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Thank You, Professor: College of Agricultural and Life Sciences

Badger Insider readers give thanks to their favorite professors in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

CALS lecture.

Photo courtesy of UW Archives

By Badger Insider Readers

I am now 81 years of age. Professor Robert Niedermeier ’40, MS’42, PhD’48 has passed on. However, his advice as an advisor and teacher helped me through a successful career in higher education. At this time, I am a professor emeritus at the University of Maryland.
Richard Ahrens ’58
Berwyn Heights, Maryland

I was on the UW–Madison campus from the fall of 1961 through June of 1971. I earned my BS, MS and PhD degrees at UW–Madison. During those years, there were several professors who changed my life. But ... if I had to choose just one ... it would be Dr. Owen Fennema in the Department of Food Science. He was my major professor for both my MS and PhD degrees. Without going into great detail, Owen changed my life in several ways: he encouraged and helped me write proposals for NIH fellowships during all my years of graduate school. This paid for tuition, books, supplies and had a monthly stipend of $216.67 ... enough for bus fares and rent in those days. These NIH fellowships were very competitive because they came with a military deferment. Without these fellowships, I was on my way to some rice paddy in Vietnam ... perhaps never to return. Instead, I earned a PhD degree and graduated without a dime of student loans. I wanted to minor in business administration, and Owen told me to minor in biochemistry. He reasoned that I had a lifetime ahead of me to take business courses and to learn business, but if I didn't learn biochemistry now, I would never learn it. So true and so profound. After receiving my MS degree, he convinced me to go on for my PhD. Without his encouragement and wise counsel, I would have left after my MS degree. Over the years, the wisdom of his advice proved itself over and over. We stayed very close both professionally and personally after I left Madison. This friendship was a true gift and it lasted until he died in 2012. He was indeed a lifelong mentor.
James Behnke ’66, MS’68, PhD’72
Incline Village, Nevada

With fondness, admiration and respect, I recall, from my college days back in the 1960s, Eugene Wilkening, a professor of rural sociology from whom I took several classes. Professor Wilkening was an unassuming academician who was a very good role model for both students and his fellow faculty members. He was also a no-nonsense individual who maintained high academic standards and never compromised. Although I attended the UW many decades ago, I shall never forget him.
Charles Hurlbut ’69
Prince George, Virginia

My favorite was Francis Hole in the Department of Soil Science. For an undergrad in the 60s, he was a positive force, and his enthusiasm for learning was a motivating factor for me to switch from a geology major to soil science which led to grad school and a 40-year career. As an undergrad I worked part-time as a bartender at the Badger Tavern. When Francis learned this, he said “we need to get you to work in the department,” and he made that happen — though truth be told I was very happy to tend bar!
Jim Anderson ’71, MS’72, PhD’76
Lac du Flambeau, Wisconsin

Thank You, Professor!

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