January 04, 2018

In memory: Dr. Richard William

image001Richard Willham, Distinguished professor emeritus in animal science at Iowa State University, passed away this past weekend.  Richard was a valued colleague and friend and he will be missed. On a personal note from the ASAS staff, over the years Richard helped with many ASAS projects including serving as main author and contributor of the ASAS Centennial Book. Richard managed to be meticulous and enthusiastic about every project whether genetics, art or history. His love of science and excitement to communicate science will be missed in our office! In the office, our defining image of Richard will be of him discussing EPDs with the Bellamy Brothers following their concert at the ASAS Centennial Celebration.
Richard L. Willham was born May 4, 1932 in Hutchinson, Kansas. He received a B.S. (1954) in animal science from the Oklahoma A&M College and a M.S. (1955) in animal breeding and genetics and a Ph.D. (1960) from Iowa State University.
Before receiving his Ph.D., Dr. Willham served as an officer (1956-1957) in the United States Army in Korea. After returning to the United States, Dr. Willham worked as an Assistant Professor (1959-1963) In the Animal Science Department at Iowa State University. He accepted a position as an Associate Professor (1963-1966) at Oklahoma State University. Dr. Willham returned to Iowa State in 1966 as an Associate Professor (1966-1971) and was soon promoted to Professor (1971-1997). In 1979, the University bestowed Dr. Williham with the title of C.F. Curtiss Distinguished Professor in Agriculture. He became Professor Emeritus in 1997.
While at Iowa State University, Dr. Willham was a moving force to develop national sire evaluation  and he worked closely with the beef industry to develop genetic predictions, known as EPDs. He also created the "Computer Cow Game," (1966) a computer program used to interest undergraduate students in beef cattle genetics through the use of a simulated cattle herd. Dr. Willham also conducted a beef-dairy crossbreeding experiment (1967-1978), which studied the lifetime production of dairy introductions. This project was Iowa State University's contribution to the North Central Regional Beef Cattle Breeding Project.
Dr. Willham has published over 200 articles and books. His works include a Heritage of Leadership: a Story of the First 100 Years of the Animal Science Department at Iowa State University (1996) and the Legacy of the Stockman (1985). Dr. Willham was also the guest curator for the "Art About Livestock" exhibition for the 1990 American Society of Animal Science annual meeting. In 1999, he also painted a mural entitled "the Coffee Time Mural," which illustrates the history of animal breeding and genetics.
Dr. Willham belongs to several professional organizations including the American Society of Animal Science and the Beef Improvement Federation. He has also received numerous honors and awards including a National Science Foundation Fellowship, the J.R. Prentice Memorial Award in Animal Breeding and Genetics from the American Society of Animal Science (1978), a Continuing Service Award from the Beef Improvement Federation (1974), and a distinguished service award from the Red Angus Association of America (1981). Dr. Willham was named the recipient of the 2004 Saddle and Sirloin Portrait Award for his outstanding contribution to animal science. A copy of the portrait hangs in the Saddle and Sirloin Club gallery at the Kentucky Fair & Exposition Center in Louisville, Kentucky and in Kildee Hall, Iowa State University.
Dr. Willham married Esther Burkhart (1954); they have two children, Karen and Lee.