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Outstanding Young Professional Award

This citation honors College of Agriculture and Life Sciences early- or mid-career alumni who have distinguished themselves through significant advancement and achievement in their discipline, field or area of expertise. Selection is made by the Dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

This award was established in 2010 and is presented annually during Iowa State University’s Homecoming Weekend. Click here for the nomination form. Nominations are due the third Tuesday in November.

2019 Outstanding Young Professional Awardees

Kelly Norris (’08 horticulture, ’11 MS)
Des Moines, Iowa

Kelly Norris at the Greater Des Moines Botanical GardenKelly D. Norris is a nationally acclaimed horticulturalist and award-winning author. Norris and his work have been featured in popular publications like The New York Times, Better Homes and Gardens, Martha Stewart Living, Organic Gardening and Garden Design.

As the director of horticulture and education at the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden, Norris leads a team in the management of design, curation and programming. He joined the staff of the botanical garden in 2012, spearheading a massive revitalization effort which included an $18 million renovation of the facilities and garden.

A writer and photographer, Norris regularly contributes to popular gardening magazines and industry trade publications. He’s the author of two books, “A Guide to Bearded Iris: Cultivating the Rainbow for Beginners and Enthusiasts,” which won the 2013 American Horticultural Society Book Award and earned him recognition with the Iowa Author Award for Special Interest Writing; and “Plants with Style,” published in 2015. In 2019, Norris joined Cottage Farms Direct on the QVC home shopping network as a guest host.

Norris has been recognized locally and nationally for his work including the Emerging Horticultural Professional Award from the American Horticulture Society in 2018 and Martha Stewart American Made honoree in 2015. He is the youngest person to receive the Iowa State Horticultural Society’s Presidential Citation, Award of Merit and Honor Award.

An active student during his time at Iowa State University, Norris continues to serve the Horticulture Department on its external advisory committee and is a regular guest lecturer in campus classrooms.


Michael R. Taylor (’03 ag studies)
Adel, Iowa

Photo of Mike TaylorMichael Taylor, co-founder and partner of Midwest Growth Partners is a respected entrepreneur and expert in succession planning and growth capital investments within the food and agriculture industry.

Taylor’s entrepreneurial spirit was apparent soon after graduation from Iowa State University when he managed the acquisition of a retail pharmacy. This move provided a springboard for his career in mergers and acquisitions and led to the development of Top Tier Holdings, LLC, which he co-founded in 2006. He earned a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Iowa in 2011.

In 2013, Taylor co-founded Midwest Growth Partners, a private equity firm that manages $154 million in committed capital. His original pharmacy acquisition has grown to 20 locations and he serves on the board of directors for several companies including GRX Holdings; LLC, Bolts and Nuts Corporation; Inland Coatings Holdings, LLC; Van Becelaere Machine Works and Jackrabbit, Incorporated.

During his time at Iowa State University, Taylor was highly involved. He served as a college ambassador, president of the college’s student council, member of the Dean’s Student Advisory Committee and member of Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity. Originally from Creston, Iowa, Taylor remains involved in his family’s farm operation.

His commitment to service has continued as a member of the Iowa State University Order of the Knoll, board member and finance committee chair of the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Iowa and Leadership Iowa Board of Governors program co-chair. In 2015, Taylor was recognized for his service as one of the Des Moines Business Record’s “Forty Under 40” honorees.

Past Recipients