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After a lifetime of service, Rick LeVitre is retiring from Extension

Assemblyman Billy Jones thanks Rick LeVitre for his service to New York’s 115th District, which includes Franklin and Clinton counties, and parts of St. Lawrence County. (Photo courtesy of CCE of Franklin County)

After seven years of executive directorship at Cornell Cooperative Extension of Franklin County and two years of double-duty as executive director at CCE of both Franklin and Essex counties, Rick LeVitre is retiring.

I remember the apprehension I felt when Rick arrived at Franklin County Extension. I knew that our Board of Directors had been working long and hard for months; holding meetings with and about candidates, and that they’d appointed Rick to the position with good reason. But the appointment of a new director, more often than not, is only the beginning of all sorts of organizational changes. Structural changes to the staff. Strategic changes with regard to association goals. Changes that both the board and the new leader believe will move the organization forward.

I recall the anxiety I felt when meeting with our new boss for the first time. But I’d made up my mind to be open and honest with him; to ask questions and listen to answers, and to look for opportunities to build on the efforts I’d made over the years to help make the lives of forest landowners, gardeners, market growers, 4-H youth, at-risk individuals and families, and others within my community richer, fuller and easier.

It didn’t take very long to realize that Rick had a surprisingly profound enthusiasm for Extension. And agriculture. I later learned just how much professional expertise he actually brought to the position, coming to Franklin County CCE with more than 35 years of academic experience that included Extension service in Massachusetts and Vermont.

Over time, I came to know him as a confident leader who assisted Extension educators with creating innovative programs and implementing long-established and proven curricula. As he applied his decades of Extension experience toward building a high-performance team of capable professionals, an environment in which motivated people could do their best work was formed. He demonstrated tremendous support as a consultant and collaborator who worked dutifully with Extension staff and board members, volunteers, legislators, funders, donors, grant writers, partner organizations and businesses, and town officials to achieve shared goals and objectives. And he proved himself to be a creative thinker and gifted researcher who loved and found great reward working alongside other individuals and groups committed to the advancement of our northern New York communities.

Mahatma Gandi said, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” And, for 43 years, Rick LeVitre worked tirelessly in the service of others, often going above and beyond the call of duty. The scope of his accomplishments during his career is impressive. He served as a County Extension 4-H Agent for University of Massachusetts Extension and later as both an agriculture and a 4-H agent at University of Vermont Extension. While at UVM, he was selected to serve as Extension pesticide education coordinator, regional specialist for sustainable agriculture, forage, and field crops, and regional dairy herd management specialist. He eventually served as associate dean and associate director of UVM Extension, before joining Cornell University Cooperative Extension.

Rick is currently a member of the National Association of County Agricultural Agents and has been since 1980. He’s a past president of both the Vermont Association of Agriculture Agents and the New York Lambda Chapter of Epsilon Sigma Phi, the fraternity of Extension professionals.

When most people retire, they retire. Not Rick. He’s staying right here in northern New York, where I’m quite sure he’ll continue to serve. So, on behalf of myself and on behalf of your staff, past and present, at Franklin County Cornell Cooperative Extension, thank you Rick, (and thanks to your remarkable wife Sue, too) for all you’ve done for the town of Malone and for Franklin County.

Extension professionals creed

I believe in people and their hopes, their aspirations, and their faith; in their right to make their own plans and arrive at their own decisions; in their ability and power to enlarge their lives and plan for the happiness of those they love.

“I believe that education, of which Extension is an essential part, is basic in stimulating individual initiative, self-determination, and leadership; that these are the keys to democracy and that people, when given facts they understand, will act not only in their self-interest, but also in the interest of society.

I believe that education is a lifelong process and the greatest university is the home; that my success as a teacher is proportional to those qualities of mind and spirit that give me welcome entrance to the homes of the families I serve.

I believe in intellectual freedom to search for and present the truth without bias and with courteous tolerance toward the views of others.

I believe that Extension is the link between the people and the ever-changing discoveries in laboratories.

I believe in the public institutions of which I am a part.

I believe in my own work and in the opportunity I have to make my life useful to humanity.

Because I believe these things, I am an Extension professional.