A Tribute to University of Minnesota’s Dr. Don Otterby

Published on: 11:28AM Oct 08, 2012

Don touched the lives of many people in our industry.

By Rick Lundquist, Ph.D.

Don Otterby, Professor Emeritus in dairy cattle nutrition and management at the University of Minnesota, passed away Friday, Oct. 5 at the age of 80. Don was my graduate program advisor, my mentor and my good friend.

Dr. Don Otterby

Don had an outstanding career as a researcher, with many published papers on dairy nutrition and management. But teaching was his passion. Professors like Don are rare. “Publish or perish” is the rule in many universities, but Don always put students first. I was lucky to have him as my advisor, but he took any student that needed help and advice under his wing.

We had a great bunch of graduate students under Don’s guidance during my tenure at the University of Minnesota. We affectionately called him “Chief.” His graduate students still keep in touch and we all share the feeling that it was a privilege to be one of Otterby’s students.

You could almost always find Chief seated at his big black table in lab 8 in the basement of Haecker Hall on the St. Paul farm campus. Early mornings, Saturdays, evenings – he could be found with papers strewn all over the table. I don’t know how he got everything done. His door was always open and we all took advantage of this.

Chief emphasized that we wouldn’t graduate with a cookbook containing all the answers. Cookbooks become outdated. He designed a course of study that would give us a broad foundation and would teach us to think and to reason. He was preparing us for an ever-evolving dairy industry. His philosophy is why I became a consultant.

Don was the recipient of many academic and research awards during his career. But that wasn’t important to him. He was dedicated to the dairy industry and he was dedicated to educating students who would serve the dairy industry.

Don touched the lives of many people in our industry and in his community and his church. Chief was great teacher because he was always approachable and really listened to his students, plus he was just a heck of a guy. I’m privileged that he was my mentor and my friend. I will truly miss having him in my life.

Rick Lundquist is an independent nutrition and management consultant based in Duluth, Minn. Contact him at [email protected].