Arizona Agricultural Education/FFA Foundation
You can help make a difference in the lives of Arizona’s future leaders by supporting Agricultural Education and the Arizona FFA. As a non-profit organization, the Arizona Agricultural Education/FFA Foundation is dedicated to raising funds to cultivate Arizona’s most valuable commodity- our youth.
Thank you to the sponsors and silent auction donors of the 4th annual
1982-1983 Arizona FFA State Officer Team
Arizona Cattlemen’s Association
Arizona Farm Bureau Young Farmers & Ranchers
Arizona Pork Council
Con & Joy Englehorn
Ken Johnson, Sr.
Ron & Heather Rayner
Shag & Shirley Rogers
Silent Auction Donors
Amber Cheatham Owens - The Pharmin’ Company, LLC
Arizona Cochise Co.
Arizona Department of Agriculture
Arizona Machinery Co.- Avondale
Arizona National Livestock Show
Arizona Dairy Council
Arizona Farm & Ranch Hall of Fame Committee
Arizona Wool Producers - Carmen Auza
Casa Grande FFA
Carlos Hardaway Art
Coral Moon Lewis Art
Crossfit Fury, Goodyear
Empire Cat Buckeye
FARM, Inc. - Gary McKenzie
Fleming’s Prime Steak House & Wine Bar
Lawson Auto Supply
Mercer Livestock Co.
Miller's Southwestern Processing Inc.
Quicken Loans - Nik Zelma
RDO Equipment Co. Yuma
Ron & Heather Rayner
The Stock Shop
Sun Country Outdoor Adventures, LLC- Cliff Saylor
Ty Cook, Yuma
University of Arizona
Wet N’ Wild Water Park
Arizona FFA Alumni Spotlight
Today, the Arizona FFA Association is honored to tell you the story of one of our most prestigious alumnus. He is a judge on the Arizona Court of Appeals, Division 1, and everyday he is quietly making decisions that affects the future of our state.
John Gemmill is a native Arizonan who grew up northwest of Phoenix on a cattle feedlot and farm known as Lizard Acres. His father was one of the foremen and John began working on the feedlot at the age of seven. As a kid, he wanted to be a cowboy, train engineer, United States senator, naval officer, geophysicist, farmer/rancher, and comedian. In the ninth grade he was anxious to join the Agua Fria Union High School FFA where he met one of the most influential individuals of his young life, Mr. Paul Bell.
Mr. Bell was the Agua Fria FFA ag teacher and he quickly became a personal hero to young John. Mr. Bell was quite a motivator and an inspiration to his students; he had survived for three years in a POW camp during the World War II, a true patriot, and inspiration. Mr. Bell’s knowledge seemed unending, a jack of all trades to be certain, and a man who never shied from a hard day’s labor. He challenged, encouraged, and supported his students everyday. He truly embodied the lessons of greater achievement, leadership, and hard work that he imparted on his students. With Mr. Bell’s guidance, John got involved in the parli-pro team, public speaking, ag mechanics, and entomology.
John fondly recalls the pride he felt being a member of the Agua Fria chapter. At the time they were a powerhouse of a chapter dominating in several contests. The Agua Fria chapter dominated in the decathlon, winning all four years John’s class was in high school. His chapter produced numerous state FFA officers and at least two national FFA officers. John’s older brother, Mark Gemmill, served as state FFA secretary in 1963-64, and three of the nine state FFA officers for 1965-66 came from Agua Fria, including John as president.
Upon graduation, John headed to the University of Arizona to study agriculture. He took a sabbatical from school in 1967-68 to serve the FFA national vice presidency. It was a year that John will never forget! John participated in countless hours of unparalleled leadership training. During his term he had the opportunity to meet FFA members from throughout the nation, and he found himself continuously impressed by people from all walks of life and in every corner of our great nation. He was honored to represent all of the fine people who were invested and involved in the FFA. The National Convention that year was a life changing experience; he was inspired by the tradition, the value of work ethic, and patriotism that the FFA embodied. He believes in the results of the FFA and the results of the three-circle model: classroom instruction, FFA, and Supervised Agricultural Experiences.
