MORRISVILLE, NY — Growing up on a fruit farm in Pennsylvania, Charles “Chip” Ax III had his roots planted deeply in agriculture at an early age.
It led to roles with FFA, running a crop farm in St. Lawrence County, becoming a high school and BOCES ag teacher, and eventually found an outlet in the college classroom, where he has been educating SUNY Morrisville students to become agricultural leaders for more than a decade.
His dedication was recently recognized with a Nationwide Golden Owl Award, naming him a finalist as the 2021-22 Ag Educator of the Year.
The annual award recognizes extraordinary teachers and supports their educational efforts. Ax, associate professor of diesel technology and agricultural engineering, is one of 11 finalists across the state for Ag Educator of the Year.
“It is an honor to receive this award, but it is because of the efforts of so many who have jumped onboard to help me with things — my family, fellow ag teachers across the state and my colleagues,” Ax said.
“Chip is a tireless advocate for our students and for ag students everywhere,” said Anthony Contento, dean of the School of Agriculture, Business & Technology. “He spends much of his free time working with younger students and helping them plan their careers in agriculture. We are fortunate to have him as one of our faculty and division chairs at SUNY Morrisville.”
Ax’s legacy of educating and supporting agriculture and impacting students thrives not only in the classroom, but also in his work as advisor of SUNY Morrisville’s Collegiate FFA. Throughout his tenure, the college’s program has flourished and forged strong connections with other agricultural-related schools, including Cornell University, Alfred State and Paul Smith’s College.
Highlights of Ax’s career include providing students with hands-on learning, a hallmark of a SUNY Morrisville education, and offering students myriad opportunities through FFA to volunteer, develop their leadership skills and impact the community through agricultural education.
“I want students to realize their full potential in whatever it is,” he said of his goal as a teacher.
An alumnus of SUNY Morrisville’s fruit and vegetable production program in 1988 and agricultural engineering program in 1989, Ax returned to his alma mater in 2010 to teach. His ties with alumni and hundreds of students he has impacted as an educator were visible during a surprise award ceremony held to present the Golden Owl Award.
Present were: Derek Hill ’04, New York FFA director; Paige Warren ’22, state FFA vice president and SUNY Morrisville agricultural business student; David Rogers, college president; Anthony Contento, dean of the School of Agriculture, Business & Technology, Barry Spriggs, provost; SUNY Morrisville alumni, faculty and staff.
Ax lives in Munnsville with his wife, Karen. They and their two children, Becca and Jacob ’21, have dedicated a large portion of their lives to FFA and through their work with Oswegatchie Educational Center, a 1,200-acre wooded land in Croghan, New York, owned and operated by the New York FFA Leadership Training Foundation, Inc., which operates as a youth camp during the summer.