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Whittier to retire after six years of leadership at the Panhandle Research and Extension Center

Whittier to retire after six years of leadership at the Panhandle Research and Extension Center
Dr. Jack Whittier, left, outside one of the newly built UNL PREC dorms in June 2018.

After serving six years as director of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Panhandle Research and Extension Center in Scottsbluff, Dr. Jack Whittier has announced his retirement.

Whittier’s last day as director will be June 30, 2020. Jeff Bradshaw, associate professor of entomology, will serve as the interim associate director, effective immediately. 

Whittier said some of the key parts of his job he’ll miss in retirement will be the people.

“Here at the Center, but also the people in the community, the valley, the whole Panhandle, I call it Valley Pride, for the University in general with the things our specialists and staff do for the ag community and community in general,” he said. 

Under his six-year tenure, Whittier saw many projects completed. One he helmed from beginning to the end was the UNL Panhandle Research and Extension Center Dormitory Housing.

“One of the first things I heard from the faculty when I began, was the need for housing for graduate students to use,” Whittier said. 

UNL graduate students often arrive at the center in the spring for a summer internship or study and need housing for about three months. In the past, it has been difficult for students to find housing with short term leases. The dorms completed in June 2018, have 12 rooms with separate bathrooms and a shared common area with a kitchen, solved the problem. 

Along with the dormitories, Whittier has also extended the assistance of the extension whenever needed, such as when the Ft. Laramie Canal failed in July 2019.

“It had a really big impact on our irrigating community,” he said. “A few of our faculty, in particular, Jessica Groskopf (Neb. Ext. ag economist), Gary Stone (Neb. Ext. educator) and Xin Qiao (Neb. Ext. water and irrigation specialist), and others went to work to see how we could help.”

The extension also hosted community meetings for the Gering-Ft. Laramie Irrigation District shareholders, where they gathered a variety of information in one location.

Whittier continues to assist the staff and community in getting plans and procedures in place during the Coronavirus pandemic. 

“We (UNL PREC) still need to meet the needs of the people. Our research programs will continue, you know the growing season only happens once and year, so there are plans and preparations that will continue for the plots and crop work going forward,” he said.

Mike Boehm, University of Nebraska Vice President and Harlan Vice Chancellor for the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources at UNL, thanked Whittier for his service.

“On behalf of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, I have appreciated the expertise, leadership, and passion Jack has brought to the center since 2014,” Boehm said. “We wish him the best in retirement.” 

Whittier and his wife Robynn plan to stay in the area for a few more years, as Robynn will continue her teaching role at Western Nebraska Community College. 

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