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Advancement Notes

Agronomy legend leaves land-grant legacy

By MEGAN MADIA

How do we honor a man who meant so much to the College of Agriculture? Oscar “Ozzie” Luetkemeier was a man with questions, so it seems fitting to start with one in recalling his life and his career at Purdue.

Raised in Knox County, Indiana, on an 80-acre family farm, Luetkemeier graduated from Edwardsport High School and headed to West Lafayette to begin his college education at Purdue. He enrolled in agricultural chemistry, unsure if he would make it, but his interest in plants and soils kept him going. He then decided to focus on agronomy, a decision that helped shape his future. He earned a bachelor’s degree in 1942 and entered a master’s program in agronomy, studying heavy fertilization of crops and researching corn, sugar beets and tomatoes.

Since opening in 1949, the Agronomy Center for Research and Education has been under the direction of just two men. Ozzie Luetkemeier (right) ran the farm until turning it over to Jim Beaty in 1986. They were together for this photo in 2007 and were colleagues and great friends until Luetkemeier died on Oct. 8, 2010.

Photo by Tom Campbell

Since opening in 1949, the Agronomy Center for Research and Education has been under the direction of just two men. Ozzie Luetkemeier (right) ran the farm until turning it over to Jim Beaty in 1986. They were together for this photo in 2007 and were colleagues and great friends until Luetkemeier died on Oct. 8, 2010.

In the middle of his studies, Luetkemeier was called to serve in the Navy as an electrician’s mate in the Pacific during World War II. He witnessed the five Marines and the Navy corpsman raising the U.S. flag on Iwo Jima.

After serving for three years, Luetkemeier returned to Purdue and completed his master’s degree in 1949. In the right place at the right time, he applied for the job of superintendent at the new agronomy farm.

Many people knew Luetkemeier for his enthusiasm and passion for his job. From 1949 to 1986, he grew the farm from a 374-acre general-purpose farm to a 714-acre outdoor lab, helping create one of the best research facilities in the nation.

Today, the agronomy farm, now known as the Purdue Agronomy Center for Research and Education, is more than 900 acres. Jim Beaty, who has been superintendent since Luetkemeier’s retirement, remembers his predecessor as an honorable man, passionate about his work.

“We had a bond and an understanding that I will forever remember and cherish but miss greatly,” Beaty said. “He was a stickler for straight rows and square plots, a stickler for straight plowing and measuring to the exact center of the field before plowing. A measuring tape and tall white field stakes were probably his most notable farm tools.”

Luetkemeier’s years of research and service to Purdue and agronomy earned him many awards. He received the Purdue Agricultural Alumni Association’s Certificate of Distinction in 1978 and the Frederick L. Hovde Award for Excellence in Educational Service to Rural People of Indiana in 1983.

More recently, he received the Agronomic Achievement Award in 2006 for his dedication and service to agriculture and for being an ambassador for the Department of Agronomy.

In 2007, Luetkemeier was named one of the Purdue Legends of Agronomy in the inaugural class.

“Ozzie’s awards were a reflection of his passion, not a goal in particular,” Beaty said.

As we remember Luetkemeier’s career, we also remember his life outside of agronomy. He was a dedicated member of Immanuel United Church of Christ, where he served as elder and deacon, taught Sunday school and sang in the choir. He cheered on the Boilermakers at many sporting events and attended concerts and theater performances.

The farm was his home. He loved growing plants like gladioli, irises and many other varieties, according to Beaty.

“Ozzie wanted to be able to bring a bouquet of flowers into the house any day during the summer,” Beaty said.

Luetkemeier’s family has established a memorial honoring his Purdue legacy. Contributions to the Oscar Luetkemeier Memorial will support the Agronomy Center for Research and Education and the beautification of the grounds.

Contact the Agricultural Advancement Office for more information
at 800-718-0094 or agdevelopment@purdue.edu


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