A tribute to what Don Good stood for

Mar 2, 2012

The livestock industry lost a great man in Dr. Don Good, and more importantly, one of a fading generation of allaround livestock people and department heads who believed in the equal importance of teaching, research and extension in academia.

I met Dr. Good on quite a few occasions at the Saddle and Sirloin Club banquet, where they hang the portrait of one person in the livestock industry every year. It is the highest honor you can get in our business and one Dr. Good had received years ago. My impression was he had a classy personality befitting someone of the WWII generation, and also the spark of a great teacher.

Most importantly, Dr. Good put together a department that was balanced between teaching, research and extension, not letting one mission drive the cart. It is almost unheard of today to see anyone with a full teaching appointment, so even if someone like Dr. Good was still department head, it would be hard to get someone tenured with just a teaching appointment. That is because, in general, tenure is now awarded based on grants first, papers second and teaching/extension third. This is sad.

I was so lucky when I was coming through my career. Penn State had a great 100 percent teaching professor, Dr. Erskine Cash. He got my dad in the Polled Hereford business right after he arrived and by the time I got to college, he was breeding great Angus cattle, including PS Princess 116 and PS Power Play. It was an exciting place to be around.

In one of the tributes to Dr. Good, who early in his career was a judging team coach and became famous by picking the steer Conoco in 1969, starting a type change, a current young intercollegiate livestock judging team coach paid homage for having the same “sport.”

When Dr. Cash was my judging team coach, he taught me many things beyond placing cattle. Yes we had a competitive team, but we learned how to greet, learn and listen to some the top livestock minds in the nation when we visited their operations. Of course you learn the power of observation, decision making and communication. Although we generally went on the lowest budget imaginable, we also ate at a nice restau rant, stayed at a nice hotel, and flew (for me the first time) to a contest. When done right, it is not a sport, but a way to prepare your best students for careers. I was lucky enough to have done this as a graduate student, but few understand its full benefit and take it only as a sport. We need more people like Dr. Good.

Universities need balance. I love going through research, but when all the money is going to one subject and the tenure process is dollar-driven, it gets pretty boring. Dr. Good understood the balance. Give Animal Science department heads like Dr. Ken Odde their heads to set up departments as the want; allow Dr. Tom Field to read weird books and motivate the industry and students; bring back Dr. Rick Bourdon to hypothesize what the genetic prediction tools will be needed in the next decade without having to chase the latest fads for grants; give Dr. Bob Weaber all the plane tickets and mileage he wants to do his excellent extension work. All of this would be the best way to honor Dr. Don Good. — Dr. Bob Hough