School History | School of Agricultural Sciences | SIU

Southern Illinois University



Old picture of the ag building

School History


The School of Agricultural Sciences at Southern Illinois University has built a strong reputation for teaching, research and service to the citizens of Illinois, the United States, and the world. It's an inspiring story started long ago with the hiring of a single professor to teach agriculture in the Biology Department. We have a great story to tell, and this is how things started ...


The first agriculture teacher, Professor Renzo Muckelroy, was hired in 1910 to teach agriculture and general science in the Biology Department.

In 1911, a 39.3 acre parcel of land known as "Simons Farm" was purchased by the University to form the base for what is now known as "Experimental Farms." The farm system was purchased to provide “hands-on” work and research opportunities for faculty and students.

In 1913, the "Department of Agriculture" was organized by Professor Muckelroy in response to a need for teachers of elementary agriculture courses in rural schools and township high schools in Southern Illinois.


The transition from "Department" to autonomous unit began in 1953 with the upgrading of the department to an independent entity called the "Division of Rural Studies."

In July 1955, the Illinois General Assembly granted Southern Illinois University the authority to award agriculture degrees, and the school made the name change to the "School of Agriculture." Dr. Wendell Keepper was named as the first Dean of the School, and in August of 1955, the first agriculture degrees were awarded.

In 1957, the ceremonial cornerstone for the Agriculture Building was laid in place by Governor William Straton. At the time, there were approximately 22 faculty members, organized into three departments: (1) Animal Industries, (2) Plant Industries, (3) Agricultural Industries (General Agriculture). The Department of Forestry received approval and was added as the fourth department in 1959.


Throughout the years, the College has seen substantial growth in research, teaching and outreach. During the 1970s and 1980s, the College built a reputation for international research and service. In particular, the College became involved with projects in Brazil, Zambia, Pakistan and Russia. Research performed in these areas helped thrust the College into national and international fronts. To date, the College maintains strong international ties. Its faculty and graduates are making great strides with their work throughout the world. As an example, the 2006 World Food Prize recipient, Agronomist Edson Labato, is a Brazilian native and 1973 SIUC graduate whose work has improved living standards in third world countries.


In December 2001, the School of Agriculture changed its name to the "College of Agricultural Sciences" to more accurately reflect its mission and core educational offerings. And in 2005, it celebrated its 50th anniversary.

Today, the School has grown to include a graduate and undergraduate enrollment of nearly 1,000 students and approximately 60 faculty. Our school is home to some of the nation's most productive scientists. Faculty are expanding research into such fields as nutrition and health, specialty crop production, food safety and security, tourism, and the protection and enhancement of the environment. We also maintain close contact with our industry stakeholders, making certain we are equipping our graduates with the skills they will need to launch into successful careers. Supporting the students and faculty is a diverse group of administrative professionals, civil servants, researchers, instructors and graduate assistants that continue to bring acclaim and recognition to the school. Our 2,000 acre farm system provides students with opportunities to obtain "hands-on, real world" experience. And we are proud of our 10,000+ alumni who serve in leadership positions throughout the nation and around the world.

We are the School of Agricultural Sciences at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, and we are "more than meets the eye!"

You can find additional information regarding the School of Agricultural Sciences at the following links: