2005 Distinguished Service Award Recipients
Dr. William J. RobertsNew Jersey agriculture has grown and changed tremendously during the more than four decades of service Professor Emeritus William J. Roberts has contributed to Rutgers University’s Cooperative Extension. As an agricultural engineer, Bill made many improvements in greenhouse structures, coverings and energy conservation practices during his career.
Bill has deep roots in New Jersey’s agriculture. His family immigrated to this country in 1803 from Wales. It was 1826 when his great-great-grandfather purchased a home in Monmouth County and the family started a farm, which his great-grandfather, grandfather and father worked. So, exposure to New Jersey farming for young Bill began at a very early age under the tutelage of loving parents and a close-knit family. In 2003, they celebrated their 200th anniversary of the Roberts family coming to this country from Wales.
Bill says throughout his career at Rutgers he was always fortunate to be a part of the design and construction of many projects, which included: thermal energy screens to reduce energy consumption, floor heating through plastic pipes to heat the soil and the adoption of insect screening to fan ventilation greenhouses.
Bill has traveled to teach in different parts of the world and has made a significant impact on the agricultural industry with his design work. And the crowning glory that has revolutionized greenhouses forever is Bill’s invention of the air-inflated, double-layer polyethylene greenhouse for year- round and floriculture production. This invention by Roberts and his colleagues at Rutgers University was dedicated on the Cook College campus and recognized by the American Society of Agricultural Engineers as the 43rd Historical Landmark of Agricultural Engineering.
Bill has been a deacon for New Monmouth Baptist Church for over 50 years. He also serves as a youth and Sunday school teacher. He recently wrote a book about the history of his church, which is 150 years old. He has received a number of awards for his work and shares those accomplishments with his wonderful wife Dottie, who has been his life partner for 51 years. They have one daughter, a son-in-law and granddaughter. During all his years in agriculture, and with all that he has accomplished, Bill says the most meaningful thing to him is having the opportunity to meet and work with farmers.