November 5, 1998 | By: Ellen Brightwell

Bonnie Tanner smiles broadly, eyes sparkling and hands waving enthusiastically as she talks about coming back home -- to her native Kentucky and the University of Kentucky.

"My connection with people and my love of Kentucky are what make me tick," said Tanner, who was recently named assistant director for Home Economics Extension with the UK College of Agriculture.

(Home Economics Extension has state specialists who develop educational programs in foods and nutrition, family studies and economics, sociology, clothing and textiles, environmental issues and other related areas. Kentucky counties have home economics agents headquartered in the local Extension office.)

"Our Home Economics Extension staff offers many educational programs to help the people of Kentucky improve their lives," Tanner said. "For instance, consumers are inundated with many research findings, some of them conflicting. Extension can provide information to help consumers evaluate these findings to make the best choices to maximize their resources and improve their quality of life."

Tanner believes it's important to build coalitions with community organizations.

"Our state motto is 'united we stand and divided we fall' and I believe all aspects of Extension must work together to develop the best possible programs," she said. "We must work with other programs and agencies to maintain a strong agricultural economy."

Tanner has focused on programs to help people improve their lives in her educational training and career.

After graduating from UK with a major in home economics education and clothing and textiles, she earner a master's degree from the University of Maryland College of Agriculture. Working in the Department of Agriculture and Extension Education, she developed a program planning model for Extension Homemakers.

Tanner focused on consumer economics, rural economic development, and educational program administration and management while earning a Ph.D. at the University of Maryland. Her dissertation involved a national study on the entrepreneurial characteristics of farm women. Tanner's research on national farm and agricultural women's organizations was one of only two national studies on farm women conducted this century. Her dissertation is one of five selected by a publishing company's academic review committee to be published as a book, scheduled for release in January 1999.

As part of her dissertation research, Tanner documented the impact farm women and their organizations had on communities from the early 1600s to the present. "They were the major influences on building our country's infrastructure-- schools, rural health and mail delivery services, libraries, child wage laws, school lunches and the like," she said.

She also was instrumental in establishing the Agricultural Women's Leadership Network, comprised of the presidents of the 11 national farm and agricultural women's organizations. The network, which represents more than four million families, identifies issues to improve the profitability of American agriculture and its communities. The AWLN encouraged Congress to pass many bills to improve the status of farm families and rural communities, said Tanner who has served as Executive Director since the network's formation in 1985.

Although Tanner has lived out of state for a number of years, she retained her Kentucky connections. She is immediate past president the Kentucky Society of Washington, D.C., and serves as chair of the Bluegrass Inaugural Ball for 2001. Because she was swamped with work getting ready to move back to Kentucky, Tanner missed the White House luncheon for the Wildcats basketball team.

However, she said, "I look forward to lots of Wildcats celebrations now that I'm back home in Kentucky."

Tanner's father, J. Earl O' Bryant, lives in Harrodsburg. Her husband, James, also is a Kentuckian whose parents, Jodie and Alene Tanner, live in Bowling Green.

For a "mug shot" of Dr. Tanner, contact Steve Patton at (606) 257-3129, or spatton@ca.uky.edu.

Contact: 

Writer: Ellen Brightwell
(606) 257-1376

Source: Bonnie Tanner
(606) 257-3887