Faith, Family, Farming

It seemed like such a logical plan for Andrew Lauver. Graduate with an ag studies degree from Iowa State University in 2012. Get a good job. Help run the family farm. Marry your high-school sweetheart. Start a family.

Then came Dec. 27, 2014. Just a week earlier, Lauver had returned from a 12-month stint with DuPont Pioneer in Canada, and he and his girlfriend, Chelsey Henkenius, were relishing their time together. The pair spent the evening of Dec. 26 with friends and family in Carroll and headed back to their home town of Lake City when the unthinkable happened.

In the early morning hours of Dec. 27, their Pontiac slipped off the road north of Glidden and started fishtailing when Henkenius tried to steer it back on the pavement. As the car spun around twice, Lauver saw headlights from an oncoming truck bearing down into the passenger side of the car where he was sitting. He squeezed his eyes shut, and everything went black.

When he woke up in the hospital, his first thought was “Where’s Chelsey?” Lauver says. “When I found out she died instantly, my first thought was, ‘It should have been me.’”

The months since that dark December night have been a time of pain, healing and hope. “Life will change without your permission, but it’s your attitude that will determine the ride,” says Lauver, a sales promoter and Encirca certified services agent with DuPont Pioneer for Calhoun County and Carroll County. “Faith, family and farming drive me, in that order.”

These commitments also define leadership to Lauver, who was named the 2016 Emerging Iowa Leader by the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. He was selected for making significant contributions in the college’s young alumni program— The Curtiss League—an initiative providing recruitment, awareness and advocacy opportunities for alumni age 40 and younger. “Through his leadership and service, Andrew is an effective advocate for agriculture and demonstrates the impact our graduates make in their communities,” says Wendy Wintersteen, endowed dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. He also was named a 2016 STATEment Maker by the Iowa State University Alumni Association.

Lauver’s 10 tips for leadership success

  1. Grow where you’re planted. Lauver grew up on a farm between Rockwell City and Lake City. “I always wanted to be like my dad,” says Lauver, whose father, Kevin (‘81 ag business) is a Pioneer Hi-Bred account manager. Lauver credits his parents (including his mother, Linda, also an Iowa State alum), his church youth group, 4-H and FFA for learning leadership basics. “When I was a kid, Dad emphasized that the calves eat breakfast before I do,” Lauver says. “My parents also took active leadership roles in our community, from the hospital board to the local Rotary club.”
  2. Find mentors. Lauver values his fellow ag professionals (including John Chism with Pioneer Hi-Bred and Rodd Whitney) who lead by example. Lauver strives to share this wisdom with local students and other young ag professionals.
  3. Learn from history. Lauver finds inspiration in Henry A. Wallace, the founder of Pioneer Hi-Bred who integrated his interests in agriculture, politics and writing. Lauver admires President Theodore Roosevelt, who experienced a double tragedy at age 25 when his mother and wife passed away within hours of each other. Lauver also respects President Abraham Lincoln, who overcame countless obstacles.
  4. Advocate for agriculture. The need for strong ag leadership became evident to Lauver when he served as a legislative intern in Washington, D.C. in 2013 for Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley. “I learned how vital it is to have professional communication and leadership skills to keep agriculture at the forefront.”
  5. Always keep learning. After serving as president of Iowa State’s Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity and joining the Iowa Corn Grower Association’s Collegiate Advisory Team, Lauver continues to learn through the DuPont Commercial Development Program, Agriculture Future of America, Iowa Foundation for Agricultural Advancement, Future Seed Executives and other professional groups.
  6. Strengthen relationships. Networking is important. “So is caring about others— something Chelsey exemplified,” Lauver says.
  7. Embrace gratitude. Lauver was transformed by his international travels, including his Iowa State study-abroad experience in Costa Rica. “These trips taught me to be grateful for all we’ve been blessed with in America,” he says.
  8. Give back. Lauver, a Jackson Pioneers 4-H Club leader, serves on the Calhoun County Farm Bureau board, Calhoun County Corn Growers board, District Advisory Board of the Iowa Soybean Association, Rotary International and more. “Winston Churchill said most of the significant contributions that have been made to society have been made by people who are tired,” Lauver says. “I enjoy pushing myself.”
  9. Dream big. Lauver spent 2014 in Saskatoon, Canada, developing digital marketing strategies and more for Pioneer Hi-Bred. “I was inspired to pursue new goals and accomplish things I didn’t think I could do,” he says.
  10. Act now. Don’t wait to follow your dreams. “I’ll never forget Chelsey telling me, ‘Let’s do this now, because we don’t know how much time we have,’” Lauver says. “I want to do what I can now to ensure future generations of ag leaders have an even better experience than I did.”