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Leader of the Herd

March 12, 2009

For more than 30 years, Dr. Gil Engdahl has been helping shape the Angelo State Agriculture Department and its students.

A native of West Texas, Engdahl grew up on a stock farm near Brady, where he still holds about 1,000 acres of farm and ranch land.  While his university education took him out of the area to Texas A&M, he came back as soon as he could, joining the ASU faculty in 1976 for his first job out of college.

“To me it was a nice challenge starting out,” Engdahl said.  “Back in the mid-70s, ASU was just getting cranked up as a four-year school.  We spent a lot of time getting the sheep and goat program going and that was a lot of fun.”

In light of his Aggie education, Engdahl took a big chance coming to Angelo State, passing up a job as a livestock specialist with the Texas A&M Extension Service to join ASU’s fledgling agriculture program.

“It was a lot more of a challenge to come to a new program and try to be a part of growing it into something that we could really be proud of,” Engdahl said.  “To me, it has been more fun to do that than to go to an established program.  We have as good a program as a lot of big schools.”

In addition to teaching classes, Engdahl has been head of the Agriculture Department since 1997.  During his tenure he also helped start the student Block and Bridle Club and was instrumental in the formation of the multi-award-winning student livestock judging and wool judging teams. 

His office is literally crammed with awards for his service to FFA (Future Farmers of America), 4-H clubs, the Block and Bridle Club and the San Angelo Stock Show and Rodeo.  He also received the 2008 Distinguished Faculty Achievement Award for the College of Sciences from the ASU Alumni Association.

“When you have been with the school as long as I have, it is part of your life,” Engdahl said.  “To be honored for coming in and having fun for 30-plus years, maybe I should be giving someone else an award for allowing me to do that.”

One major factor that has kept Engdahl at ASU is the university’s Management, Instruction and Research (MIR) Center, more commonly known as the ASU Ranch.  Located off U.S. Highway 87 just north of San Angelo, the MIR Center includes 6,000 acres of farm and ranch land that is home to a multitude of wildlife, a herd of Angus cattle, Boer and Angora goats, and Rambouillet, Suffolk and “hair” sheep.  It also houses the Food Safety and Product Development Lab and ASU Meat Market.

“It is really a remarkable thing for a small school to have a facility like that,” Engdahl said.  “Most schools, even Division I schools, don’t have a ranch where students can go and get hands-on experience.  It really helps us build a solid program for our students.”

Getting to know students in ASU’s more intimate classroom and office settings is also something Engdahl has enjoyed over his many years at the university.

“Sometime I think you should have a degree in psychology for this job instead of animal science, though,” Engdahl said.  “I talk to students about boyfriend-girlfriend problems, school problems, financial problems and the list goes on.  You try to help them any way you can and I like that about ASU, because it is small enough to where we can still do a lot of interaction with the students.”

He also likes being close to his place in Brady, where he spends most of his spare time when he is not on a golf course somewhere.  But, regardless of how or why, Engdahl and ASU have enjoyed a mutually beneficial relationship that is now well into its fourth decade.

“I’ve had several land grant schools offer me jobs over the years,” Engdahl said.  “But, I just didn’t care to leave.  ASU is a good school and I’ve had a good run here.”