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Animal science professor named 2015 Distinguished Teacher

April 22, 2015

Gary Onan, professor of animal science at UW-River Falls, has been named the 2015 Distinguished Teacher. Chosen by graduating seniors and recent graduates, the distinguished teaching recipients represent talented and caring educators–teachers who make a difference. It is the highest award bestowed on the UWRF campus.

Onan is a native of Amherst, Wisconsin. and earned his degrees at UW-Madison, including a doctorate in meat science and muscle biology. He came to UWRF in 1997 and has taught at least 10 different classes ranging from biometrics to animal physiology and swine production. The animal science program is the second largest program on campus and Onan is the academic advisor for more than 60 students at a time. In 2010, he was elected chair of the animal and food science department and was reelected in 2013.

For 14 years, Onan has served as the advisor to the Association of Women in Agriculture club on campus. He has also coached several UWRF livestock judging teams, and coordinates the UWRF academic quadrathlon team that competes each year at the Midwest meeting of the American Society of Animal Science. He has supervised numerous undergraduate research projects, including some within the McNair Scholars Program and has mentored students who are acting as the manager for one of the animal enterprises on the UWRF Mann Valley Farm.

Comments from the nomination letters submitted by recent graduates included:

“Without a research experience, getting into graduate school becomes a tougher task, so I really appreciate the fact that Onan was so willing to work on research with his already full schedule of activities.”

“He goes way above and beyond his teaching appointment to make sure that students in the animal and food science department have a good experience during their college career.”

“He understands that teaching is more than just teaching a subject but rather molding a student into a successful individual. Onan has personally affected my life and made me a better individual with great integrity.”

“The part I liked most about his classes was how he made them applicable to our lives. He was so good at explaining the ‘why’ it was important to us.”
In 2006, Onan was honored by his colleagues in the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences (CAFES) with the CAFES Outstanding Teacher Award. He is highly sought after as a judge for county and regional fairs and often serves in that capacity for 15-18 fairs during the summer. For his support and assistance with livestock judging, he received the 2014 Friend of the County Agent Award from the Wisconsin Association of County Agricultural Agents.

He is a member of the American Society of Animal Science, the American Registry of Professional Animal Scientists and earned the Professional Animal Scientist designation in 2006.

In the international arena, Onan has served as a mentor in the Romanian Young Visiting Scientist Program and recently led a group of students to Nicaragua as part of a study tour in collaboration with the Universidad Nacional Agraria.

Onan has been awarded a Fulbright Scholarship for spring 2016, when he will travel to Banat University in Romania. He will continue his collaboration with his Romanian counterparts by helping them develop effective delivery systems for dissemination of agricultural technical information to both students in agricultural disciplines and to agricultural producers in Western Romania.

As the 2015 Distinguished Teacher, Onan will deliver the fall commencement address in December.

For more information, email laura.walsh@uwrf.edu or call 425-3535.