The swine industry lost a beloved leader and innovator on September 7 with the passing of Gary Allee, 76, former chair of the University of Missouri Department of Animal Science.
Allee grew up on a general grain and livestock farm in central Missouri. He received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Missouri, and his Ph.D. from the University of Illinois. During his Ph.D. research in the late 1960s, he studied the effect of diet on fat synthesis in the pig and how nutrition could manipulate fat synthesis.
He started his career at Kansas State University and was promoted to professor in 1981. In 1987, he accepted the position of chair of the Department of Animal Science and professor of swine nutrition at the University of Missouri.
Internationally recognized for his pioneering contributions to improving swine nutrition and management, Allee made many significant scientific discoveries that have helped pig producers in the U.S. and throughout most of the world. He authored more than 100 refereed journal articles and more than 350 abstracts and technical papers.
In addition, he served on the editorial board and the Nutritional Research Council (NRC) Swine Nutrition Subcommittee and as president, vice president and director of the Midwest American Society of Animal Science (ASAS).
“Dr. Allee made great contributions to the University of Missouri as a researcher and administrator. His contributions to the swine industry are well known and go beyond those he made directly but also through the nearly 50 graduate students that he mentored during his career,” says Bill Lamberson, Division Director of Animal Science at the University of Missouri.
During ASAS’s Living History Interviews video series, Allee said he was most proud of his graduate students who are out working in the swine industry today.
In the video, he encouraged the next generation of swine leaders to get ready for change.
“Understand animal science is a problem-solving curriculum. You need to be able to think, evaluate and solve problems,” he said.
Mentoring students was one of Allee’s lifetime joys. His former graduate student and colleague, Mark Newcomb, director of swine and poultry R&D for Cargill Animal Nutrition, says Allee’s guidance helped him develop the skills needed to do high quality, important research to support the swine industry.
“Gary always had great insight into how to design and ultimately interpret data in a way relevant to the audience and he helped to foster those skills in me. Gary could envision how data might have different implications depending on how you applied it into a highly intense situation or if it were used differently in less intensive production situations,” Newcomb says.
Even more important than the skills themselves, Newcomb says Allee instilled a love of the swine nutrition business that has done more for Newcomb’s career than any single technical skill ever could.
Allee believed in conducting research in settings and situations that were applicable to the industry.
“He always coached me and my students to design and do research as if you were the hog farmers, and do real research and solutions for the industry and farmers. He promoted the most-updated swine nutrition, practical solutions and management programs in China for so many years that he became a living legend in China. He will always be remembered by Chinese people,” says Defa Li, professor in the College of Animal Science and Technology at the China Agricultural University.
After completing his Ph.D. with Allee at Kansas State University, Li returned to China Agricultural University to start his research career and founded the Ministry of Agriculture Feed Industry Center (MAFIC) in 1996.
“I will never forget his great encouragements and supports he gave to me during my most difficult time in my early career in China,” Li says. “He was a great example both in his academic achievements and in the way he mentored.”
Newcomb agrees that perhaps Allee’s best characteristic was the way he treated people.
“Whenever Gary and I would talk, he would always want to hear what was new in my life and with my family and would also share the joy that he had with his wife, his kids and his grandchildren as well as the adventures of being a cowboy in Missouri,” Newcomb says. “These past days I have been thinking about Gary and smiling about how, in a way that was unique to Gary, he might snicker a little at what others might be doing and offer an alternative pathway that generally led to success. To be succinct… Gary taught me to not follow the herd but to do what I know is right.”
Allee’s impact on swine nutrition research and practice will long be remembered. Li says, “That influence will not end with his passing and will live on through his students and those who he had coached and helped. That is a treasure he left for us forever.”
Allee is survived by his wife Norma of Columbia; his daughter Teresa (Paul) Bridwell of Los Angeles, Calif., and his son Todd (Kris Miler) Allee of Washington, D.C.
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