Bob Taylor has received nearly every teaching award Purdue or the national collegiate level has to offer well before this year. And he had technically retired once, but stayed on to do what he does best- teach tomorrow's farmers and ag business leaders. Finally, and this is finals week at Purdue University, he will give his last exam as a teacher on the Ag Economics staff and put his last grade in the gradebook within the next few days.
What was left to say? Some 200 people showed up recently at a special retirement gathering to honor his 50 years as a teacher at Purdue. The New York native landed here in the early '60s, and never left. Ken Foster, current head of the ag economics department at Purdue, says as best as they can calculate, in 50 school years he's taught some 40,000 students. And he could recite more than you might imagine by name!
Foster later acknowledged that you don't replace a teacher of that caliber and with the legacy of a Bob Taylor. He's an icon whose teaching will continue to guide scores of Indiana farm families for decades. There's a reason why more than one dad told their son or daughter in the last few years, "take farm management as soon as you can before Taylor retires." He taught three generations of many families.
Foster vows that the emphasis on excellence in undergraduate teaching will continue in the department, even though Taylor will no longer be teaching. Part of it is a relationship with students, a willingness to listen, and the capacity to advise without giving concrete answers. "That's what he does so well," Foster says. "He counsels students but he doesn't give them an answer. He lays out the possibilities and options and lets them choose."
His excellent teaching nearly overshadows the fact that he held an important Extension appointment as well. At one time, he rivaled Ron Hansen as one of the top advisors and consultants on farm family relationships in the country. He's still sought out by many for advice on how to run the farm and keep personal, family relationships from interfering with, and in some cases, potentially destroying the farm.
Taylor is a long-time columnist in Young Farmers Forum in Indiana Prairie Farmer. He was also featured on the February '11 cover in honor of his upcoming completion of 50 years of teaching.
Don't worry, friends. Taylor has already committed to continue writing for the column for as long as we want him, and that's going to be for as long as he can. You will continue to benefit from his sage advice in the magazine for a long time to come!