The Jordan College of Agricultural Sciences and Technology
Jordan College Dean History
Although “Fresno State” opened its doors in 1911 as Fresno State Normal School, agricultural programs were not a formal program of study as was teacher education, its primary purpose. Rather, agriculture was viewed as a training endeavor/unit that provided much need service to citizens of the central valley as well as to post high school graduates who were involved and/or employed in farming operations.
Until formal recognition of agriculture in higher education years later, a position of dean did not exist.
In the early decades, agricultural related training fell under the management of a department or division director. In the first 100 years of Fresno State, only six deans provided direction for agricultural programs and later included Home Economics, Child and Family Studies as well as Industrial Arts and Technology.
In the early years, programmatic deans were non-existent, and ag-related courses were combined with biology and managed by an assigned Director.
Ag was a string of training courses in the early years, then a program, part of a shared department, then a stand-alone department, to a division, to a school and lastly, a college. At this writing two Directors were noted, George Graves, followed by Culbertson until Egan arrived.
The following deans paved the way for what the Jordan College of Agricultural Sciences and Technology is today since the initial appointment of its first dean in 1947.
E. A. Egan (1947-1951)
The first Agriculture Department Dean was hired by Foundation Ag Advisory Board and appointed by the campus President McLane. Dean Egan was recruited from the Cal Poly San Luis Obispo campus, bringing valued academic and farm program experiences to the Fresno campus. Dean Egan developed and proposed in-depth academic and curriculum plans during his short time as dean. He was instrumental for the early foundation of ag program successes, farm development and Ag Foundation auxiliary units. Under his leadership, Dean Egan hired the first large group of college faculty who proved to be the long-time pillars and pioneers of today’s ag programs. Many of these men did more than teach. They toiled laboriously to turn an army air field unit into operational farm units for its students and to better serve the needs of the San Joaquin Valley. They actively engaged students to be a part of this endeavor which proved to be a huge stepping stone towards the future instructional farm operation that was relocated to the current campus in the mid 1960’s. Eagan submitted his resignation as dean in mid 1951 to accept an ag industry position, Producer’s Cotton Oil. History states that his decision was based on continual bureaucracy at the State legislative level regarding matters that truly mattered for the progression of the ag programs and farm operations at Fresno State. He continued to be involved with the programs at Fresno State by serving on its Agricultural Foundation Board, as a member and then as its President (mid 1970s).
Lloyd Dowler (1951-1969)
Holding MS and BS degrees from the University of Wyoming, Dowler joined Fresno State College in 1948 as an ag instructor (poultry expertise). Upon the resignation of Dean Egan, Dowler was immediately appointed by then FSC President Arnold Joyal. Through the successful efforts of several of his faculty colleagues, his noted the need to continue partnerships with the central valley’s communities and ag industries. He continued Dean Egan’s program building and paved the way for long-term relations that continue to affect today’s programs, majors and on-going interactions with generations of friends and alumni. He remained very involved with the students, area schools and community through activity such as regional fairs and formally linking the Future Farmers of America (FFA) organization with the campus. It was under his leadership that State FFA activity was conducted on campus. Another major partnership that the School embarked upon in 1969 was the California Agricultural Leadership Program, one that continues today. California universities with agricultural programs actively participate over 40 years. It is through the program’s Board of Directors and through the generosity of the JG Boswell Foundation that resources are provided to conduct an annual selection of a class of ag industry individuals who demonstrated a keen desire to pursue leadership careers in agriculture. Each year’s class of approximately 40 diverse individuals received two-years of leadership training at all levels: state, nation and international. Dowler and the 3rd dean, Burger, were involved in securing California’s future state ag leaders (i.e., from business to politicians). In 1969, Dean Emeritus Dowler stepped down from this position and retreated back into academia in the field of Agricultural Education. Prior to his retirement in 1978, Dean Emeritus Dowler embarked on capturing a part of the School’s history through the publication of A History of the Growth and Development of AGRICULTURE at California State University, Fresno 1911-1984. In the 1980’s, a fundraiser under the leadership of the fourth dean, Dr. Charles Smallwood, resulted in the development of the Dowler-Ilg Agricultural Education Building (Chestnut/Barstow NW) which is still used today to house California Department of Education projects related to College programs. Service years 1948-1978
O. J. Burger (1969-1978)
Burger was appointed during an era of unrest, during the Vietnam war and the hippie periods. His nine-year leadership followed 22 years of major programmatic development, and he served as a professor after his tenure of dean from 1978-1982. Dean Emeritus Burger embarked on a period of additional personnel to meet the needs of an expanding unit, an umbrella housing a unique and diverse network of departments and ag enterprises. One of the College’s prominent, long-lived event was created under Dean Burger’s leadership, it was the School’s first Honors Convocation (1969, name then). It was a unique effort on campus to provide individual year-end recognition for its graduating class as well as recognize the outstanding teaching effectiveness of one of its faculty, all in the presence of family, friends and the campus community. Little was it known back in 1969 that the Honors Convocation format would duplicated by other schools in the late 1990’s into the 21st Century. Of course, this did not replace the University’s official Commencement.
