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After 20 years, agriculture dean continues to help program grow

The average dean of an average college at an average public university serves anywhere from three to eight years.

Bobby Moser is anything but average. Dean of Ohio State’s College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, Moser is serving his 20th year as dean and vice president for agricultural administration.

He is the last remaining dean appointed during President E. Gordon Gee’s original term at OSU, from 1990-1998.

“The average is not 20 years, I’m well beyond that,” Moser agreed.

Completing his fourth five-year term, Moser’s longevity as the college’s executive doubles the next longest-serving dean at OSU. The majority of deans at OSU have served in their current capacity fewer than four years, according to information from the Council of Deans.

Moser grew up on the family farm in Cyril, Okla., and played little league baseball 30 miles from Hall of Fame catcher Johnny Bench. While Bench went on to fame and athletic fortune, Moser fell in love with the family business.

“One grandfather was a cattleman, and one had hogs, and I took a liking to the hogs,” Moser said. After studying animal science at Cameron State Junior College in Lawton, Okla., Moser earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Oklahoma State University.

After a few years as a hog buyer for Wilson Packing, Moser took a post as a county extension agent in Cowley County, Kan.

Responsibility for the county 4-H youth development program foreshadowed the major role university extension would play later in his career.

Extension is one of the hallmarks of the land-grant university system, and is commonly referred to as “bringing the university to the people,” Moser said. Extension programs fall into four program areas: family and consumer science, 4-H youth development, community development and agriculture and natural resources.

Moser moved to Lincoln to pursue a doctorate in swine nutrition, beginning a 12-year relationship with the University of Nebraska.

“I looked at a lot of different schools,” Moser said. “Nebraska is a good pig state, but I went there primarily to work with Dr. Ernie Peo, a well-known swine nutritionist.”

Following 10 years on faculty at Nebraska, Moser served five years as chair of the department of animal sciences at the University of Missouri, and two years as associate dean and director of extension.

Coming to OSU in a similar role in 1988, Gee named Moser vice president for agricultural administration and dean of the college in 1991.

Moser was the first dean Gee appointed while serving as OSU’s 11th president.

Leading the agriculture college at a land-grant institution in a state where agriculture is the most economically significant industry is no small responsibility, Moser admitted. One key challenge: the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimates the global population will increase from 6 billion to 9 billion by 2050.

“We need to produce 40 to 50 percent more food on less land with probably less water,” Moser said. “I tell our graduates these are the kinds of issues they’ll be dealing with.”

Graduates said Moser’s leadership is one reason those students will be prepared for such challenges.

Alumna Lindsay Hill, agribusiness director for the nationally syndicated television program “AgDay,” said Moser’s influence is felt throughout the industry.

“Dr. Moser has led our college with distinction for 20 years,” Hill said. “For an entire generation of agriculture students, he’s the only dean they’ve ever known.”

Moser’s tenure is not entirely unprecedented within the college. Dean Roy Kottman, the namesake of Kottman Hall on ag campus, served 22 years as the college’s chief administrator, retiring in 1982. Two deans filled the nine years between the Kottman and Moser eras.

Moser attributes his tenure to three things: love of students, love for OSU and passion for agriculture.

“OSU has a way about it,” Moser said. “People love this university. Gordon Gee always says, ‘the sun never sets on Ohio State,’ and he’s right.”

And the sun is yet to set on Moser, who said he hasn’t missed a commencement ceremony in 20 years.

“I like to be there to shake their hand and congratulate them,” Moser said. “I know they’re going out into a very exciting future, because agriculture’s changing all the time.”

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