Athens, Ga. – Former Jasper County Cooperative Extension agent Jean Fowler may have retired in 2011, but she and her husband Rob continue to promote the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.
Because of their contributions, J. Scott Angle, the college’s dean and director, will recognize the Fowlers with the CAES Medallion of Honor at the college’s fall commencement ceremony on Dec. 14. The award is given periodically in recognition of service to the college and the agricultural industry in Georgia.
“Jean and Rob Fowler have been tireless advocates for our work and invaluable ambassadors of our programs, especially in Central America,” Angle said.
“The Fowlers’ commitment isn’t only in extending our programs internationally, but making sure Georgians have access to our research and Extension programs as well.”
Rob Fowler, a retired president of Main Street Bank in Covington, helped arrange the first endowed 4-H agent’s position in UGA history, also believed to be the first endowed agent position in the country. In 2007, he worked with BB&T to create a $1.2 million endowment to continuously fund the 4-H agent’s position in Jasper County.
Over the years the couple has hosted several international students from South America, Central America and Asia on their farm in Newton County. These students have been able to complete graduate work and undergraduate internships with the college while living with the Fowlers.
The couple was integral in implementing the use of UGA’s Distance Diagnostics through Digital Imaging, or DDDI, system in Central America, where it is helping curb pest problems on farms and in exports.
DDDI is an Internet-based system that allows farmers and field agents to communicate with university experts using digital images and samples to diagnose problems with soil, plants, animals and insects. The DDDI program is part of the college’s Center for Internet Imaging and Database Systems.
In 2006, Rob Fowler secured $100,000 to fund the international distance diagnostics pilot program in Honduras. Success in Honduras led to a USAID grant that extended use of the distance diagnostics system throughout Central America.
Jean Fowler worked to popularize the system among county agents in Georgia and then went on to set up the system in Central America. In 2003, she used the system to link children in a Jasper County 4-H Club to a group of school children in Honduras.
Currently, the couple is volunteering to help set up a DDDI system in Haiti.
Jean Fowler believes that impoverished countries, like Honduras and Haiti, may also be able to put the system to use to connect doctors to their patients in outlying areas or to specialists in other countries.
“I believe the DDDI system is the answer to affordable health care for the world,” she said.