The first instruction in poultry at the Pennsylvania State College was provided in 1895 by Professor of Agriculture George C. Watson, who taught part of a five-hour weekly lecture course in Animal Industry.

Poultry HistoryProfessor Watson published a textbook titled Farm Poultry in 1901. T. I. Mairs, who was named assistant professor of animal industry in 1902, taught poultry husbandry from 1907 to 1909. In 1908, J. W. Clark was the first Penn State professor to be appointed instructor in poultry husbandry, followed by H. W. Jackson, 1909-1912; D. E. Warner, 1912-1913; M. C. Kilpatrick, 1912-1914; F. B. Crooks, 1914-1918; and L. G. Kleindschmidt, 1915-1919. On September 15, 1916, Professor H. C. Knandel instituted the Poultry Extension Department.

The Department of Poultry Husbandry was subsequently established at Penn State on July 1, 1920, by Professor Knandel, who served as the department head until 1944. He established a full course of undergraduate study in poultry husbandry, as well as an annual eight-week poultry short course. During his administration, several laying and colony houses were built for research and student instruction, culminating on October 27, 1938, with the dedication of a large new service building and instructional laying house. The Penn State poultry farm at that time represented an investment of approximately $200,000. In 1958, a separate turkey research farm was constructed.

Professor Ernest W. "Beanie" Callenbach was named department head in 1944 and served until 1957, when he was succeeded by Dr. Arthur J. G. Maw. During Dr. Maw's administration, the Department of Poultry Husbandry became part of the Division of Animal Science and Industry along with the Departments of Animal Science, Dairy Science, Entomology, and Veterinary Science. In 1963, the Department of Poultry Husbandry was renamed the Department of Poultry Science.

In 1966, Dr. Kenneth Goodwin assumed the poultry science department's headship. In that same year, poultry extension was integrated into the department, and the poultry husbandry curriculum became part of a newly established animal science and industry curriculum. Poultry science was made a cooperative member of a new Division of Food Science and Industry, which included dairy science, animal science, and horticulture.

When a separate Department of Food Science was created in 1976, the animal industry curriculum was replaced by separate curricula offered in the Departments of Dairy and Animal Science, Veterinary Science, and Poultry Science. These three departments participated in the newly formed animal bioscience curriculum. In 1978, since faculty members were supervising most of their doctoral students in the intercollege graduate programs established in physiology, nutrition, genetics, and ecology, the Ph.D. program in poultry science was discontinued.

Dr. Herbert S. Siegel became head of the Department of Poultry Science in 1984. Plans were already under way to obtain funding to build the Agricultural Sciences and Industries Building, including new greenhouses; remodel and expand the dairy research farm; and to construct of a new poultry research facility. Contracts were approved in 1991, and construction of the Poultry Education and Research Center (PERC) began in 1992 and was completed in 1995.

Dr. William D. Weaver Jr., who was named head of the department in 1991, provided oversight during the construction of the PERC. He also established Research Check-Off Programs with the Pennsylvania poultry industry. Advisory committees guide the Egg and Broiler Research Check-Off Programs from the industry. Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences faculty are invited to submit proposals for research funds based on priority areas determined by the advisory committees. This continues to be a very important cooperative effort between industry and Penn State faculty.

Following Dr. Weaver's retirement in August of 1998, Dr. R. Michael Hulet was appointed as Interim department head. He served admirably in this capacity for one year while continuing to carry out his extension and research programs.

On August 1, 1999, Dr. Robert G. Elkin joined the department as professor and head. An alumnus of Penn State (B.S. in Animal Science with distinction; 1975), Bob brought new ideas to the department which, at that time, was one of only seven remaining Poultry Science Departments in the United States. Because the other six departments were located primarily in the southeastern U.S. and focused on meat birds, while Pennsylvania was located at the eastern end of America’s “Egg Belt” where approximately 40% of the nation’s eggs are produced by four states (Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, and Iowa), he sought to shift the department research focus towards reproduction. As a result, over the next decade, and partially through a joint College Reproductive Biology Initiative with the former Department of Dairy & Animal Science, several new Poultry Science faculty members were recruited who had expertise in neuroendocrinology, reproductive biology, and avian biology.

Dr. Elkin continued to further industry and alumni relations while seeking to increase student recruiting efforts, undergraduate and graduate scholarship support, foster diversity within the department, identify new international opportunities for students and faculty, and enhance the departmental teaching, research, and extension programs. For example, one of these new initiatives was the formation of a Poultry Science Affiliate Program Group (APG). An APG is a group of alumni and friends of Penn State who share a common interest in enhancing the programs of an academic department or another university organization. Other new programs Dr. Elkin helped to initiate included an annual Poultry Science APG football tailgate, development of an agricultural Spanish course in conjunction with the Department of Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese, and co-sponsorship of animal science undergraduate international Poultry Science Study Tours to the Netherlands (2010) and Germany (2014). Since the undergraduate Poultry Technology and Management major was discontinued in 1999, Dr. Elkin led the efforts to establish a Minor in Poultry and Avian Science (PAS) in order to: (1) fill the void of a poultry-centered curriculum at Penn State; and (2) to continue to qualify for precious student recruiting funds from the U.S. Poultry & Egg Association. Since the PAS Minor’s inception in 2005, 116 students have graduated with an average grade-point average of approximately 3.30. Dr. Elkin also was involved in helping to transition the former Maryland Nutrition Conference to a multi-university Mid-Atlantic Nutrition Conference in the early 2000s and over his 13 years as Department Head, stewarded a number of endowed scholarships, as well as the Norris Faculty Fellowship in Poultry Nutrition and the Walther H. Ott Professorship in Avian Biology.

The Penn State Poultry Science history poster was presented at the Centennial Meeting of the Poultry Science Association in July 2008. As part of the celebration of the Association's 100 years, academic departments and other organizations were asked to submit a poster highlighting key people and events in the history of the unit. The posters were shown on flat screen monitors in a continuous 30-second loop at the annual meeting, which was held in Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada, from July 20-23, 2008. Each registrant was provided with a CD containing all of the posters.

On July 1, 2012, the Departments of Dairy and Animal Science and Poultry Science merged to create the Department of Animal Science as part of the College of Agricultural Sciences Ag Futures process. Dr. Terry D. Etherton was named as the head of the new department and a new chapter in the history of the poultry science program at Penn State was launched.

Department of Animal Science

Address

335 ASI Building
University Park, PA 16802
Directions

Department of Animal Science

Address

335 ASI Building
University Park, PA 16802
Directions