One honored WSU alumnus has gone the distance for grains.
Last month, Gail Cramer, a WSU graduate from the class of 1963, earned the WSU Alumni Association’s Alumni Achievement Award for his accomplishments and contributions in the grain industry. Fewer than 510 alumni have received the award since its establishment in 1970.
“I’m very humbled and honored, and I feel like one of the luckiest people in the world,” Cramer said.
He dedicated about 50 years to grains and the grain industry, studying and teaching about its effects and distribution worldwide.
Throughout his career, he researched wheat at Montana State University, rice in Arkansas and many other seed and grain varieties while at Harvard.
“Those grains made up over 50 percent of the world’s food supply,” he said. “That got me into a lot of work in that area.”
Cramer earned a bachelor’s degree from WSU in 1963, a master’s degree from Michigan State University the following year and a doctorate from Oregon State University in 1968.
His primary research at Montana State involved barley.
“The focus on most of that research was increasing the efficiency of the industry,” he said.
This task involved establishing the unit car concept so that trains could pull upwards of 185 grain cars at a time to general markets.
Cramer has authored more than 220 scholarly articles, book chapters and volumes, received a number of research grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and won multiple other awards. In 1989, he was appointed to The White House Agribusiness Commission for his insight and research.
Throughout his career Cramer has traveled internationally to collect data for the creation of worldwide grain industry models.
“We were very interested in looking at the export markets for American farmers and trying to project production and consumption and trade through their welfare,” he said.
During that time, he traveled to Japan, Myanmar, Vietnam, Central and South America, Canada, Egypt and the Ivory Coast, Thailand, Korea, the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, and China more than ten times.
Despite such vast international experience, Cramer said he is particularly proud of spending 20 years teaching and doing research at Montana State University.
“It was very enjoyable living in Bozeman,” he said. “I taught basic classes and agricultural economics. The students I think appreciated taking classes that would get them jobs out of school.”
Cramer remembers the students he taught and sent out into the workforce.
“I prepared a lot of students for the grain industry,” he said. “Most of the students got good jobs. There was no place for them to go back to the farms, so I provided them that opportunity.”
Cramer said he and his wife knew there was more they could do for students and their futures after receiving scholarships during their college years.
“We’ve been very fortunate,” he said. “Both of us want to feel like we can provide those kinds of opportunities for other students.”
In 2007, Cramer and his family established the Gail L. Cramer and Marilyn J. Karlenberg Cramer Endowed Scholarship at WSU.
“We just felt that Washington State and society have given us a lot,” he said. “We thought it was time to start paying back what society has given us, and there’s no better way of doing that than providing that scholarship at Washington State University.”
Currently, Cramer is a professor and head of Louisiana State University’s Department of Agricultural Economics and Agribusiness, where he observes the growing numbers of people in the world and wonders about the future of the grain industry.
“The agriculturalists in the world have a lot to do,” he said.