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City Boy Majors in Agriculture

Donald J. Stucky

by Debra Marsh, 3/09


Donald J. Stucky found himself an oddity in the 1950s as a city boy majoring in agriculture. “It is my understanding that now the majority of students in colleges of agriculture are from urban areas” said Stucky who grew up in Seattle, Wash.

During high school Stucky had the opportunity to work summers on his uncle’s dryland wheat farm near Ruff, Wash., between Moses Lake and Ritzville. During his senior year, he met with Washington State College (now WSU) Dean of Agriculture, Dean Swenson. After explaining he was interested in agriculture and may end up farming, Swenson encouraged him to pursue a degree in agronomy.

This is an image of Donald Stucky and family.

Donald Stucky and wife Mary seated at a family reunion with their two granddaughters (L-R) Samantha and Ella Stucky. Standing behind are their two grandsons, Eric and Jonathan Humer.

“That was the first time I had heard the term ‘agronomy,’ and it was the area in which I earned all three of my degrees,” said Stucky.

Stucky enrolled at WSC in 1953, graduating with a B.S. in Agronomy in 1957. Since he had also enrolled in ROTC, he then spent two years in the Army before entering graduate school. Stucky received both his M.S. (1961) and Ph.D. (1963) degrees from Purdue University.

After graduation he worked as a research agronomist for Allis Chalmers in Milwaukee, Wis., from 1963–1970. While there, Stucky connected their engineers with professors from Ohio State University and Virginia Polytechnic Institute who were researching a new planting technique to provide a minimum amount of soil disturbance. The collaboration resulted in the industry’s first no-till planter.

Stucky then accepted a position as Assistant Professor in the Plant and Soil Science Department at Southern Illinois University (SIU) in Carbondale where he served 30 years on the faculty, 15 as department chair, before retiring in June, 2001.

At SIU, his research focused on crop production techniques for soybeans and also reclamation practices of surface-mined soils for improved crop development, as well as the feasibility and impact of heavy metals on reclaiming old acidic surface-mined soils with aged sewage from the city of Chicago.

Still, Stucky claims his greatest success is his marriage of 46 years to his wife, Mary. He credits WSU for his teaching success and the encouragement to attend graduate school where he met Mary.

Stucky enjoys his retirement, spending time reading, traveling, taking advantage of SIU activities, and visiting family. He and his wife have two children, Diane and Mike, and four grandchildren. Dedicated grandparents, their highlight each year is taking each grandchild individually on a summer trip with them. They have traveled mainly in the Midwest, but did venture to the east coast on a ‘Patriots’ tour with their oldest grandchild. Stucky has also come full circle in that he and his brother still own a few acres of farm ground near Ruff, where it all started over 50 years ago.