR as Quality Control Manager. He later worked as Vice President – Global Business Unit Cultures & Enzymes for SKW, and as Senior Vice President of Continental Colloids. Carpenter has served both the dairy processing industry and his community in many volunteer positions.

Dick Groves – 2020 Distinguished Service Award

During his 41-plus years at the Cheese Reporter, Dick Groves has covered everything from congressional and federal order hearings to the last trading session at the National Cheese Exchange and the first cash cheese trading session at the CME. Groves joined Cheese Reporter as a part-time reporter and writer in January of 1978 while attending the University of Wisconsin-Madison as an agricultural journalism major. After graduating in 1980, Groves was promoted to assistant editor of the weekly newspaper in 1981 and became the paper’s editor in 1985. Groves acquired the Cheese Reporter in November of 1989. He ranks among the longest-serving editors and publishers in the annals of dairy publishing. In addition to owning and editing Cheese Reporter, Groves served for a total of 12 years as a Supplier Representative on the WCMA Board of Directors.

Craig Linz – 2021 Distinguished Service Award

Prior to his passing in July 2020, Craig Linz was known and respected across the dairy industry for his service and integrity. Linz served the industry in numerous roles, while rising through the ranks at Tetra Pak Inc., and its predecessors Carlisle Process Systems and Scherping Systems. Linz served four years as a member on the WCMA Board of Directors, and was active in the WCMA Recognition and Contest Committees. Linz earned the Eggebrecht Award in 2020 for his service to WCMA’s Championship Cheese Contests.

Jerry Lippert – 2021 Distinguished Service Award

Jerry Lippert started his 17-year career in paper distribution with roles including sales and purchasing and general management with Great Northern Nekoosa Corporation and Georgia Pacific. Since 1992, Lippert has held several important roles with Nelson-Jameson, Inc. before becoming President in 2002. Lippert continues to focus on growing Nelson-Jameson, and mentoring the next generation of leadership. Lippert is an active member of the WCMA Recognition Committee.


WCMA Babcock Award

Named for Stephen Babcock, the famed agricultural chemist and University of Wisconsin professor, this award recognizes the contributions of those in education or affiliate organizations partnering with cheesemakers in the pursuit of dairy industry innovation and excellence.

Dr. Floyd Bodyfelt – 2020 Babcock Award

As Professor Emeritus in the Department of Food Science and Technology at Oregon State University, Dr. Floyd Bodyfelt is recognized for his advisory role in the development of HACCP standards, and for his research and writing on food and dairy products quality and safety control processes. Dr. Bodyfelt served as Coordinator of the Food Science Extension programs offered via Oregon State, and served as a Food Safety and Quality Systems auditor with the National Sanitation Foundation.

Dr. Norm Olson – 2020 Babcock Award

During his 40 years of service in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences at UW-Madison, Dr. Norm Olson earned the respect and admiration of his peers, students and the entire dairy industry. Instrumental in organizing the first Center for Dairy Research in the country, Dr. Olson also served as its first Director. In addition, he taught classes from 1959-1997 and was the Director of the Cheese Research Institute from 1979-1993. His research focused around the chemistry, microbiology and technology of cheese products and acceleration of cheese ripening.

Dr. Bob Cropp – 2021 Babcock Award

Dr. Bob Cropp is a Professor Emeritus of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics. Prior to retirement, Dr. Cropp was the Dairy Marketing and Policy Extension Specialist and Director of the University of Wisconsin Center for Cooperatives, and has been with the University of Wisconsin System since August 1966. While retired, he remains active in dairy marketing, dairy policy and cooperative issues.

Marianne Smukowski – 2021 Babcock Award

Marianne Smukowski worked with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Land O’Lakes, Inc. before creating her own unique position at the Center for Dairy Research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she was Dairy Safety and Quality Coordinator. A guardian of food safety and quality for the dairy industry, Smukowski worked with producers in Wisconsin and beyond. She is also the technical adviser for the Wisconsin Master Cheesemaker program, and the 2019-20 President of the American Cheese Society. Smukowski has also served as a judge for the WCMA World and U.S. Championship Cheese Contests.


WCMA Vanguard Award

Intended to recognize cheesemakers or cheese manufacturing employees whose work helped to blaze new trails in dairy operations.

Carl Buell – 2020 Vanguard Award

Carl Buell launched his career in dairy processing at a Kraft Foods plant in Blackfoot, Idaho. He relocated to Green Bay, working as part of Kraft’s national procurement group. Buell managed a stable of Kraft contract cheese plants including: A-G Co-op, Alto Dairy, Dairyman’s Cooperative Creamery, Davisco, Jim Falls Dairy, Krause Dairy, Valley Queen Cheese Factory, Weyauwega Milk Products, Wisconsin Dairies, Wisconsin Dairy State Cheese, and others. While at Kraft, Buell received the Jade Ring award for innovations using alternative packaging materials for barrel cheese. In 1986, Buell joined Leprino Foods, devoting 30 years to its technical services division. As a Vice President at Leprino, Buell constructed and operated the Leprino Foods cheese plants in California, Colorado, Michigan, and New Mexico. He was also part of many innovations for Leprino, including mozzarella processing techniques and starter culture production. Buell continues to work part-time for Leprino helping to institute a new technical program for their expert cheesemakers. 

Dr. Tom Everson – 2020 Vanguard Award

Dr. Tom Everson grew up in his family’s cheese factory, Brushville Cheese, near Berlin, Wisconsin. Earlier in his career, he worked for a whey processor in Juneau, Wisconsin, and at Dairyland Food Labs, a culture, coagulant, and annatto color supply house, before landing at Wisconsin Dairies Cooperative. Years of work led to Everson’s role as Vice President of Technical Services, leading quality, research and development, food safety, and scientific affairs in their Wisconsin, Iowa, and Minnesota facilities. Everson is credited for sharing knowledge via scientific publications on the management of large, modern cheese plants. He was also heavily involved in the first price premium programs for dairy farmers that delivered lower somatic cell counts in milk. Later in his career, Everson joined Grande Cheese Company, serving as Vice President of Technology until his retirement in 2007. He now works as an industry consultant.

Steve Buholzer – 2021 Vanguard Award

Third-generation cheesemaker Steve Buholzer grew up at Klondike Cheese Company. Along with his brothers Ron and Dave, Buholzer took over the family business in 1972. Buholzer is a Wisconsin Master Cheesemaker, with certifications in feta and muenster. He is credited with bringing Klondike Cheese Company to new levels with state-of-the-art equipment, specially crafted recipes and by honoring the great traditions of cheesemaking.

Ray Palubicki – 2021 Vanguard Award

Ray Palubicki started working in the cheese industry as a teenager in 1950. Less than a decade later, he became the head cheesemaker at the Outagamie Producers Cooperative. Palubicki served as Production Manager from 1967-1990, and as Plant Manager until his retirement in 1999. In addition to creating several award-winning cheese recipes, Palubicki led his plant through an acquisition by Alto Dairy, and transitioned it to fully automated cheddar cheese production, the first facility of its kind in the Midwest.

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