The 27th annual award, presented by World Grain’s sister publication Milling & Baking News, is given to a practicing milling operative who has made the most significant contributions to the progress of his plant, his company and the industry from an operating point of view. A $1,500 scholarship is established in the winner’s name at Kansas State University in Manhattan and will be given to a deserving student in the Department of Grain Science and Industry.
An aversion to flying prevented Ball from attending the IAOM conference held earlier this month in Spokane, but Charles Sosland, chairman of Sosland Publishing Co., publisher of World Grain and Milling & Baking News, surprised Ball this week by visiting the Star of the West mill in Frankenmuth to present him with the honor. Recipients of the Milling Operative of the Year award are typically surprised by the announcement at the IAOM event, but since Ball was not present at the ceremony Sosland asked those in attendance to keep it a secret until he could present the award in person this week.
Ball began his career in milling nearly 40 years ago working part-time in a Quincy, Michigan, U.S., flour mill as he went to school to earn his bachelor’s degree. In 1974, after completing college, he began working at the flour mill full time and has been there ever since, including remaining on board as an instrumental leader when the mill changed hands in 1980.
Nominations for the Milling Operative of the Year are solicited several months before the award is presented, and many of Ball’s colleagues were effusive in their praise.
“Ken has been a key employee at our mill and has been supportive during the management changes over the years and tutored many new employees,” said Arthur Loeffler, president of Star of the West. “His knowledge of milling has been a tremendous asset not only to our Quincy mill but also to our other four flour mills. When it comes to sifters he is our ‘go to person’ at Star of the West. He has been an integral member of our team during various mill expansion projects and we always look to him for his input.”
Michael Fassezke, vice-president of the company’s flour milling division, added, “Over the years, Ken has also been instrumental in corporate wide projects and responsibilities. He is our best internal auditor and has always been ready and willing to assist our other milling locations during our many facility upgrades and remodels. I admire his unselfish commitment to our company and to the industry, as well.”
Gary Pickelmann, corporate milling superintendent at Star of the West and one of the people most responsible for championing Ball’s nomination, said, “I became acquainted with him when our company purchased the soft wheat mill he worked at in 1980. Knowing immediately that we had someone special here made it a great joy to work closely with him and also to grow a very close personal relationship and friendship. He is a very dedicated employee both for the company as well as for his fellow employees. Employee safety is very high on his priority list and he makes sure, as superintendent, that all employees have a safe working environment, at his location as well as at our other milling locations.”
Ball also was recognized as a strong supporter of the many associations involved in promoting the milling industry, and has served as chairman and vice-chairman of the Wolverine district of the IAOM, and has attended numerous IAOM meetings over the years.