Reflections: George Wm. Jesse

Dr. Jesse, professor emeritus, shares 50 years of selected memories from a student and faculty perspective

Dr. George Jesse

In the fall of 1964, as a 20-year-old freshman who never planned to attend college, I promised my grandmother that whether I lasted one semester or completed a 4-year degree, I would be the same grandson when I returned home. I had no idea that because of the people I would meet and the experiences I would have at MU I would not be able to keep my promise. Never fear, I kept the promise of keeping my Christian beliefs; but, I had no idea the impact that caring and dedicated faculty and new friends would have on my education and my future.

Student Days

During my undergraduate days (1964-68) I think the department gender ratio was 90:10 (male/female) and I believe student background was about the same (farm/non-farm). As a faculty member I saw these change to approximately 70% female and 70% non-farm background. As a teacher I found the non-farm students often raised the best or at least the most challenging questions. For example, non-farm students wanted to know why we did not use an anesthetic during castration.

Classroom Memories

  • Meats (A.H. 104) WS66. During a hands-on laboratory at the abattoir Dr. Hedrick was making a few remarks about beef slaughter before we were to complete the task of skinning the carcass. He said it would be advantageous to have a left-handed person to remove the skin on the right side of the head. Next he asked if there was anyone in the class left-handed. I am left-handed; but, my dad taught me to never volunteer (I’m told military veterans know why) so I did not. However, I was volunteered by a classmate (whom to this day I remember). Toward the end of my teaching career faculty were asked to discontinue having students participate in slaughter due to a safety issue.
  • Animal Nutrition (A.H.202) WS66. Dr. Pfander told us on the first day of class that he had a photographic memory and that he would be grading all papers. Enough said.
  • Lab Techniques in Livestock Breeding (A.H. 303) FS66. We took a field trip to Weldon Spring to learn to collect semen from a bull using the A.V. Every student was expected to participate. Dr. Day told us he had permission from his colleague, Dr. Lasley, to use a research heifer that was in estrus in the squeeze chute; but, he warned us to not let the bull serve the heifer. As you might guess, a number of the bulls were faster than we inexperienced students resulting in several heifers getting serviced. Even though this was a much appreciated laboratory experience, the highlight of this trip for me was Dr. Day’s demonstration of inclusion. As I recall, it was probably about 1 p.m. after we left Weldon Spring when we stopped at a restaurant for lunch. I wish you could have been there when Dr. Day was told that all of his students but one (a black student) were welcome. Dr. Day said, “You have to be kidding me,” and the proprietor’s response was “No,” we do not serve blacks. I know President Choi would be proud of this West Virginia boy’s response when he said, “Students, get on the bus.”
  • Livestock Selection and Evaluation (A.H. 311) FS67. Mr. Leavitt took us to Chillicothe to meet with Jerry Litton and learn about the numerous ways he was incorporating new technology into his purebred Charolais operation. On the return to Columbia Mr. Leavitt asked me “Jesse, what did you learn from this trip?” I said I was impressed with the way Mr. Litton was using closed-circuit TV to monitor the maternity barn and his use of a mainframe computer for production records; but, I was not impressed with the wood-paneled bull barn that housed Sam 951. I told Mr. Leavitt the bull barn was ridiculous. Mr. Leavitt’s response was, “George, Mr. Litton is doing what it takes to impress prospective bull buyers and you are not one of them.”
  • Farm Animal Management (A.S. 65/1065). As instructor for the swine section of this introductory course, I had one lab at the Veterinary Diagnostic Lab during which a veterinarian did a post-mortem on a pig. Although I think most students appreciated this lab, it was not unusual for one or more students to pass out during this lab. Toward the end of my career with a change in leadership of the Vet Diag Lab and one semester during which I had at least six students pass out, a decision was made that this lab could no longer be provided. I was offered a video as a substitute for this lab; but, declined the offer.

Livestock Judging Team

  • Mizzou’s 1967 Livestock Judging Team. Dr. Jesse is second on the right in the front row. Dr. G.B. Thompson, team coach and Dr. Jesse’s Ph.D. advisor, is on the far right in the back row. (Photo courtesy Dr. Jesse.)

    As a member of this team I have numerous memories; but, the one I want to share is regarding our trip to the International Livestock Exposition in Chicago. During our trip several team members were predicting their GPA for the fall semester. Our coach, Dr. Thompson, overheard us including 2 hours of ‘A’ for Problems in Animal Husbandry. As I remember, Dr. T said, “Wait a minute. An ‘A’ is not automatic.” In fact, he said if we did not place in the top 10 at Chicago that he was going to give us a ‘B’ for Problems credit. We placed 10th at Chicago.

