Mechanized agriculture lab renovations made possible by Moller family gift

(November 14, 2017) — The Jordan College of Agricultural Sciences and Technology at Fresno State showcased initial renovations to its mechanized agriculture laboratory on Tuesday, Nov. 14 that were made possible by a $250,000 gift by Dr. James Moller and his wife, Carol Moller.

The event was attended by University President Joseph I. Castro, Jordan College Dean Sandra Witte, faculty, staff, students, alumni of the mechanized agriculture program and James Moller.

The donation was made in memory of Moller’s father, Leonard Moller, who owned and operated the Acme Machine Shop in Fresno until 1973. The shop was originally started by Herman Moller in the 1920s, and he later co-owned it with his son, Leonard.

James Moller, a University of Minnesota professor emeritus of pediatrics and medicine, grew up in Fresno near the original Fresno State campus. On a visit in September 2016, he saw the laboratory’s traditional but outdated welding and mechanical equipment during a tour led by mechanized agriculture faculty member Ken Heupel.

“Educational institutions, especially state universities and colleges, have pressing financial concerns, and Ken quietly expressed the program’s obvious needs,” Moller said. “The surroundings reminded me so much of my father’s machine shop that I could visualize him there, and it really touched me. Even though I moved away 60 years ago, I wanted to express my appreciation for the educational opportunities that I was afforded as a third-generation Fresnan while helping to create better opportunities for future students, many of whom are training to be educators and key members of the Central Valley ag industry.”

The gift has already provided for a revamped welding area this fall with new multi-processing booths, racks, gas line manifolds, work tables, a computer numerical control (CNC) plasma cutting table and a freshly-painted interior.

Future planned improvements will include new tungsten inert gas (TIG) welders, a hydraulic shear, hydraulic brake, drill press, iron worker, band saw and chop saw equipment, engine stands and metal material storage units.

The mechanized agriculture program in the Plant Science Department is overseen by John Williams, a 2008 Fresno State agricultural education graduate and former student of Heupel’s. Williams has served as a part-time faculty member since January 2015, and he was elevated to full-time faculty after Heupel’s retirement in August.

Heupel had directed the program since 1997, and his 51-year vocational teaching career also included 25 years at Merced College and six years at Manteca High School.

“Thanks to Ken’s hard work and vision, our curriculum is essential in preparing students to safely operate and maintain a wide variety of modern production agriculture equipment,” Williams said. “Students from ag education, plant science, viticulture, industrial technology, ag business and our campus farm develop skills from the hands-on labs that will be essential for the rest of their careers.”

Fresno State is the only California State University campus that offers a mechanized agriculture emphasis for agriculture education majors. Its curriculum includes six classes in small gas and diesel engines, power equipment safety, advanced farm machinery, tractor topics, mechanized agriculture skills and basic agricultural machinery. A permanent fabrication class is also planned so students will get experience building and designing equipment and projects.

The laboratory also provides students with applied learning experience by helping conduct Future Farmers of America high school state judging contests in farm power and machinery, small gas engines and mechanized agriculture.

To discuss potential partnership opportunities to fund further research or academic programs, contact Alcidia Freitas Gomes at or 559.278.4266.
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