2012 Pioneer Dairy Leader

2012-RagsdaleArthur Chester Ragsdale

The legacy of Professor A. C. Ragsdale is recognized throughout Missouri and much of the nation. He was an outstanding leader of the Dairy Husbandry Department of the University of Missouri from 1919 to 1961. During his tenure many productive research programs were conducted in the areas of growth standards; nutrient requirements for growth, maintenance, milk production, and reproduction; and environmental effects on dairy cattle. Ragsdale’s faculty colleagues included dairy experts Brody, Turner, and Herman, Borden Award winners; and Reid and Edmondson who led several dairy-related state organizations. Students included both production and manufacturing majors at all levels of their undergraduate and graduate programs.

The department had an extension outreach in which Ragsdale participated by supporting organizations within the industry as well as extension agents including Itschner, Cloninger, Regan and Meinershagen. Harry Ball was his outstanding dairy Herdsman. Assisted by this fine faculty Ragsdale organized the first dairy cow testing and purebred bull associations in Missouri.

Born in 1890, Arthur Ragsdale grew up on a dairy farm near Aurora, Missouri. After obtaining his Bachelor of Science degree at the University of Missouri in 1912, he worked as dairy herdsman for Brook Hill Farms in Wisconsin, then as dairy foreman of the Bennett Ranch in Kimball, Nebraska. He then joined the teaching staff at Rutgers University only to move on for more teaching experience at the University of West Virginia. In 1916 Ragsdale returned to MU to work as an extension specialist for the dairy department before being named its chairman in 1919 at age 28. Under his leadership the University saw development of dairy farms, including the Foremost Guernsey farm in the 1950s, and the addition of the West Wing of Eckles Hall in the mid-1930s. He retired in 1961 after serving 42 years as dairy department chair.

Ragsdale was known for his concern for students. Their welfare and educational progress was a major priority. He was a strong supporter of the dairy club and the dairy cattle and dairy products judging teams, as well as their research productivity. One former graduate student wrote of Ragsdale’s assistance in completion of his doctoral degree after the death of his degree supervisor.
Professor Ragsdale helped another graduate student find suitable family housing during the post WW II period when facilities were extremely limited.

He was able to provide jobs for many students on the farm and in the dairy processing plant. Thus, many students gained on-hands experience while earning enough to stay in college. In the interest of his own education and career, he studied for the Master of Science degree at the University of Wisconsin and received it in 1925.

National recognition was brought to the University and the state of Missouri when Ragsdale was elected president of the American Dairy Science Association for 1944-45. He served as delegate to the International Dairy Congress in The Hague, Netherlands in 1953. Active participation in other scientific organizations included the American Society of Animal Science, the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the International Association of Milk, and Food and Environmental Sanitarians. He was awarded an honorary Doctor of Science degree by Culver-Stockton College in 1957. He was a member of Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity and the honor societies Alpha Zeta, Gamma Sigma Delta and Sigma XI.

Ragsdale’s strong commitment to his church was evidenced by his services as elder, treasurer, chairman of the board of trustees, superintendent of the church school and president of both the state and national Christian Men’s Fellowship.

Chester Ragsdale was married to Clara Allen. They had three daughters, Ruth and twins, Elizabeth and Jean. Three grandchildren survive: Ann R. Fretz-Scott, Elinor (Lin) R. Wapner, and Holly J. Ford.

Ragsdale died on July 22, 1969 at the age of 78.