Students return to celebrate Randel’s 80th birthday

Dr. Rick Rhodes, environment and life sciences dean at the University of Rhode Island (left) and Dr. Ron Randel, Texas A&M AgriLife Research animal physiologist, Overton, at Randel’s 80th birthday celebration. (Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service photo by Adam Russell)

OVERTON – Dr. Rick Rhodes, environment and life sciences dean at the University of Rhode Island, journeyed to Overton late in May to celebrate the 80th birthday of the man who put him on track as a graduate student in 1978 – Dr. Ron Randel. 

Rhodes was one of more than 20 of Randel’s former graduate students and student interns who traveled from around the state and country to attend the birthday celebration and catch up with their mentor.

Rhodes counts Randel, a Texas A&M AgriLife Research animal physiologist based at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center in Overton, as a consummate mentor who has created a ripple effect within his research field and the application of reproductive animal physiology science.

“Dr. Randel really saved my life,” he said. “He took a kid who didn’t know what he wanted to do and was the guy who helped me find what I was going to spend the rest of my life doing.”

Rhodes was the first doctoral recipient who studied under Randel, who has since then guided 83 post-graduate students, including 47 masters and 33 doctoral graduates. He also noted Randel had produced more than 1,000 papers for science publications during his career.

Rhodes, in turn, has advised 60 graduate students, and some of his former students sit in leadership or administrative positions within academia and industry.

“It really does create a ripple effect that gains momentum,” Rhodes said. “Ron has a special talent that brings out the best in students who have potential. He helped me flourish academically and intellectually, and that translated to successes in the classroom and in the field. I hope to be half the mentor for my students that he was for me.”

Dr. Charles Long, the Overton center’s resident director, said Randel has had a tremendous impact on animal agriculture in Texas, the U.S. and the world.

“His research and teaching will continue to enhance global cattle production for a very long time,” Long said. “He just turned 80; he hasn’t stopped working.”

Randel advanced to full professor in 1978 and was named a Faculty Fellow and a Regents Fellow in 1999, a Senior Faculty Fellow in 2005, and an American Society of Animal Science Fellow in 2007. He was designated a distinguished alumnus of both Washington State University and Purdue University.

He received the society’s Physiology and Endocrinology Award in 1996 and was recipient of the 2012 L.E. Casida Award for excellence in graduate education in physiology and endocrinology.

Randel said it was a wonderful surprise to be visited by so many former students.

“One of the most enjoyable aspects of my work at Overton has been working with graduate students and undergraduate interns,” Randel said. “It is extremely gratifying to see students you’ve mentored become exceedingly successful in their careers in academia, research, extension or industry.

“This has been one of the best experiences an 80-year-old professor could have; when students gather from all corners to reminisce with their fellows as well as the old guy.”

 

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