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College of Agriculture and Life Sciences inducts new members into the hall of fame

May 18, 2016

From left: Professor Emeritus of Dairy Science Richard Saacke, Dean Alan Grant, and University Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Animal Sciences Paul Siegel.
From left: Professor Emeritus of Dairy Science Richard Saacke, Dean Alan Grant, and University Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Animal Sciences Paul Siegel.

Richard Saacke, Professor Emeritus of Dairy Science, and Paul Siegel, University Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Animal Science, both of Blacksburg, Virginia, are inductees into the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences hall of fame.

Saacke joined the Virginia Tech faculty in 1965, devoting his career to excellence in research, teaching, and mentoring graduate students in the field of bovine reproductive physiology and artificial insemination.

A native of Newark, New Jersey, and now of Blacksburg, Virginia, he completed his education at Rutgers University and Pennsylvania State University. He spent the first part of his career as an extension dairy specialist at the University of Maryland and then on the faculty in the Department of Dairy Science at Penn State.

Findings from his master’s thesis are still in use today, and his doctoral research employed electron microscopy shows detailed ultrastructural characteristics of bovine sperm.

Saacke’s research program is credited with many firsts in the area of bovine reproduction. His lab was instrumental in leading the artificial insemination industry through the transition from unfrozen, cooled semen to frozen semen.  His work led the transition from glass ampoules to French straws for semen storage and the guidelines he developed for freezing sperm continue to be an integral part of the industry today.

His guidance of 23 graduate students through his laboratory continues to have a global impact on the dairy and livestock industries. Outside of the lab, nearly 3,500 undergraduate students were affected by his physiology of livestock reproduction class.

He and his family continue to have a positive impact on students in the college by providing philanthropic support through the Richard G. and Ann L. Saacke Undergraduate Scholarship.

“For me Dr. Dick Saacke is the very definition of ‘professor,’ ” said Department Head Mike Akers, the Horace E. and Elizabeth F. Alphin Professor of Dairy Science. “From his imposing presence and his scholarly manner, I think he was destined to his career.  He has an uncanny ability to draw in colleagues, students, and producers to share his love and enthusiasm for his research and interests.  During his career he made those around him want to be better, to be worthy of his standard.  I can think of no better legacy.” 

Siegel joined the faculty in 1957 and has devoted his career to advancing poultry education and research.

He received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Connecticut and completed his graduate degrees at Kansas State University.  Siegel carries the distinction of University Distinguished Professor Emeritus for his scholarly achievements in poultry science that attracted national and international attention with a focus on the role of genetics on nutrition, disease, immunology, physiology, and behavior documented in over 400 published works.

The high- and low-growth chicken lines he began developing in the 1950s benefit not only the poultry industry, but the larger scientific community. Researchers have experienced breakthroughs in genetic studies of animal domestication, gene identification found to regulate appetite, and find clues about human health disorders such as obesity and anorexia nervosa using his line of White Plymouth Rock chickens.

“Paul is a tremendous individual and colleague.  His legacy in science is well documented but his biggest impact may be in the development of human capital,” said David Gerrard, head of the Department of Animal and Poultry Aciences. “He has directly or indirectly mentored so many individuals in poultry sciences that it is virtually impossible to find someone in the industry that cannot trace their educational roots to Siegel and Virginia Tech.”

He is an active proponent of further enhancing the learning experience of students and the reputation of the Poultry Research Program at Virginia Tech as one of the best in the nation.  Siegel has significantly advanced the quality of poultry education and research through his mentorship initiatives and lifetime commitment to the training and development of poultry industry professionals, leaving a tremendous academic legacy by teaching more than 2,000 students and directing more than 50 master's theses and doctoral dissertations throughout his tenure.

He has been inducted into the American Poultry Industry hall of fame by the American Poultry Historical Society, the industry’s highest honor, for devoting more than 60 years to researching and teaching poultry science, in addition to holding key leadership roles in national and international industry organizations and winning numerous awards.

Siegel is a valued member of the university community, being recognized as a member of the Pylon Society and the Hokie Club, as well as serving as Faculty Senate president, past president of the Virginia Tech Chapter of the Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society, graduate commencement speaker, and member of several university committees.

In acknowledgement of his service, generosity, and academic legacy, and in recognition of past and future benefits to the university, the poultry research center was renamed as the Paul B. Siegel Poultry Research Center in 2010.

A researcher works in a laboratory.

Think you know what the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences is all about? Think again. 

Watch this video and learn about the many issues the college tackles, including agricultural profitability, biodesign, infectious diseases, and community viability. 

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