Charles M. Smallwood (1972-1992)
A national search for the School of Agricultural Sciences and Technology resulted in the appointment of the Dean Smallwood, appointed by President Harold H. Haak. He was instrumental in the School’s international exchange programs, formal recognition of faculty involved with farm enterprises, and establishment of the California Agricultural Technology Institute (CATI) to name a few. Dean Smallwood joined Fresno State when it was embarking on a major academic reorganization. Under his leadership, the school was no longer specific to agriculture. Two departments departed the soon to be dissolved School of Professional Studies. These units were the Department of Home Economics and Family Studies (1978) and the Department of Industrial Arts and Industrial Technology (1980). The School name actually changed twice while he served as dean. The first change was the School of Agriculture and Home Economics (SAHE). The last change resulted in the School of Agricultural Sciences and Technology (SAST) but not the last in the school’s history. Dean Smallwood was instrumental in seeking the University Farm Laboratory (farm enterprises) first major capital improvement along Ag Row (Barstow Avenue), ground breaking took place in 1991. He was extremely instrumental in the many developments and accomplishments of the national Association of State Colleges of Agriculture and Renewable Resources and played a valued role within the California State Board of Food and Agriculture. He paved the way to keep California agriculture in the forefront of his colleagues across the USA. To build awareness and educate Valley high school and junior college students and to strengthen student enrollment in agriculture at Fresno State during the 1980s, he initiated a self-supporting and definitely major School outreach management plan, a long standing School slogan, “Join the Leader,” was launched and it continues to be a part of outreach efforts today. It also resulted in the on-going appointment of an outreach coordinator that remains in place, an action that began to appear other schools in 2000 and beyond primarily due to budget reductions and constraints that appeared in the 1990’s. In the 21st Century, each school/college would be assigned a university outreach staff person. It is important to convey that the School’s family of faculty, staff and students led by example and serve as a first on numerous occasions, for many endeavor over its long history, very fitting of the eventual slogan! In the public and academic arenas, Dean Emeritus Smallwood was a highly revered dean of agriculture throughout the State and nation and continue through the Smallwood endowment benefiting the College and students today. Retirement after 13 years arrived in the summer of 1992 (deceased November 2006). PhD and MS Texas A & M University (animal sciences/husbandry), BS Oklahoma State University
Dr. Daniel P. Bartell (1992-2006)
A national search resulted in the appointment by second-year President John D. Welty of of the Dean Bartell, who had received his PhD degree from the University of Kentucky (entomology), master's degree from Purdue University, and bachelor's degree from Eastern Illinois University. In direct opposite of Dean Egan, he, as did other campus deans, had the unfortunate immediate task of downsizing operations and personnel due to severe state budget cuts and enrollment reductions. He had to task of sustaining what resources it had and then rebuilding the school over the next 14 years. During his tenure, restructuring took place, the farm was renovated, over 25 faculty were recruited by 2006, brought attention to the national level about the timely research faculty endeavors and the College’s academic programs. He also was successful in securing faculty endowments (i.e. JG Boswell Professor of Agronomy), recruiting a Director/Chair for the Viticulture and Enology Research Center and Department (an industry supported position its 1st 10 years), recruiting a permanent Director for the University Agricultural Laboratory following a 10-year internal