Skip to main content

Acker, Duane

Published onJul 30, 2021
Acker, Duane

(March 13, 1931 -)

Quick Facts

A graduate of animal science and professor of farm operations, Duane Acker spent 33 years educating five Mid-western land-grant universities on agriculture and several years in the federal government.

Born in Cass County in March 1931, Acker spent most of his life – 33 years – educating others about agriculture at five Mid-western land-grant universities (in Iowa, Oklahoma, Kansas, South Dakota and Nebraska) as a professor, dean of agriculture, vice chancellor and concluding with an 11-year stint as president of Kansas State University.

Then came a half-dozen years in government. He served during the Reagan and Bush administration in Washington, D.C., where he headed food and agriculture programs of the U.S. Agency for International Development 1986-1990 and served as Director of Food and Agriculture from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 1986-1988. From 1990-93, he served as administrator of the International Cooperation and Development and Foreign Agricultural Service, and then as assistant secretary of USDA for Science and Education.

Two of his three degrees came from Iowa State University, where he once was in charge of the popular Farm Operations program designed for students who planned to farm after graduation. He won campus acclaim quickly, and was named “professor of the year” at ISU. Acker also authored World Book Encyclopedia sections pertaining to agriculture and livestock and a college text, Animal Science and Industry. His doctorate was awarded in 1957 for animal nutrition from Oklahoma State University.

After being a professor, dean, university president, leader of several foreign agricultural programs and an assistant secretary of agriculture, Dr. Acker bought a line of used equipment and operated his 1500-acre Iowa farm, Talycoed II near Atlantic, Iowa, several years. Now, utilizing anecdotes and illustrations from his several careers, he speaks to audiences and works with businesses and agencies that seek to be successful in the 21st century. He is Board Chair of a 275-owner egg production cooperative and of the Iowa Agricultural Finance Corporation, a private entity that invests, along with producers, in agricultural processing and in biotechnology.

Acker is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Society of Animal Science. He is also honored with Distinguished Service to Agriculture from the Iowa Farm Bureau in 1987.

In his memoir, Two at a Time, Acker wrote, “I think of a university’s leadership as a continuum: successive leaders advancing their university toward its purpose and goals in accord with the circumstances of the time.”

Republished with permission from Iowans who made a difference: 150 years of agricultural progress by Don Muhm and Virginia Wadsley, published by the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation, 1996.

Selected Sources

Department of Animal Science, Iowa State University, Acker profile

Duane Acker, Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources Vice-Chancellor Records,

No comments here
Why not start the discussion?