C. Oran Little is remembered as Dean of the UK College of Ag/Food/Environment who had an immeasurable impact. | Daily News Byte


By Amy Nielsen and Laura Skillman
University of Kentucky

C. Oran Little once said, “Any major undertaking in science and technology takes a good team.” A nationally recognized animal nutrition researcher, Little led a large, multidisciplinary team and served as dean of the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food and Environment from 1988-2000.

Little recently passed away and left a legacy of countless footprints on agriculture in Kentucky and across the country.

“Even though he was ‘deaned twice,’ his influence has lasted throughout his deanship,” said Nancy Cox, vice president for land-grant engagement and dean of UK CAFE. “His vision is still being shaped at the farm named for him to continually serve agriculture in new ways.”

C. Oran Little (Photo by Steve Patton/University of Kentucky)

Recently, the college recognized Little and his wife, Myrtle, with a CAFE Friend Award. He was happy to share the honor with his beloved wife of 67 years.

“Myrtle has always been a close partner in this whole process of our lives,” he said in a recorded acceptance of the award. “We made a lot of friendships. A lot of good things have happened in our lives and many times we think of it as an almost divine guidance that has kept us on track.”

Most people who met Little knew he was a Texan by birth. Charles Oran Little was born in Schulenburg, Texas, in 1935, but often said he came to Kentucky as soon as he could. His love for the UK was unwavering and he was a loyal supporter of UK athletics and the Big Blue Nation.

Little received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Houston in 1957 and a master’s and doctoral degree in animal nutrition and biochemistry from Iowa State University in 1959 and 1960, respectively. He received a Marshall Foundation Scholarship awarded by the Houston Livestock Exposition, which provided full support for his graduate studies and partial support for his graduate studies.

Little started in the UK in the 1960s and progressed to the rank of full professor in 1967. From 1969-1985, Little served as associate dean for research and associate director of the Kentucky Agricultural Experiment Station.

In 1985, he became vice chancellor for research at the Louisiana State University Agricultural Center and director of the Louisiana Agricultural Experiment Station.

Little returned to Kentucky in 1988 to head the college, Kentucky Agricultural Experiment Station, and Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service. He remained at the helm until his retirement in 2000.

During his tenure as dean and director, CAFE’s academic, research and extension programs provided invaluable services to Kentucky and received significant national and international attention.

Early in his administration, he prioritized finding a replacement for Coldstream Farm and developing an advanced research and education facility. Successful efforts to convince decision makers and the public of the need and tremendous opportunity for new research farms by uniting statewide agricultural leadership in support of this initiative are lacking.
When a 1,500-acre site along US Highway 60 in Woodford County became available, the Kentucky General Assembly appropriated funds to acquire the first farm property and, soon, to replace the aging farm structures with modern research buildings.

In December 2010, the UK Board of Trustees in Woodford County approved c. Oran gave permission to name the farm Little Research Centre.

In retirement, Little documented his nearly fifty years of observations and experiences in education and agriculture through the UK Library’s oral history program. To listen to Little’s recordings, visit bit.ly/3Yrzz8O and request access.

He continues to serve in leadership and support roles through organizational board appointments and event participation to advance education and agricultural development at the local, state and national levels. He also served in several leadership roles in his church.

Maintained some contact with many former students and spent time meeting and interacting with Kentucky farmers and agricultural industry leaders. He and Myrtle enjoyed spending time with family, especially being able to participate in many activities with their three granddaughters.


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