Donya Lester is a native of northwest Georgia. She was active in 4-H, focusing on livestock projects and livestock judging competition. She financed her college education by selling feeder pigs, and her pigs paid for a bachelor’s degree in animal science from the University of Georgia and a master’s degree in animal breeding and genetics from Virginia Tech University.
Donya spent two and half years in San Antonio, Texas as the Director of Performance Programs for the International Brangus Breeders Association. Later, she worked four years for the University of Georgia College of Agriculture in several outreach and external relations roles in both alumni affairs and student services.
In 1990, Donya landed “the best job in the land grant system” when she became the Executive Secretary, now Executive Director, of the Purdue Agricultural Alumni Association, Inc. For 26 years she has managed Purdue’s oldest and most active constituent alumni organization. An accomplished speaker, Donya represents the College of Agriculture to numerous external audiences each year, promoting Purdue’s agricultural research and education programs.
In addition to her Ag Alumni role, in 2011 she became Director of Public Engagement for the Purdue College of Agriculture. In that capacity, she manages the College of Agriculture’s Congressional relations and provides advocacy training and support to the College’s advocacy network, the Purdue Council for Agricultural Research, Extension and Teaching (PCARET).
Donya is also steeped in agriculture in her home life. Her husband Daniel Gwin is a Montgomery County specialty grain producer. Dan and Donya enjoy life on their farm in Linden.