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Professor emeritus of dairy science at UW-Madison, Neal Jorgensen, dies at 85

Wisconsin State Farmer
Neal Jorgensen, professor emeritus of dairy science at UW-Madison, has died at 85.

Professor emeritus of dairy science and former dean of the University of Wisconsin-Madison College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, Neal Jorgensen, passed away at 85 on Dec. 22.

After growing up on a dairy farm in Luck, Wis., Jorgensen earned his bachelor's degree in agricultural education from UW-River Falls. He later came to UW-Madison in 1960 to earn his master's and doctorate degrees in dairy science, also with a minor in biochemistry.

Jorgensen joined the UW-Madison faculty as a dairy nutritionist in 1968, starting out in the former Department of Dairy Science, now the Department of Animal and Dairy Sciences. He served as associate dean, executive associate dean and dean of the college throughout his career until 1998, when he retired.

"Neal was a very hard working, thorough and detail-oriented person, and a planner of the fist magnitude," said Louis Armentano, professor emeritus of dairy science, who was department chair during part of Jorgensen's time in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences. "He was also caring and fun, a nice guy to be around. His service ethic was second to none, and he really cared about Wisconsin, CALS, agriculture in general and the dairy industry in particular. We were lucky to have had him."

His colleagues said he was an "outstanding teacher" who was well-liked by students of the Farm and Industry Short Course. He trained more than 65 graduate students over the years to join the dairy industry or academia.

"As a graduate student, you want to work on something that might make a difference. In Neal’s dairy cattle nutrition research lab, you always felt that what you were working on had relevance and was highly important to the state’s dairy industry," said Randy Shaver, a professor emeritus of dairy science whom Jorgensen trained as a graduate student.

The college said much of Jorgensen's research on forage quality and harvesting practices paved the way for today's research and created improvements for dairy farmers. He was responsible for the publication of hundreds of peer-reviewed research articles and he also spoke to farmers frequently at conferences and workshops on his research findings.

Neal Jorgensen

"Neal was an outstanding faculty member, administrator, and collaborator. Personally, he was an outstanding friend and colleague," said Hector DeLuca, a professor emeritus and former chair of the biochemistry department. Frequent collaborators on research surrounding milk fever, he described working with Jorgensen as "one of the most fruitful and pleasurable experiences I’ve had."

Among his other accomplishments, Jorgensen was the associate director of the CALS Research Division, wherein he oversaw day-to-day operations and program coordination. While he was originally supposed to retire in 1997, he served as CALS dean from 1997 to 1998 following the resignation of his predecessor Roger Wyse, a time the college called a "difficult transition period."

Jorgensen also served as president of the American Dairy Science Association, sat on the ADSA Foundation Board of Directors, was chairman of Farm Progress Days Inc. of Wisconsin, served on the board of the Council for Agricultural Science and Technology and sat on the National Research Council Board on Agriculture, an important advisory body to the US Department of Agriculture.

He also received many awards during his time teaching at UW-Madison, including a dairy production teaching award and the Award of Honor from ADSA, the Service to Agriculture Award from the Farm and Industry Short Course and the Distinguished Service Award from CALS.

"CALS lost a great friend, scientist and leader with the passing (of) Neal Jorgensen," said Dick Straub, a professor emeritus in the Department of Biological Systems Engineering and former CALS senior associate dean. "Neal was a role model and mentor for many of us who demonstrated the value of collaboration in his research success. He cared deeply about the college and Wisconsin agriculture and stepped up to help lead CALS through some critical periods. Neal will be deeply missed."