IR-4 Project Awards

Person wearing protective clothing standing on a farm spraying a dragonfruit plant

Through the IR-4 Project awards program, we recognize employees, industry partners, and stakeholders for their dedication to the future of specialty crop protection and pest management.

SOAR Award

2024 SOAR Awards

The nomination period is now open for the 2024 SOAR Awards! Select the button below and fill out the form to submit your nomination. There is no limit on the number of nominations you submit. In the form, you will find instructions for submitting letters of support. All forms and letters of support must be submitted by 11:59 pm PST on Wednesday, July 24. 


The IR-4 Project established the SOAR Award to recognize external partners who excel in serving growers of specialty crops. Recipients have demonstrated clear dedication to the crop protection industry in the areas of Service, Outreach, Altruism, and Research while supporting IR-4’s mission to provide specialty crop growers with new and expanded pest management tools.

The SOAR Award will be given to a limited number of individuals annually, but no award will be given if there are no eligible nominees during a particular year. Nominees can be anyone associated with the IR-4 Project except active PMC members and full-time IR-4 personnel. Any IR-4 team member may submit nominations.

Selected recipients will demonstrate excellence in three of the following four areas:

Service, for example:
– Participates in ad hoc and standing committees
– Participates in advisory panels
– Participates in similar activities which enhance the direction and mission of IR-4

Outreach, for example:
– Consistent vocal supporter of IR-4 with growers and/or lawmakers
– Contributes toward recognition of IR-4 in media, elevating IR-4’s profile in the grower community

Altruism, for example:
– Donates time, extra research, plant materials, etc

Research, for example:
– Participates in IR-4 Program for a minimum of 3 years
– Consistently produces stellar and timely research that contributes to new or enhanced product labels

Technical Service Award


The Technical Service Award is an internal award given to an employee by each of the IR-4 regions or HQ for their outstanding technical service to the program over several years. In order to be eligible, nominees should have proven a sustained level of contribution to IR-4 that is clearly above what is considered normal and expected in the nominee’s position. Any type of technical contribution may be the basis of eligibility for the award.

Meritorious Service Award


The Meritorious Service Award is an internal award given by each of the IR-4 regions and HQ. Each unit selects their own nominees for this award based on the following criteria:

  • Length of Service to IR-4
  • Special service to IR-4
  • Innovation in program development and implementation
  • Scientific merit encompassing IR-4 contributions

Hall of Fame Award


The Hall of Fame Award is the highest recognition given by the IR-4 Project. It is awarded to anyone from any aspect of the program (internal or partner) who has made a significant contribution to the development and success of the IR-4 Project over time that have resulted in one or more of the following:

  • Increased program effectiveness
  • Better management
  • Increased productivity
  • Establishment of liaisons or partnerships with cooperators that enhanced the program
  • Enhanced levels of recognition of IR-4 by stakeholders and/or the public

Nominees are made and approved by the IR-4 Project Management Committee (PMC). Recipients must no longer be actively involved with the IR-4 Project. 


2022 – Bernard Zandstra
2021 – Dan Kunkel
2017 – Paul Schwartz
2015 – Mary Duryea, Robert Hollingworth, Diane Infante
2014 – Rocky Lundy, Lois Rossi
2013 – Marion Miller
2008 – Chuck Mourer
2006 – Bob Holm
2003 – Ray Frank, Hoyt Jamerson, George Markle, Neal Thompson
2002 – Patricia Sarica, Taka Shibamoto
2000 – Robert Libby
1999 – Richard Guest
1998 – Gene Carpenter
1997 – Willis Wheeler
1994 – Ken Dorschner
1993 – Robert Menges, TJ (Jack) Sheets
1991 – John Bourke, Duane Coyier
1990 – Virgil Freed, Baily Pepper
1989 – Harold Alford, Thomas Archer, John Mahlsted, Howard Wilkowske
1987 – Charles Compton, Edward Swift

National Recognition of Excellence


The National Recognition of Excellence Award is given once every three years in conjunction with the national education conference. This award is given to a field or lab researcher who goes above and beyond to keep operations moving.

The PMC establishes an ad hoc award committee to solicit nominations for the award.

Nominees can be anyone associated with IR-4 except active members of the PMC. A maximum of three nominees will be selected to receive the award.

Nominees must demonstrate outstanding achievements well beyond normal job performance, resulting in a significant positive impact on the IR-4 Project.

Once a person has received this award, they cannot be nominated again.


2017 – Sharon Benzen, Joe Defrancesco, Kathryn Homa
2012 – Roger Batts, Becky Sisco
2009 – Robin Federline, Nancy Ragsdale, Marylee Ross