Iowa State University's first professor of animal husbandry who went on to become Dean of Agriculture and left a legacy of outstanding livestock judging teams and one of the nation's first cooperative extension services.
1863-1946 | Artist: Robert Wadsworth Grafton (1876-1936)
Impact & Accomplishments
Charles Curtiss was raised on a farm ten miles from the Iowa State College campus. He earned his bachelor’s degree there in 1887, joined the faculty in 1891, and completed his master’s in 1894, earning one of the earliest graduate degrees awarded at the school.
Curtiss quickly expanded the agriculture program by developing a four-year curriculum and publishing volumes to document the school’s research. He was named the school’s first professor of animal husbandry in 1896.
When James “Tama Jim” Wilson left Iowa State to become U. S. Secretary of Agriculture, Curtiss was chosen to take his place as Director of the Experiment Station and Dean of Agriculture. Dean Curtiss served until his retirement in 1932.
During his thirty years as dean, Iowa State developed one of the nation’s first cooperative extension services, established a tremendous livestock judging legacy, exhibited multiple grand champions, and introduced soybeans and alfalfa to Iowa.
Dean Curtiss was president of the American Society of Animal Nutrition and the International Live Stock Exposition. A prominent livestock judge, he bred Clydesdale horses, Shorthorn cattle, Southdown sheep, and Berkshire hogs on his Rockwood Farm.
Did You Know?
Among his many other monumental contributions, the most important was described by C. L. Burlingham, a student, at the dinner held at the Saddle and Sirloin Club in 1925 when the dean's portrait was hung. He said, "Dean Curtiss instilled in us the dignity of agriculture. He taught us to spell Agriculture with a capital 'A'."
Dean Curtiss in his office at Iowa State University. Photo credit: Iowa State University