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R. E. James, Extension Dairy Scientist, Dairy Nutrition, jamesre@vt.edu

As I reflect upon my career I find that the most important things have been the people during my 40+ years in Blacksburg. It seems like yesterday that I arrived at Virginia Tech to begin my graduate studies in dairy nutrition under the guidance of Dr. Carl Polan in January of 1972. It was during this time that the Set-a-Side program was instituted under the forward thinking of many Virginia dairy producers and the leadership of the Virginia Tech Dairy Science Department. This visionary action has led to the establishment of our department being a national leader in dairy research and teaching. I firmly believe that our department would not exist today without the Set-a-Side and our close relationship with our industry.

I owe a great deal of my success and enjoyment of my career to Dr. Carl Polan, my graduate student advisor here at Virginia Tech. Dr. Polan taught me as much about life as science. Granted I came to appreciate the joys of doing research and especially seeing it applied on dairy farms both in Virginia and around the world. However, I also learned life balance between my work, my family and myself and that everyone has something to offer us. The life lessons I learned from Dr. Polan have served me well. I only wish that more people had that special opportunity that I have had with this wonderful man.

My fellow graduate students during my students in the 70’s have become my closest friends and are like family. Some of this is due to the great environment for learning and collegiality created by the wonderful faculty and staff that existed then and continue to “work” in the Dairy Science department. I could fill up this page with their names, but special credit goes to the exceptional leadership provided by Drs. Cragle, White, Vinson, Nickerson and Akers. They established an environment which encouraged tremendous cooperation and a strong desire to serve the dairy industry of Virginia through our teaching, extension and research missions. I am pleased to say that the current faculty shares this same passion for our industry that existed when I began my studies here in 1972.

Prior to transitioning into a more significant role in extension, I had the pleasure of teaching so many outstanding students. I thank the parents who shared their children with us during a few short years of their lives. There was nothing more gratifying than seeing their personal growth while they were here and especially seeing the contributions they have made in the years since. Dr. Bill Etgen reminded me often that this was the greatest reward for a teacher and he was so right. It’s also been great having the opportunity to teach their children and tell them stories about their parents! Finally, as I shifted into an extension role, it has been equally satisfying to have a closer relationship with our dedicated extension agents and dairy producers in Virginia. Through my experiences I learned of the passion these individuals have for their work and for serving Virginia agriculture. I am indebted to the members of the Virginia State Dairyman’s Association and Virginia State Feed Association for their friendship and support of my programs.

Thanks to each of you for the contributions that you have made to our department and to our dairy industry in Virginia. I will “retire” from the department on July 1, but will continue to be involved with the dairy industry in other ways.


Virginia Cooperative Extension materials are available for public use, reprint, or citation without further permission, provided the use includes credit to the author and to Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Tech, and Virginia State University.

Issued in furtherance of Cooperative Extension work, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Virginia State University, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture cooperating. Edwin J. Jones, Director, Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg; M. Ray McKinnie, Administrator, 1890 Extension Program, Virginia State University, Petersburg.

Publication Date

May 31, 2016

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