Purdue University's first dean of the school of agriculture.
1874-1942 | Artist: Robert Wadsworth Grafton (1876-1936)
Impact & Accomplishments
The first dean of the school of agriculture at Purdue University, serving from 1907 to 1939, John Harrison Skinner’s Saddle & Sirloin portrait was funded with subscriptions raised by Purdue students.
Born in Romney, Indiana, Skinner graduated from Purdue in 1897 and returned there in 1899 as assistant agriculturist for the experiment station. In 1901-1902, he taught at University of Illinois, before returning, once again, to Purdue. Skinner was named full professor in 1906 and dean one year later. Dean Skinner dramatically expanded the acreage and facilities at Purdue, increased enrollment, and improved the herds.
Three International Live Stock Exposition grand champion steers were awarded during his tenure. He judged sheep at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition and sheep and cattle at the International. Dean Skinner was secretary of the Indiana cattle feeders, livestock breeders’, and draft horse breeders’ associations.
Did You Know?
While Skinner excelled as a manager and advocate for Indiana agriculture, Skinner never lost touch with his own farming roots, taking especial interest in animal husbandry. During the course of his career as dean (1907–1939), the number of livestock on Purdue farms increased fourfold, and Skinner showed his knowledge of breeding by winning many times at the International Livestock Exposition. Today, the scale of Purdue’s College of Agriculture has increased to offer almost fifty programs to hundreds of students from all over the globe. However, at its base, the agricultural program in place today remains largely as John Harrison Skinner built it, responsive to Indiana but with its focus always on scientific innovation in the larger world.