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Former UF Vice President for Agricultural Affairs Kenneth Tefertiller Dies at 77

Kenneth R. Tefertiller
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Agricultural economist Kenneth Ray Tefertiller, head of the University of Florida’s agriculture program from 1973 to 1988 and a retired professor of food and resource economics, died Tuesday, Nov. 13. He was 77.

Tefertiller had lived in Gainesville since 1965, when he arrived at UF to take a position as a professor and chairman of what was then called the agricultural economics department. He retired in 2000 but remained a professor emeritus.

He will be remembered for his successes in keeping Florida agriculture competitive nationally and internationally, yet compatible with the state’s environment, said Jimmy Cheek, UF senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources.

"We owe a great deal of gratitude to Ken Tefertiller for his leadership and for strengthening IFAS during the time he served as vice president," Cheek said.

Tefertiller took leadership of UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences as Florida agriculture began confronting challenges from urban growth, environmental concerns and dramatically rising fuel costs, Cheek said.

To address these issues, Tefertiller and his administrative team developed a long-range plan, Agricultural Growth in an Urban Age, which sought to promote agricultural growth in a changing Florida. It included new programs in biotechnology, energy efficiency, integrated pest management and water conservation.

He created the centers for Natural Resources Programs, Environmental Toxicology, Aquatic Plant Research, Biomass Energy Systems and Cooperative Agriculture Programs.

Tefertiller also put great emphasis on expanding IFAS; during his 15 years as vice president for agricultural affairs, it became one of the country’s largest and best land grant agriculture programs.

E.T. York, who was UF vice president for agricultural affairs in 1965 and initially hired Tefertiller, said effective planning was one of his hallmarks.

"He did an outstanding job in everything he was involved with," said York, also a former chancellor of Florida’s State University System and UF interim president. "I had always been very impressed with him."

As a researcher, Tefertiller was well known for his work investigating the effects of governmental regulation on agriculture, Florida’s competitiveness in the global economy, and the roles that agriculture and forestry play in the conservation of natural resources.

Born in Noble, Okla., in 1930, Tefertiller earned a bachelor of science degree in agricultural sciences from Oklahoma State University in 1952. He served in the U.S. Army from 1952-54, where he attained the rank of major.

In 1955 he began his teaching career, working as an instructor at Oklahoma State and earning a master of science degree in agricultural economics there in 1957. He earned a doctorate in agricultural economics from the University of Illinois in 1959. Soon after, he took a position with Texas A&M University, where he became an associate professor and chairman of the production economics section of the agricultural economics and sociology department.

In 1965 he joined the UF faculty as a professor and chairman of the agricultural economics department, now known as the food and resource economics department. As chairman, he initiated new programs in natural resources, fisheries and consumer economics. He also was director of the Center for Community and Rural Development in 1972-1973.

In 1973 he was named UF vice president for agricultural affairs and administrator of the 1972 Title V Rural Development Act for Florida. In 1976 he was appointed director of the Florida Agricultural Experiment Station and the Florida Cooperative Extension Service, the UF/IFAS research and extension programs, respectively.

During his academic career, Tefertiller held numerous other leadership positions, including stints as president of the Southern Agricultural Economics Association in 1971-72 and president of the American Agricultural Economics Association in 1974.

He was chairman of the Division of Agriculture of the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges in 1979-80. In 1995 he served as a delegate to the White House Conference on Small Business.

Honors bestowed on Tefertiller included a Man of the Year award from Progressive Farmer magazine, the Distinguished Alumni Award from Oklahoma State University, the Distinguished Service Award from the Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association, a White Hat Award from the Agribusiness Institute of Florida, and a Special Leadership Award from the Council for Agricultural Research, Extension and Teaching, an organization he helped found.

He also received an Honorary Lifetime Achievement Award from the Southern Agricultural Economics Association in 1998, the E.T. York Distinguished Service Award from UF/IFAS in 2000 and was inducted into the Florida Agricultural Hall of Fame in 2003.

Through the University of Florida Foundation, Tefertiller and his wife established the Kenneth R. and Waynell Tefertiller Endowment, providing financial assistance to students in UF’s College of Agricultural and Life Sciences.

He was an alumnus of FarmHouse Fraternity at Oklahoma State University, a member of the University City Church of Christ and a member of the Rotary Club of Gainesville, where he served as president in 1977-78.

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