Aberle named dean of College of Agricultural and Life Sciences

February 20, 1998
Elton Aberle
Elton Aberle

Elton D. Aberle, head of the animal sciences department at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL), was named today as dean of the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences by Chancellor David Ward.

“We have great confidence in Aberle’s ability to build bridges with all faculty and staff throughout the college, and with agricultural interests across the state,” said Ward. “He has demonstrated a collegial manner, an appreciation of the importance of shared governance, and a thorough understanding of the missions of land-grant institutions. He will make an outstanding leader.”

Ward made the decision after an extensive series of interviews on campus by four finalists for the position. In addition to interviews with the chancellor, vice chancellors and deans of other colleges, each candidate gave a well-attended public presentation earlier this year to CALS faculty, staff and students.

Ben Brancel, the Wisconsin Secretary of Agriculture, said Aberle’s hiring is “a good fit” for Wisconsin. “Aberle comes from a state that understands agriculture, and I am looking forward to working with him on all sectors of agriculture in Wisconsin.”

Other finalists for the position were: Alan B. Bennett, associate dean of plant sciences at the University of California-Davis; Larry K. Binning, chair of the UW–Madison department of horticulture; and F. Dan Hess, head of the Palo Alto Research Center for Novartis Crop Protection, Inc. Hess withdrew from the search during the final stages to pursue other career options.

Provost John Wiley, who commended the 15-member search committee for its work, said all four finalists “brought a variety of strengths and experiences to the job.” The committee, led by professor Michael Pariza, director of the Food Research Institute, chose the finalists from a highly competitive national pool of more than 70 applicants and nominees.

Wiley said Aberle is a good listener who will bring a clear vision of how to lead CALS, which is one of the most programatically diverse and highly regarded colleges of agriculture and life sciences in the country.

“It is very important for CALS to be a valued and responsive partner for the entire Wisconsin agricultural community,” Wiley said. “Aberle has an outstanding reputation for establishing and building these connections.”

“This is a very appealing and challenging administrative assignment,” said Aberle. The college’s breadth and depth were among its most appealing attributes, he said, noting that very few land grant agriculture and life sciences colleges have the depth of basic research activity shown by CALS faculty. Literally no others share a campus with colleges of medicine, veterinary medicine, pharmacy, and UW–Madison’s array of specialized research centers.

“I really value the opportunity to interact with faculty, staff and students of the college, and to become as well-acquainted as possible with all departments and faculty programs,” he said. “I identify with the values of agriculture and life sciences colleges in serving both internal and external constituents.”

Since 1983, Aberle has served as head of the department of animal sciences in UNL’s Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources. In 1996-97, Aberle served as interim associate dean and associate director of that university’s Agricultural Research Division, which gave him insight into budget, recruitment, personnel and other leadership issues.

Prior to joining UNL, Aberle was on the animal sciences faculty of Purdue University from 1967 to 1983.

During his tenure as department head, Aberle helped plan and implement a new $19.1 million department building that opened in 1988. Through the 1990s, Aberle led a multi-year effort to redirect funds and create new faculty positions in the department.

While at UNL, Aberle also built a much more formal connection between the department and external constituencies. For example, Aberle’s department created liaison committees between Nebraska’s beef cattle organization and the pork industry.

Aberle said he does not come to CALS with pre-conceived goals and priorities, but will rely on input from everyone in the college and agricultural community to set new directions. He plans to meet with faculty, staff, students and external constituencies before his formal start date, if possible. That date has not yet been set.

He said his experiences as a teacher, researcher and administrator have given him a deep commitment to the land grant mission and philosophy.

“I believe that the core values of the land grant universities have resided and continue to reside in their colleges of agriculture and life sciences,” he said. “These colleges are prepared because of their history, culture and expertise to play a key role in helping the whole university establish closer linkages with the public it serves.”

Aberle’s research background is in muscle and adipose tissue growth, meat quality and meat processing. He has taught courses in meat science, animal growth and food chemistry.

His annual salary at CALS will be $148,000. He will replace Dean Neal Jorgensen, who has been a dairy science professor and administrator with CALS since 1964. Jorgensen came out of retirement to serve the college during the search.

The dean of CALS leads approximately 1,200 faculty and staff, and oversees an annual budget of roughly $110 million. The college enrolls more than 1,000 graduate and 2,200 undergraduate students. In addition to its research and instructional roles, CALS also has a strong extension and outreach mission, with 12 agricultural research stations across the state. It also enrolls 130 students in its farm and industry short course.