  • Fund Raising Campaign (1996). I informed my department chair that if given the chance I could raise $100,000 in support of the Livestock Judging Team. My approach was to select one member of each former team to challenge their team members to pledge $1,000 to be paid during a three-year period.  The person I asked to serve as captain of the 1950 team was Mr. Jim Rutter of Shelbina, Missouri. Jim said he was eager to support the project; but, did not want to serve as captain. A few weeks later I received a check for $5,000 from Mr. Rutter. Although the campaign did not reach my goal, it did generate considerable dollars and numerous testimonials of the value of this extra-curricular activity. I was told by Bob Perry that Jim Rutter had to choose between playing center for the MU football team or being on the livestock judging team. Jim chose the judging team.

Off-Campus Internships

I feel many students benefitted from this program which gave them an opportunity to explore one or more career opportunities and also provided them with work experience before graduation. As coordinator I spent several summers making on-site visits of our student interns.

International Travel Trips

In the fall of 1978, Dr. John Campbell gave me the opportunity to participate in a College of Agriculture three-week trip to Latin America. Throughout my career I logged 21 weeks of international travel which included:

  • Two trips to Latin America
  • Two trips to Western Europe
  • Two trips to Australia and New Zealand

Traveling with 20-30 college students for 21 days gives you a lifetime of memories.

Department Bowling Team

During the WS71, as an instructor in the department, I was asked to fill a substitute role on the department’s bowling team. I eagerly accepted this opportunity and still remember the first time I substituted. Things were going great and I was enjoying getting to know my former advisor and teachers in a less formal environment, until the third frame of the second game. I remember an individual reminding everyone that the first ball was the ‘beer frame’ meaning whoever knocked down the fewest pins would buy beer for everyone. I let everyone know that I did not drink beer so it would not be appropriate for me to participate. My colleagues let me know that drinking beer was not a requirement and that I could simply buy for everyone else. As I recall I did buy more than my share during the season.

Department Fall Picnic

I particularly remember one year when Harley Turner (Ph.D. student from Oregon) and I were participating in a game of touch football. We were attempting to block Dr. John Massey. After getting run over a couple of times, Harley and I came up with a plan. We decided we would each block Dr. Massey below the knee and simply throw him over our back. It actually worked one time (Harley weighed about 140 lbs and I weighed 160 lbs; Massey 240+).

Extension Programs

Of the tripartite mission of our land-grant university, I believe the Extension Programs play a vital role in serving the people of the state. Some of the programs and services that come to mind include:

  • Boar Test Stations
  • Beef Cattle Performance Testing Program and tested bull sales
  • Ultrasound Service
  • K40 Counter
  • Show-Me-Select Heifer Program
  • Feminine Farrowing Schools. Leroy Rottmann (Ag Econ) asked me if I thought the university should offer an off-campus program to teach women how to process baby pigs. I vividly remember advising against his idea. Luckily Mr. Rottmann ignored my advice. As I recall this program had nationwide visibility and multi-state participation.


The Animal Sciences Research Center, taken in the early 1980s. (Photo courtesy Dr. Jesse.)

I’m convinced that people and not facilities are the most important component of a successful program; but, I hope you agree with me that facilities are important. Here are a few facilities that I feel were great additions to the department:

  • Trowbridge Livestock Center and Sales Arena
  • Swine Research Complex
  • Animal Sciences Research Center (Completion of Unit E in 1983).
  • Creed Teaching Barn
  • Swine Teaching Barn

Other Significant Events

  • Donation of the Miller Farm to the Animal Husbandry Department in 1980. F.B. Miller of Chariton County bequeathed his 1,000-acre farm to the department to enhance animal agriculture in Missouri. Funds from the sale of this farm greatly enhanced the department, being used primarily to provide graduate student stipends and also post-doctoral fellowships.
  • Merging of Animal Science and Poultry Science in 1983 to form the Animal Sciences Department.
  • Creation of an Animal Sciences Curriculum by merging Animal, Dairy and Poultry in 1983.
  • Creation of the Animal Sciences Unit by merging the Animal Sciences and Dairy Sciences in 1989.
  • Creation of the Wurdack Endowed Chair in Animal Sciences (1998).

Some Closing Thoughts

I hope sharing a few memories of my experiences at MU as an undergraduate student, graduate student and faculty member have caused you to reminisce about your days at Mizzou. I feel truly blessed to have had great advisors, teachers and mentors in the department who gave me the opportunity to obtain an education and ultimately to serve others in an educational role.