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Virginia Tech News / Articles / 2018 / February 

In memoriam: Wayne Purcell, alumni distinguished professor emeritus of agricultural and applied economics

February 22, 2018

Wayne Purcell receives Hall of Fame Award
Wayne Purcell, pictured center, received the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Hall of Fame Award in 2008.

Wayne Purcell, alumni distinguished professor emeritus of agricultural and applied economics in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, died Feb. 17, 2018 after a recent brain cancer diagnosis. He was 80.

Purcell began his faculty role at Virginia Tech in 1978 and retired in 2005. His 27-year career at Virginia Tech was marked by major program growth and numerous individual successes as a nationally and internationally recognized expert on prices, price discovery, and price risk management.

A native of Patrick County, Virginia, and a Virginia Tech alumnus, Purcell knew the value of agricultural economics and its partnership with state government, as well as Virginia’s rural communities.

“Wayne provided exceptional leadership by initiating our research response and encouraging colleagues to join him,” said Les Myers, former department head and a colleague of Purcell’s. “He was totally dedicated to the department, the college, and the university.”

Purcell organized, secured funding for, and directed the Research Institute on Livestock Pricing from 1986 to 2005. The institute was a multi-university research program that conducted and coordinated applied research in livestock and meat pricing, industry structure, public policy, and market regulations. It became a primary source of research information on important public policy issues including the impacts of congressional regulation on the marketplace.

Purcell also developed the Rural Economic Analysis Program in 1986, which played an important role in establishing the Rural Prosperity Commission, founded in 2002 by the Virginia General Assembly to report on conditions and prospects for rural Virginia. The Center for Rural Virginia also grew out of this initiative.

“At his core, he was a teacher,” said Associate Professor Emeritus Gordon Groover. “His nationwide audience ranged from students to farmers to extension personnel, industry leaders, government officials, and policymakers. All were met with the same level of intensity and drive to see that they learned new skills and concepts and, most importantly, how to apply this knowledge.”

Purcell was a prolific researcher and writer, authoring five books and editing nine on marketing, pricing, demand, concentrated markets, captive supplies, and other issues in livestock and meats. He also published two textbooks, wrote 33 refereed journal articles, 14 book chapters, 42 peer-reviewed research bulletins, 59 articles in proceedings, 60 numbered Extension publications, and over 80 popular press articles.

As a professor and professor emeritus, Purcell received numerous awards and recognitions for his teaching and contributions to Virginia agriculture, including designation as Alumni Distinguished Professor by the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors. He was twice selected to receive the American Agricultural Economics Association outstanding teaching award and received the Outstanding Faculty in Virginia Award from the Virginia State Council of Higher Education. He was also named Man of the Year in Virginia Agriculture in 2002.

Purcell earned a bachelor’s degree in marketing in 1962 and a master’s degree in agricultural economics in 1963 from Virginia Tech. He received his doctorate in agricultural economics from Michigan State University in 1967 and served on the faculty of Oklahoma State University before returning to Virginia Tech to become a professor at his alma mater.

Purcell is survived by his wife, Nanci; his daughter and her husband, Tanya and David Graham of Estelline, South Dakota; his son and his fiancée, Chris Purcell and Caitlin Moore of Rochester, New York; his three grandchildren, Jeremy Lemire of Aberdeen, South Dakota, and Beckett and Violet Purcell of Rochester, New York; his three great-grandchildren, Ja'Ayden Branch-Lemire, Jackson Lemire, and Ethan Pletten of South Dakota; his brother, Wendell Purcell of Bassett, Virginia; his sister and her husband, Bonnie and Charles Allen of Fairfax, Virginia; and numerous nieces and nephews. 

There will be no services, and interment will be at a later date in the Purcell Family Cemetery in Henry County, Virginia. Memorials may be made to the Hardin Reynolds Memorial School Alumni Association Scholarship Fund, Attn. Corresponding Secretary, 588 Golf Course Road, Stuart, VA 24171. Arrangements by McCoy Funeral Home.

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