A lifetime dedicated to agriculture and teaching young people about its vital role in America culminated last week when Williston’s Robert E. Philpot was inducted into the Florida FFA Hall of Fame during a banquet and reception held at the Florida FFA Leadership Training Center near Haines City.
Philpot joined four other new members into this prestigious group of long-time Florida agriculture, agriculture education and FFA supporters. The other inductees are Thomas Lorren Barrineau (deceased), Larry Dale Reese, O. Edward Swindle and Jack L. Williams.
The festivities began with a reception for the inductees and their families, special guests and attendees. Special guests included the Florida Commissioner of Agriculture, Adam Putnam; Erica Der, Program Coordinator for Agriculture Education of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services; Emcee Dr. Kirby Barrick; and the former FFA Hall of Fame inductees. Florida FFA Foundation Board members, Florida State Officers, District FFA Officers, and several FFA members were also in attendance. The ceremony began with Florida FFA Foundation Board President William Hamm of William Hamm and Associates welcoming guests and introducing the Master of Ceremonies of the event Dr. Kirby Barrick.
Robert E. Philpot “Do what you love. Love what you do.” Epitomizes the teaching of Robert Philpot Jr. He graduated from Williston High School in 1965, and after serving his country in Vietnam, he returned to Williston to teach Agriculture- for 37 years. If you calculate the number of student who came through his program in the almost four decades he taught- at an average of 100 a year- that would equal 3,700 students, which is more than the population of the town of Williston.
Robert E. Philpot Jr., was born on June 28, 1948. He received both his bachelor’s and master’s degree in agriculture education from the University of Florida. During his tenure at Williston, Robert trained two National-winning Career Development Event teams and 45 state-winning CDE teams. The students even coined a chapter slogan which still hangs proudly on the wall- “Williston A Winning Tradition.” Robert assisted 125 students in earning the State FFA Degree and 10 in earning their American Degrees. He also taught seven students who served as state FFA officers. He often reminded his students winning isn’t everything, and that a student’s engagement and personal success was much more important. To this day he still coaches the Parliamentary Procedure and Farm Business Management Teams.
He has been described as “a teacher of teachers.” Williston High Schools close proximity to UF made him an easy pick for numerous college presentations and lectures. He presented at the New Teacher Workshop and summer agriculture training event many years. He also hosted several teaching interns from UF. Over his career, Robert spoke to state commissioners and legislative committees about agriculture education. In 1984, Robert was named Williston High School’s Teacher of the Year, and later that year, was named Levy County Teacher of the Year. He has received the Honorary Sate FFA Degree, and the American Degree. In 1988, he was named the Outstanding Agriculture Educator for Florida. He has received the Florida Association for Career and Technical Educators’ Carl Obrien Humanitarian Award for his extensive community service and involvement in agriculture education. In 2007, Williston High School was named the Outstanding Program in Florida.
One’s legacy not only lives in the accolades won, but by the programs left behind. In 2001, he, along with representatives from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the Department of Education, Florida Farm Bureau, and the Florida Association of Agricultural Educators, developed a program where agriculture teachers could enhance their leadership potential, increase their agriculture knowledge, and develop a stronger network. What emerged was the Agriscience Leadership Program. To date, the program has trained more than 175 teachers and 45 administrators. In 2003, he received the Outstanding Alumni Award for the Agriscience Leadership Program.
Robert served in leadership capacities in many organizations over his long and illustrious career, including serving as president of the Florida Vocational Agriculture Teachers Association/Florida Association of Agricultural Educators twice, and serving twice on the Florida FFA, and Board of Directors. In 2003, he was a key player, leading the charge, to create a specialty license plate for agricultural education. Since the plate was introduced in 2006, more than $100,000 has been generated. Upon his retirement in 2010, after almost four decades in teaching, Robert received thanks and praise from many groups, including the Levy County School Board Florida FFA, and agricultural education professional organizations.
Robert and his wife Brenda reside in Williston, where they have made such a positive impact on so many people for many years. They have two children. Robert’s immense enjoyment of teaching has inspired multiple generations of his students, and he is a model example of what an agricultural educator should be. We are so pleased to welcome Robert E. Philpot, Jr., into the Florida FFA Hall of Fame.