attrition cycle. Under his leadership State and/or augmentations were noted for the College’s California Agricultural Technology Institute (CATI) and farm operations. State resources, $4 million annually, were awarded in support of the newly created CSU Agricultural Research Initiative (ARI) regulated by a Chancellor C. Reed and its Board of Governors, yet housed within this College at Fresno State. ARI resulted in California ag universities partnering more frequently and integration of campus programs and unit personnel to achieve timely project results. ARI provided a solid source of faculty release time and an opportunity for student employment with faculty research projects. He was instrumental in working with the ABC to obtain approval in 1999 for the campus winery to be the first U.S. institution of higher education to afford its students the ability to commercially grow, produce, bottle and sell award winning wines. Other efforts to reorganize and align academic programs to meet industry demands included establishing the Department of Viticulture and Enology and recruiting a Director/Chair supported by industry resources to oversee the Viticulture and Enology Research Center. The agricultural academic programs changed their name under his leadership in 1999 to School of Agricultural Sciences and Technology. Additionally, he participated in the enhancement of the Ag One Foundation endowment program that set the stage for Fresno State colleges/schools to each add a development officer to its team; and commenced the college’s direction in the university’s Campaign for Excellence through major fund raising efforts (I.e. IFNI). He worked diligently with the American Association of State Colleges of Agriculture and Renewable Resources (AASCARR) to keep the College in the forefront of membership. He was selected to serve as its President and later on a Board, in addition to agreeing to host its annual national meeting on two occasions. In June 2006, he concluded his role as dean and commenced a semester leave followed by serving in Washington, D.C. as an intern-type role assisting offices within USDA and AASCU contacts. He followed by a one-year leave and one semester within the Department of Plant Science before retiring in December 2007. He continued to stay active within the community, of which serving on the Board for the Community Food Bank remained foremost on his plate during a time of another economic downturn for many families within the San Joaquin Valley.
Charles Boyer (2006-14)
Charles Boyer was chosen at the Jordan College dean after serving as associate dean and associate director of the Oregon State University Agricultural Experiment Station, and professor and head of its Department of Horticulture. In prior academic posts, he had served as chairman of the Pennsylvania State University Intercollege Graduate Program in Genetics and professor of plant breeding and genetics in its Department of Horticulture. That university also awarded him his master's degree and PhD degrees. In addition, Boyer served as a visiting professor at the University of Florida Department of Vegetable Crops, Rutgers University Department of Horticulture assistant professor, UC Davis Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics postdoctoral scholar and Eastern Oregon UniversityDepartment of Biology laboratory instructor. His successful tenure at Fresno State included the largest donation in California State University history, $29.4 million, which led to the building of the $24 million Jordan Agricultural Research Center. The 30,000-square foot, three story facility fosters collaboration between some of the brightest minds in agriculture, engineering, science and mathematics. Joining with Fresno State’s Strategic Plan for Excellence, the Jordan College also established programs with global reach, including the ADAPT (Agricultural Development for Afghanistan Pre-deployment Training University) program, which taught relevant agricultural practices to U.S. government and military personnel headed overseas to help local citizens with agricultural needs.
