Dana Hamilton Coale has served as National President and Past National President of Sigma Alpha, the nation's only professional agricultural sorority. Sigma Alpha was founded in 1978 with the purpose of promoting excellence in women in agriculture. Networking is an essential element in fulfilling this purpose and with over 1200 collegiate and alumni members today, Sigma Alpha is a growing network of women in various agricultural fields. In addition to the benefits of the established network, members must strive for achievements in scholarship, leadership and service. All members are activated at the collegiate level and must meet certain academic social and service requirements. Upon college graduation, each member may become affiliated with an alumni chapter.
Dana has been involved with Sigma Alpha since college, when she cofounded the Delta chapter at Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa, in 1985. She also served as the chapter's secretary and president and served on numerous committees. In 1988, she was elected to serve on the National Board. Dana spent one year as alumni coordinator, two years as the Sorority-in-Development (SID) coordinator and two years as National President. Under her leadership in the SID position, Sigma Alpha expanded from four collegiate chapters to 16 chapters. Today, Sigma Alpha has 23 collegiate chapters, three SID chapters and eight alumni chapters. Her term as Past National President ended in December 1994. She also served as the National Convention chairperson for several years.
Dana was elected in September 1993 to serve as one of eight Directors on the board of the Professional Fraternity Association (PFA), an umbrella organization for professional fraternities and sororities. In addition to serving as Director, she worked with the professional fraternity council committee and long-range planning committee.
"Serving on the National Board of Sigma Alpha has provided me with a lot of opportunities. When I first was elected to the Board, it was newly formed and there were no real guidelines on how anything was to be done. This has allowed me to be creative and to develop various materials, programs and provide specific guidance to the development of the organization as a whole. When you serve on most other National Boards, things are structured and everyone knows exactly what their task is. With Sigma Alpha, no one gave me any specific guidelines—I knew the basic task and I knew that the sky was the limit.''
Dana took advantage of this opportunity and Sigma Alpha began to evolve. Dana first redesigned the SID program. Having been a founding member of a chapter, she knew what was important to the women trying to start up a new organization. She established a program which sent a National representative to visit the chapter, implemented a reporting process and redesigned the activation procedure. Another project she undertook was the development of a Membership candidate manual. This 126-page publication was the first to be issued by Sigma Alpha and provides the chapters with information regarding the recruitment of new members. Other projects Dana has worked on include the development of an intern program which will allow collegiate students to become involved with Sigma Alpha on a national level, worked to get a trademark on the name and symbol, researched and rewrote the constitution of the organization to allow it to comply with all Federal regulations (which was approved at the 1992 convention), reprogrammed the National Convention by expanding it to three days to allow time for speakers to address issues relating to agriculture and leadership, created a series of reporting forms, developed a National awards program and the list continues.
Dana has spent countless hours volunteering for this organization and has travelled thousands of miles across the country from Vermont to California to attend chapter activations and national conventions, to conduct leadership training and group interaction workshops, to serve as a representative of Sigma Alpha at other national association meetings and generally to promote Sigma Alpha. Dana has traveled to sixteen campuses to meet with collegiate chapters or groups interested in starting a chapter and has been impressed by the quality of women majoring in the fields of agriculture. Dana believes that there is a strong need for Sigma Alpha to assist these women, as is evidenced by the continued growth and interest in forming new collegiate chapters.
When asked why she devotes so much time to Sigma Alpha she replied, "I believe in the purposes of the organization. By volunteering my time to Sigma Alpha I can help women entering the field of agriculture, if it's in providing them an opportunity to develop leadership and communication skills, learning about possible career opportunities, or just encouraging them to continue pursuing whatever field of agriculture they have chosen. I believe agriculture is a very essential part of our society and economy and often it is taken for granted. There is a future in agriculture and I want to be certain these women do not get discouraged. I love meeting and working with people and being able to create and implement new ideas. Sigma Alpha has given me many great opportunities to do that and I will always be grateful."
In addition to being involved in Sigma Alpha, Dana was also involved in several other organizations while at Iowa State. Some of these included Alpha Zeta, an honorary agricultural fraternity; serving as Pledge Trainer for two semesters and as the Grainbelt Regional LEAD Intern; International Ag club; serving as VEISHEA chairperson; Iowa State Marching band; sheep interest group; national agri-marketing association; and several others. In 1987, Dana was named an outstanding Young Woman in America and in 1988, she was awarded the ISU Ag Service Award.
During her senior year at ISU, Dana took one semester to intern at the International Trade Commission in Washington, DC. While there, she wrote a research paper titled "Competitiveness Analysis of the United States Sheep Industry in comparison to Australia and New Zealand." During this time, Dana decided she wanted to work in the DC area.
As a dairy products marketing specialist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Dana worked with the federal milk marketing order program. At one point, she was involved with a major milk pricing decision for which she presented the department’s recommendation to both the House and Senate Agriculture committees. She is currently the Deputy Administrator for Dairy Programs for the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service. She has held this position for 9 years and has been with the USDA for over 23 years.
In addition to working with Sigma Alpha, Dana has served as the Secretary of the Washington, DC-area Alpha Zeta Alumni and in 1990, she represented the state of Iowa during the Cherry Blossom Festival.
Dana resides with her husband, Basil Coale, Jr., in Manassa, Virginia.
Submitted 10/30/1994; updated 12/12/2013