The Professional Landcare Network Academic Excellence Foundation (PLANET AEF) recently announced the recipient of its 2012 Outstanding Educator of the Year Award—Chris Foley, associate professor and facilitator of the Landscape and Turf Management Program at Owens Community College. The award was presented March 25, 2012, at PLANET’s Student Career Days event, hosted by Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas.

The Outstanding Educator of the Year Award, developed by the PLANET AEF in cooperation with the PLANET Accreditation Committee, recognizes professors who have made significant contributions to green industry education. Educators nominated for this award have devoted time, energy, and enthusiasm to their programs and to the education of future leaders of the industry.

Foley graduated with a bachelor’s degree in horticulture science from Michigan State University in 1983. He began his work at The Andersons in Toledo and Franks Nursery in Oakland County, Michigan. From there, he started his 22-year career at Owens Community College, whose program encompasses urban agriculture and sustainability, golf course and athletic field management, as well as landscape and turf management.

Students and peers describe him as being extremely passionate about the subjects he teaches and having the ability to pass that enthusiasm on to his students. He works year–round to set up plant sales and landscape installs to raise money for their Landscape Club so that most of his student do not have to pay to go to Student Career Days.

His passion and enthusiasm for the industry extends beyond the classroom. He has a love for a wide range of woody plans and for the art and science of nursery production. So, when he’s not teaching, he runs a nursery, focusing on the production of rare and unusual trees and shrubs, in his hometown of Swanton, Ohio.

“I am honored to be mentioned with the previous Educator of the Year recipients and grateful for the amount of effort that my current students, alumni, and faculty members put into the application process. It is always nice to be recognized for your efforts,” says Foley. “It is important to me that students find their passion like I have. Thank you PLANET for acknowledging educators in the green industry.”