Upon returning to the University of Arizona, John was president of Bobcats, the local senior men’s honorary; president of his fraternity; a member of Blue Key National Honor Society; a member of the University of Arizona intercollegiate livestock judging team; and recipient of the Freeman Medal as an outstanding graduate. He completed a double major in Ag Economics and Animal Science. He joined the naval reserve, attended officer candidate school, and served two years on active duty before returning to the University of Arizona, where he attended the College of Law and received his Juris Doctor degree with highest distinction, graduating second in his class.
Through an FFA connection, John was introduced to Jim Teilborg, a lawyer practicing in Phoenix. Teilborg had served as the Colorado state FFA president and he invited John to join his firm, Teilborg, Sanders, and Parks. The two men became fast and lifelong friends. John’s practice was concentrated in litigation and trial work involving personal injury, wrongful death, product liability, insurance, and commercial disputes. As a trial lawyer John made daily use of the public speaking, poise, and leadership skills the FFA helped him develop. He practiced successfully for 25 years in the valley, and in 2001 felt ready for a new challenge in his career. John was appointed to the Arizona Court of Appeals by Governor Jane Dee Hull. He has enjoyed the challenges of thinking about the law, researching, and writing decisions. His colleagues elected him Vice Chief Judge of Division One for 2003-2006 and Chief Judge for 2006-2008. In 2007, he received a U of A College of Law Distinguished Alumnus award. He spends his days addressing appeals and listening to oral arguments. It’s a different existence from trial law, but he enjoys the opportunity to write decisions that create precedent and resolve people’s disputes. He plays a role in shaping the way that law is interpreted in the state of Arizona and, therefore, the future of Arizona and its citizens.
John Gemmill also embodies the principles of service within the FFA. His community and church activities have included service as a member of the board of directors, Christian Family Care Agency, 1991 to 1997; chairman board of elders, Moon Valley Community Church, 1997 to 2001; and chairman, Board of Elders, of the successor church known as Moon Valley Bible Church, 2001 to 2004. He was a member of a 12 man mission team from his church that traveled to Pass Christian, Mississippi for Hurricane Katrina recovery work in April 2008.
In addition, he was a member of the leadership team for a Christian justice mission in Eastern Congo (Democratic Republic of the Congo) in July 2010 and again in April 2013. The team prepared for and participated in conferences in Beni, North Kivu Province, DRC, of lawyers, judges, and government officials, at which Congolese problems were discussed and addressed by the attendees. Issues included were sexual assault and violence, protection of children, corruption and bribery, independence of the judiciary, need for land reform, and the rule of law. The conferences took place on the campus of the Universite Chretienne Bilingue Du Congo (UCBC) / Christian Bilingual University of Congo.
John also served briefly on the Arizona Agricultural Education/FFA Foundation Board in the early 2000s and was pleased to renew former acquaintances and meet new friends from Arizona agriculture.
Today, Judge John Gemmill hopes to serve several more years on the court of appeals before his retirement. He is married to his beautiful wife, Linda and they share two daughters and two grandchildren (soon to be three). He still calls his FFA advisor, Mr. Bell, at least once a year on Mr. Bell’s birthday in December. Every 10 years, his national officer team gets together for a reunion for the National FFA Convention. He is still in touch with many of his friends from the Agua Fria FFA, including lifelong friend and fellow state officer, Mike Moore.
We believe John Gemmill embodies the spirit of the Arizona FFA. Though his ultimate career choice wasn’t primarily agricultural, John has carried the lessons, connections, and education of our program with him on every step of his journey. When asked what he thinks is great about the FFA, he replies simply with our motto, “Learning To Do, Doing To Learn, Earning To Live, Living To Serve.”
He can still recite most of the FFA creed and the opening and closing ceremonies. The values and principles of these words, along with the motto, have provided inspiration and guidance for him over the course of his life. John hopes that he has lived a life with a faith born not of words but of deeds, service, leadership, and tradition.
Click here to view past Arizona FFA Alumni Spotlights
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