Jack Whittier is the director of the University of Nebraska Panhandle Research and Extension Center, Scottsbluff. Whittier is approaching his sixth year of service as director.
Whittier grew up in the “Ag Valley” of Northeast Utah outside the rural town of Morgan, where the 9,706-foot Thurston Peak stretches toward the beautiful Utah sky in the distance.
“It was like growing up in Mayberry,’” Whittier said. Mayberry was a fictional, idyllic town made famous on the Andy Griffith Show that aired from 1960-1968. Mayberry represented everything good about America. Whittier had a good upbringing in the idyllic community and area of Morgan, Utah. There in the tranquil community of Morgan, Whittier was raised with four siblings under the “loving nurture of his parents.”
What led Whittier to a career in agricultural education?
“I love animals, had a good FFA adviser and 4-H educator in high school, and my parents believed in education.” Whittier said.
These things worked together to motivate and encourage him to earn his Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts degree at Utah State University, Logan, Utah. Then after a few years of applying his education in range management and beef cattle management, Whittier was encouraged by two close mentors to pursue his doctorate degree at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, where he earned his doctorate in ruminant nutrition.
“I would not have pursued a doctorate degree but for the love, respect and encouragement of my mentors,” he said.
He spent 19 years on the animal science faculty at Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado, before coming to the Panhandle Research Center. Whittier thought he would spend his entire career at Colorado State, but then two fellow scientists encouraged him to look at the director opening at the Panhandle Research and Extension Center.
“The further I got into the application process, the more right it felt,” Whittier said with a smile.
Going from being a professor in academia to administration was more challenging than expected, Whittier commented.
Whittier has adapted well to his new role and stage in his long and successful career.
“I love Scottsbluff and the area,” he said.
He is interested in all aspects of agriculture, especially animal husbandry. He also enjoys learning about crops.
“My love for agriculture is broad, but I especially like beef cattle, and I’m now learning a lot about crops and crop management,” Whittier said.
Whittier brings to the Research and Extension Center love for agriculture, high education, seasoned experience, competency, passion, and, especially, a heartfelt desire to “make the best better.”
“I want to create an environment where they can succeed, then get out of their way and let them. I want to help them like others helped me on my journey. I want to do the same for everyone who works at the center,” he said.
His main objective as director is to improve others within his sphere of influence.
Whittier is proud of many things in his life and career, but none top his faith and family.
“I have a strong faith in Christ and deep love for my family,” Whittier said. His wife and two sons (and late daughter) are blessed with a humble and loving husband and father, as are the personnel he directs at the Center.
His humility extends beyond his family to others as well, even to his many accomplishments, like his co-development of the revolutionary Co-Synch.
Co-Synch is a protocol that “synchronizes the estrogen cycle of cows,” Whittier explained. It helps bring cows into heat at the same time so they can be bred about the same time and, hopefully, calve at the same time. All this is a great benefit to beef producers.
Whittier’s personal interests are his “family, leather work, and herd of cows,” he said. He enjoys leather work, like making belts, book covers, purses and other things. Whittier’s leather working skill even earned him purple ribbons at the 2019 Scotts Bluff County fair. He plans to enter the fair again.
Whittier’s advice for others – “Keep up the good work.” He wants the public to know that the UNL Panhandle Research and Extension Center is “Here to help. We’re the people’s University.”