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Mark Watkins and his wife, Carol, are pictured inside the Agricultural Learning Center on the R.T. Wright Farm. (Photo by Todd Weddle/Northwest Missouri State University)

Mark Watkins and his wife, Carol, are pictured inside the Agricultural Learning Center on the R.T. Wright Farm. (Photo by Todd Weddle/Northwest Missouri State University)

Dec. 20, 2021

Ag background, family business inspires Watkins to support ag center

By Kourtnie Stenwall, communication assistant


Mark Watkins has had a strong interest in agriculture since he was young, and that interest inspired him to support the Agricultural Learning Center (ALC) at Northwest Missouri State University.

Watkins’ interest in the agriculture field stems from helping on his grandfather’s farm and its importance to the family business, Watkins True Value Hardware, now Westlake Ace Hardware, in Maryville. In recent years, he took notice of the recognition and growth of Northwest’s agriculture programs and wanted to add his support.

“I always felt that the agriculture program had been underappreciated at the campus for many years,” Watkins said. “The Agricultural Learning Center will give a more hands-on experience than has ever been available to students before and differentiate Northwest from other campuses.”

Through their contribution to the ALC, Watkins and his wife, Carol, joined Northwest’s Homesteaders society, a group of lead donors partnering with the University to give $25,000 or more in support of the ALC. A lynchpin addition to the University’s R.T. Wright Farm, the new 29,500-square-foot multipurpose facility enhances the School of Agricultural Sciences and its curriculum with laboratories, a kitchen, classrooms, and study spaces as well as a large exposition space and an outdoor education plaza.

Watkins’ family moved to Maryville in 1957 and his father, Lou, started their hardware business. After Watkins graduated from Northwest in 1972 with a business economics degree, he worked at the business for 43 years, opening stores in Iowa and Nebraska.

In 2015, Watkins sold the business and expanded the family’s small cow and calf operation, which started as a hobby and has turned into an almost full-time job.

“If things were different in life, I wouldn’t have minded being a full-time farmer from the beginning,” Watkins said. “I’ve had a strong interest in agriculture since I was young.”

The Watkins family has been part of the Bearcat family for three generations and remains involved in the Northwest community. Mark Watkins can be spotted at Bearcat Stadium cheering on the football team most weekends, and he encourages students to consider attending Northwest.

“I am proud of the campus and what it produces student-wise,” Watkins said. “It makes me want to be a part of the community.”

For more information about the Agricultural Learning Center and making a gift to support Northwest, contact the Office of University Advancement at 660.562.1248 or visit www.nwmissouri.edu/ForeverGreen/.


Media contact:

Mark Hornickel, Communication Manager | mhorn@nwmissouri.edu | 660.562.1704