Sandra Witte (2014-2019)
With 38 years serving in various capacities at the University, Witte was appointed as the interim Dean starting in December 2014, and then was named the Jordan College dean in March 2016 through July 2019. The college saw its enrollment increase from its seven departments increase to record levels in the fall of 2015 (2,516), more than double the figure from 10 years before (1,203). The college also celebrated the opening of the $24 million Jordan Agricultural Research Center in May 2016 and the opening of the Bee Sweet Citrus Fresh Fruit Packing Line in February 2017. She previously held roles in the college as associate dean, dietetic program director, and food science and nutrition faculty member and department chair since she started on campus in in 1981. She also previously served in leadership roles as the executive director of Fresno State Programs for Children from 2012 to 2018 and as the interim dean of the Division of Graduate Studies from 2013 to 2014. She had been a Registered Dietitian since 1975 and had more than 15 years of dietetics practice experience primarily in medical nutrition therapy before coming to Fresno State. Her areas of expertise include applied nutrition and medical nutrition therapy. Dr. Witte received her Bachelor of Science Foods and Nutrition degree at from California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, in 1973; completed her Dietetic Internship at the University of California Hospitals and Clinics, San Francisco, California in 1974; and added a master's degree in Nutrition and Dietetics from Fresno State (1981) and PhD degree in Food Systems Management from Oregon State University (1992).
Dennis Nef (2019-2022)
Dennis Nef, accepted an appointment as the Jordan College dean on July 1, 2019 and successfully guided the College through a host of key updates and the budget, staffing and teaching challenges COVID-19 pandemic before returning to an Agricultural Business Department professor role in August 2022.
The two decades prior, Nef had served key University leadership roles as its vice provost from 2014 through 2019, associate vice president from 2011 to 2014, and dean of undergraduate studies from 2003-11. He also served as the interim provost for five months in 2009.
During the prior 20 years with the Jordan College of Agricultural Sciences and Technology, his leadership skills were well utilized as the Jordan College’s acting dean for one year from 1997 to 1998, and eight years as its associate dean from 1995 to 2003. He also served five years as the agricultural economics department chair and became a faculty member in 1982. His areas of teaching and research expertise included agricultural policy and land, natural resource, trade and water economics.
Among his many Jordan College accomplishments, he co-chaired the President’s Commission on the Future of Agriculture that released a report in 2014 outlining new academic and outreach opportunities to better connect the college and University with the nation’s leading agricultural area.
Rolston St. Hilaire (2022-present)
Assuming the role of Jordan College dean on September 15, 2022, Dr. Rolston St. Hilaire brought an impressive background tied to academic excellence, research, urban and agricultural water conservation, and community and industry support.
St. Hilaire previously spent 24 years in the Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences at New Mexico State University. He had served as chair since June 2016, while overseeing the extension department since 2021.
St. Hilaire was named a Regents Professor, New Mexico State’s highest faculty award, in 2020 for his outstanding contributions and service. Under his leadership, the department increased its student recruitment, enrollment, mentorship and retention, as well as faculty support, research and fundraising efforts.
He received New Mexico State’s Research Discovery Award, for his nationally known urban environmental water conservation efforts. As a faculty member, he taught classes tied to environmental plant biology, ornamental plants and landscape design, irrigation and maintenance.
Dr. St. Hilaire’s research in Las Cruces led to 187 published articles, including 54 peer-reviewed journal articles and one book. His expertise includes ornamental plant development, plant stress physiology, water conservation, mapping urban land cover, and advanced sensing techniques to optimize resource use in cropping systems. He has secured millions in grants and contracts to support his research and teaching, and holds the patent on the bigtooth maple cultivar Acer grandidentatum ‘JFS-NuMex 3’, commercially available as the Mesa Glow bigtooth maple.
St. Hilaire fostered the development of the Southwest Harvest for Health program that partnered Extension master gardener programs and an area cancer center.
He is an American Society for Horticultural Science fellow after serving as a national board of directors member and former vice president of its international division. He is also a a state board of landscape architects member and former chair.
Among his other 15 awards tied to teaching, research, or leadership including the Distinguished Teaching Award, the Distinguished Research Award from the College of ACES, the Patricia Christmore Teaching Award, the Intellectual Property Award from NMSU, and the Distinguished Leadership Award from the New Mexico Chapter of the American Society for Landscape Architects.