• Volume 14  Number 3 Fall 2005


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International farmer flourishes as author
Leon Hesser's 2004 book chronicles the journey through life of a pair of Hoosiers, still busy giving back to society.
Leon Hesser's 2004 book chronicles the journey through life of a pair of Hoosiers, still busy giving back to society.

Leon Hesser, BS '58, MS '60, PhD'62, doesn't spend much time lounging around in lawn chairs at the Naples, Fla., home that he shares with Florence, his wife of 59 years.

Instead, Hesser's main concentration these days is to complete the biography he's writing for a long-time friend and Nobel Peace Prize winner, Norman Borlaug. After reading Hesser's 2004 book, Nurture the Heart, Feed the World, Borlaug was so impressed with Hesser's writing that he asked him to do his biography.

"I want to get it completed because Norman said he would like to see it while he's still here," Hesser says of his 91-year-old friend. "Dr. Borlaug told me at his age he doesn't buy green bananas anymore because he doesn't want to wait on them to ripen!"

Hesser and Borlaug (the featured speaker at the 2003 Purdue Ag Alumni Fish Fry) are planning a 2006 release for the biography, which will be titled, Norman Borlaug: His Battle to End World Hunger.

The biography will be the third book Hesser has written after his four-decade career promoting agriculture around the world. In addition to Nurture the Heart, Feed the World, Hesser wrote a historical evaluation of Indiana's early agricultural beginnings, The Taming of the Wilderness: Indiana's Transition from Indian Hunting Grounds to Hoosier Farmland: 1800 to 1875, released in 2002.

UnretiredHesser's early career gave no hint he would become an author. As a teen, he served in the U.S. Army in the Philippines during World War II, and he was one of the youngest people to be awarded both the Combat Infantry and the Combat Medic medals. Upon his return to Indiana, he and Florence were married in 1946 and began their lives as farmers near Winchester, Ind.

It wasn't until age 30 that Hesser entered Purdue University as a freshman. Despite the challenges of having two children and having given up farm life, Hesser earned a dual Bachelor of Science degree in 1958 in agricultural economics and agribusiness. He earned his master's in 1960, and his doctorate in 1962, both in agricultural economics.

While working on his master's, Hesser accompanied Lowell Hardin, who was then head of the Department of Agricultural Economics, to Japan in 1960. With Hesser's previous military experience in the Far East, Hardin found him to be very helpful as they worked on a

Unretired continued on next page