Alumbaugh: Good stuff, Maynard

I know I"m dating myself by using that catch-phrase from the ‘80s. It just had to be done, though, because Dr. Maynard Hogberg, retiring chair of Iowa State University"s animal science department has done a lot of "good stuff" for agriculture.

A reception honoring his leadership earlier this month was packed wall-to-wall with friends, family, co-workers, industry leaders and students, and they obviously have the same opinion. He has been a highly respected visionary, not only for the pork industry but for all of agriculture.

Maynard grew up near Stanton, Iowa. He attended ISU, where he received a BS in Agricultural and Life Sciences Education, an MS in Animal Science, and his PhD in animal science. He served as the chair of the Department of Animal Science at Michigan State University for 18 years before coming back to ISU in 2003 to take over the chairmanship there.  

Long-Standing Friendship

I have known this engaging, astute individual since his Michigan State days. Although I didn"t attend MSU, two of my sisters did, and one of them worked in the livestock barn at college. She in particular got to know him fairly well. He worked with my dad through his agriculture outreach in Michigan.

I had the opportunity to travel to China with Maynard and another Iowa State legend, Dr. Lauren Christian, much earlier in our careers. We were asked to participate in an event sponsored by the U.S. Departments of Commerce and Agriculture, back when China was just opening up its doors to Western ideas. We stopped in Japan on the way to China, where we attended the National Pig Show and visited farms. Spending time with Maynard and Lauren was interesting and memorable, and to see how passionately and professionally represented U.S. agriculture was truly humbling.

Family Ties
When I, too, moved to Iowa, by coincidence I got to know some of Maynard"s family members. I coordinated the Iowa Master Farm Homemakers (IMFH) program in an earlier job, and became good friends with Maynard"s lovely mother-in-law, Joan Moore, who was an IMFH member. His capable sister-in-law, Jeanne Warning, was in the Consumer Sciences Department at Iowa State, and she judged our IMFH applications every year. Of course, I also got to know his admired father-in-law, Ray, and his delightful, "cook extraordinaire" wife, Anne, for whom I have a great deal of respect.

More Good Stuff
Jack Dekkers with the Department of Animal Science, told the crowd that Maynard has witnessed tremendous change during his 11-year tenure at Iowa State, including many faculty and staff retirements, hiring of new staff, significant growth in student numbers, reorganization of the departmental farms, and establishment of the Jeff & Deb Hansen Agriculture Student Learning Center (sometimes referred to as "Maynard"s Palace"), among other things.

"All of this has brought our department to new levels of excellence," said Dekkers. "You"re leaving us in a good position, Maynard."

More Good Stuff

Comments from faculty and staff had been collected prior to the reception. Here"s a sampling of what they had to say about Maynard:

  • Excellent boss, easy to talk to, always willing to listen
  • When he"s talking to you, he makes you feel like you are the most important person to him at that time
  • He has a great sense of humor
  • I appreciate Maynard"s practical approach to tackling difficult issues
  • His transition from a [Michigan State] Spartan to a Cyclone has done him good!
  • He empowered the faculty and staff and allowed them to do what they do best
  •  He built a department that is broad-based, covers all species and is really the best in the world
  • Hanson Student Learning Center (Maynard"s Palace) will benefit ISU students for decades to come

Beef producer Jim Christianson serves on ISU"s external advisory committee. He said, "Not in my lifetime has there been a department head who has done more to connect [with the agriculture community] and serve as a champion for the livestock industry in Iowa."

Maynard thinks from a global perspective in terms of the challenges facing agriculture and how farmers will feed a growing world population. Then, he narrows the focus to what the livestock industry needs and how the university can provide it.

"I"ve taken inspiration from Maynard," said Christiansen. Then, speaking directly to the honoree, he said, "You had a vision for the department and for the industry and you never lost sight of that vision, even in tough times. We"ve stayed focused on the right things – the important things."

"Through Maynard"s efforts and the support of the college"s leadership teams, Iowa State has done an outstanding job of preparing students," said Rich Degner, CEO of the Iowa Pork Producers Association. "There are 922 students who are animal science majors currently. Students are given an excellent opportunity to [enter] careers in agriculture."

He also talked about the research efforts that Maynard encouraged: "High quality research has made an impact in Iowa, the U.S. and around the globe," said Degner. He noted that Iowa State has taken a multi-disciplinary approach and put a high priority on outreach efforts.

ISU"s College of Agriculture Endowed Dean Wendy Wintersteen noted, "It"s about friendship, and the extraordinary network that has made such a big difference over the last decade. We want to thank Maynard for bringing that to us. It was his family"s gift to us that he was able to serve Iowa State University."

Maynard"s Comments
When it was finally his turn to talk, as one would expect, Maynard humbly gave the credit back to the University and the people who"ve influenced him throughout his career. "I didn"t want a retirement reception," he said. "I"d rather not look at what I"ve done, but rather what the university has done for me, and to show the appreciation of what Iowa State has done for me. The education and mentoring I received when I was here has taken me to places I never could have imagined."

A Personal Tribute
Maynard, you"ve done the same for so many others, and we thank you for your significant contributions. You"ve been passionate in your development of the students of tomorrow and you"ve had a profound impact on all who"ve worked with you.

As one of the speakers said, and to which I couldn"t agree more, you"ve uniquely transformed the future opportunity for animal agriculture in this state.

In a throwback nod to the old Malt-O-Meal commercial, we say: Good stuff, Maynard. We appreciate all you"ve done for agriculture, and know your good works will continue for many years to come.



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