John Coccaro and Juan Silva’s leadership and outstanding contributions to their fields have earned them 2008 Outstanding Worker Awards at Mississippi State University. Coccaro received the MSU Extension Service’s Outstanding Professional Award, and Silva received the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station Research Award. The awards were given at the joint annual conference for the Extension Service and MAFES.

Coccaro has worked for Extension for 25 years and is the director in Warren County, the county where he was raised. In addition to his work with agriculture, he is a co-chair for the Family Resource Management Program Priority Group and is part of the success of the financial and housing programs in the county.

Coccaro was praised for his leadership in innovative programming and his ability to adopt new educational technologies. He developed an online blog to help serve his clients and goes the extra mile in promoting Extension educational initiatives with the media and community.

A cornerstone of Coccaro’s program is his ability to recruit volunteers. He has recruited 32 Master Gardeners, 25 Money Mentor Volunteers and 42 Mississippi Homemaker Volunteers to serve their county.

“John’s relationships with members of his community and the state are outstanding,” said Bobbie Shaffett, Extension family resource management specialist. “He empowers community members to make significant contributions in serving their peers. He makes it look easy with his cheerful, can-do attitude.”

Silva, an MSU alumnus, is a professor in the Department of Food Science, Nutrition and Health Promotion. Silva’s research has benefitted the food industry not only in the state, but across the nation and overseas.

Silva is also known for his research in novel uses for blueberries. He explores blueberry storage issues and serves on the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council’s Food Safety Committee, a group created to develop a food safety plan for the industry worldwide.

His research has impacted aquaculture and vegetable processing. Silva is considered to be a leading authority in food safety issues in catfish production. His seafood and catfish industry research findings have been submitted to Congress and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“Dr. Silva has built a reputation based on sound science and hard work,” said Benjy Mikel, professor and head of the Department of Food Science, Nutrition and Health Promotion. “He is brutally honest but diplomatic in his research findings and sees obstacles unveiled by research as opportunities to explore innovative techniques in solving issues.”