21, No. 8, Oct. 18, 2001
On the Job: Randy
by Bill Wiegand
| Job: Randy
Fonner is a UI alumnus. He has a bachelors degree in
political science and a masters degree in education
with a specialty in higher education administration.
by Sharita Forrest, Assistant Editor
(217) 244-1072; email@example.com
Randy Fonner is an extension specialist in the
manager program in the department
of agricultural engineering.
the Job: Fonner has spent the last eight or nine years researching
his family history. A history buff, he also is a member of the Champaign
County Civil War Roundtable, which meets eight times a year to discuss
war-related topics and examine artifacts. A UI alumnus, Fonner has a
bachelors degree in political science and a masters degree
in education with a specialty in higher education administration.
Tell me about your job.
For the last four years, Ive been the coordinator for the certified
livestock manager training program. I worked here in the department
for seven years as a research coordinator before I took this position.
In May 1996, Illinois passed regulations requiring livestock producers
who have over 300 animal units to become certified in waste handling.
They need to renew that every three years. I coordinate the morning
workshop training: getting the instructors, getting the site, working
with the local Extension unit, putting together the brochures and the
press releases. Also, when I cant get out of it, Im an instructor.
We do anywhere from six to eight or nine [workshops] a year. Five weeks
ago, we started an Internet quiz program that is the equivalent of having
gone through the morning workshop, so now some producers can get certified
Waste handling has been kind of a hot topic the last couple of years
on the national scene with the larger facilities, some environmental
problems, new rules being enacted.
What do you need to know to do your job?
I think you have to have a pretty good understanding of agriculture
and in particular whats going on in the livestock industry. Thereve
been a lot of rules and regulations that have come. So, Im telling
producers the things they need to do to be in compliance and trying
to come up with educational materials that maybe can help make that
easier, like the Internet quiz.
How did you start researching your family tree?
I knew that my family a couple of generations back had moved to Illinois
around 1860, so I was kind of curious to find out who were these people
and where did they come from. Initially, I went to the Urbana library.
Ive spent time looking at newspapers in Douglas County, Edgar
County, going to the courthouse in Tuscola and the Pennsylvania Historical
My wife is an avid Purdue fan, and when wed go to away football
games, my wife and son would go to the game and Id go to the State
of Michigan Library or the Ohio Historical Society.
Who do you send your family newsletter to?
I got the names and addresses of Fonners from a telephone directory
on the Internet and sent out about 150. From them I got more information
about other Fonner families and that kind of led to the [development
of a] Web page. Ive done a couple of newsletters, and Im
overdue to do another one, which will probably be Fonners in the Civil
War. Thats been kinda neat to talk with different Fonners on the
phone or through e-mail.
Why do you find geneaology so absorbing?
Its like putting together a puzzle, except when you open up a
puzzle box you have a picture to look at plus you know how many pieces
you have. With geneaology, you have to find your own pieces and figure
out how they fit together.
Did you find out anything surprising or that you didnt know before
about your family?
Part of the fun and part of the difficulty is there are no famous Fonners.
Theyve been farmers and shopkeepers. Some were teachers. The Fonners
in the Civil War were privates and sergeants. Theyre just regular
types of people.
My great-grandmother, whose picture is on my Web site now, had said
that when she was a child on the family farm in Pennsylvania she heard
the cannons at Gettysburg during the Civil War.
I never thought that there were very many Fonners in the United States.
The only ones I ever knew were between the Indiana state line and Route
51, and they were all my relatives. My grandpa said, Were
all related, but we dont always talk to one another.