Dr. Carol (Gilbertson) Lehtola is the recipient of the 2014 Bethany Lutheran College Distinguished Alumna Award.
As a child growing up on the family farm in Ulen, Minnesota, Carol Lehtola had always been interested in the subjects that most girls didn’t venture into—math and science.
Lehtola enrolled at Bethany (BLC) in 1969 and earned an associate in arts degree from BLC in 1971. Lehtola then transferred to South Dakota State University (SDSU) where she was the first female ever to be enrolled in agricultural engineering courses. During her summer breaks she worked as a trainee engineer with the United States Soil Conservation Service (now National Resources Conservation Service). After earning her degree at SDSU, Lehtola lived and worked in the Baltimore area—two years as a reliability engineer at Westinghouse Defense & Space Center and then two years at the University of Maryland in their agricultural engineering department.
Lehtola and her family moved to Iowa after their time in Baltimore, and it was then that she decided to pursue post-graduate education. She earned both a master’s and doctoral degree at Iowa State University, and it was also during this time in graduate school where her agricultural engineering interests became focused.
Lehtola renovated agriculture safety courses at Iowa State and also developed a videotape version used for teaching off-campus students. After working for Iowa’s Center for Agricultural Safety and Health located at the University of Iowa, she moved across the country to a position for extension and teaching of agricultural safety at the University of Florida.
Lehtola is a pioneer in her field of expertise—agriculture safety. She has written dozens of articles for publication and has received numerous awards including recognition as the Undergraduate Teacher of the Year at the University of Florida Agriculture and Life Sciences School, she was recognized by The Extraordinary Women Engineers Project Coalition, and in 2006 was featured in Changing Our World: True Stories of Women Engineers, published by the American Society of Civil Engineers.
Lehtola has two grown children; both are married, and three grandchildren in Iowa. Recently retired, Lehtola uses her skills as much as possible to give back to the community and her church. Bethany Lutheran College is proud to name Carol Lehtola as the 2014 Bethany Lutheran College Distinguished Alumna.