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Bill Mead '81: Career proves value of two-year degree

Don’t tell Bill Mead that it takes a bachelor’s degree or beyond to attain an upper management position in the agribusiness industry. Bill, a 1980 graduate with an associate of applied science degree in crop production, recently returned to Ohio after a 21-year career with Cargill to become director of animal nutrition for Magnus International Group. “It’s not whether you spent two or six or eight years in school,” Bill said. “It’s what you put of yourself into it.”

He admits that, when he graduated, he gauged himself against graduates with four-year degrees. “I thought ‘I can’t get that upward mobility,’ But I had two years more experience,” and noted that his career path was very similar to someone with a bachelor’s degree.

Bill was born in Wooster and spent summers on his grandparents’ Wayne County dairy farm. He initially planned to return to the family farm with his uncle. “But 1980 was when interest rates were hitting 20 percent, and the handwriting was on the wall.” Faculty member Lew (Leland) Watkins advised Bill to get into sales or the feed business. Bill thought, “If I can’t own a dairy farm, this is the next best thing — helping farmers be successful.” He started with Wayne Feed in Plain City. In 1992, he made the “big jump” to Cargill, one of the world's largest privately held companies and the largest food production company in the world. “I only had a two-year degree, but I had 10 years’ experience.”

After eight moves in 21 years, which included starting three different businesses for Cargill, Bill and his wife, Nancy, decided it was time to return to Ohio. Bill met Nancy (then Nancy Purdum) while at ATI. She was in the floriculture program. “We got together, despite the whole agriculture-horticulture divide,” laughed Bill. Page owns a wedding and event planning business called Paige’s Posies, named for their granddaughter.

“I’ve always had a passion for animal agriculture,” Bill said, and his position with Magnus International Group allows him to put that passion to good use. Magnus International recycles fats and oils for animal agriculture or industrial use. “Any company with a fat and oil waste stream is a potential client,” explained Bill, noting that Magnus works with a company that produces ready-cooked bacon. “We process the fat into prill, which is used as a feed supplement for high-producing dairy cows." Magnus' groundbreaking innovations in natural products manufacturing have been widely recognized regionally and nationally with numerous awards, including the 2012 Ernst and Young National Entrepreneur of the Year award.

Bill and Page are looking forward to reengaging with Ohio State ATI and sees Magnus as a potential internship employer for ATI students. “My wife and I talked about it when we came back to Ohio. We want to see ATI continue to grow and flourish.”