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Kildee, Henry Herbert

Published onAug 18, 2021
Kildee, Henry Herbert

(March 1, 1884 – February 19, 1973)

Quick Facts

Alumnus Henry Kildee was an integral part of the agricultural education program at Iowa State, one of the “big three.”

Henry Kildee received his bachelor’s (1908) and master’s (1917) in agriculture from Iowa State College (now Iowa State Univeristy). He then joined the faculty from 1909-1949, with one year away at the University of Minnesota.

Most ISC agricultural students and graduates took no small pride in being identified as “one of Dean Kildee’s boys.” That terminology reflects the admiration and respect held for the long-time campus agriculturist, HHK, whom ISU animal scientist Richard L. Willham described as “a master teacher.”

For most of 40 years the former Osage farm boy was an integral part of the agricultural education program at Iowa State, where he earned two degrees. His campus chores began as an instructor in animal husbandry in 1909 and his academic career ended four decades later, after he had been ISC’s dean of agriculture for 16 years. Kildee would become the founder of the Dairy Shrine Club in 1949 and chairman of several livestock committees.

From 1910 to 1915, Kildee wore two ISC hats, one as professor of animal husbandry and the other as professor in charge of the dairy husbandry curriculum. His dairy cattle reputation brought him the position of head of dairy husbandry at the University of Minnesota. However, after two years there, Kildee returned to the Ames campus in 1918 to head ISC’s sanimal husbandry department. Five years later, Kildee became vice dean of agriculture and then dean of agriculture in 1933.

The reverence for and reputation of the bespectacled, soft-spoken dean extended from the campus nationally and internationally to wherever livestock and dairy cattle were raised. Kildee was invited to judge major livestock sows around the world. Biographer Willham stated that he was “an usual stock judge because he judged every breed of dairy and beef cattle, swine, and draft horses … at every major show in the U.S. and many abroad.” The American Farm Bureau Federation sought him out as an advisor on livestock marketing. Three of the major dairy cattle breed associations, representing Guernseys, Holsteins, and Jerseys, asked him to serve on classification committees that established standards, models and breeding and production objectives. He also was a member of a national committee that studied the production and performance of swine.

Kildee’s career paralleled significant growth and expansion in Iowa’s livestock industry. His work enhanced the state’s NO. 1 ranking in pork production and moved Iowa in to the No. 1 position as the nation’s foremost source of corn-fed beef. During his tenure, Iowa also led all states in the production of butter.

A commissioned portrait of Dean Kildee was placed in the Saddle and Sirloin Club’s Agricultural Hall of Fame in Chicago’s Stock Yards Inn.

Over the years Kildee had a delightful habit of passing out compliments to most of the agricultural folk he met. His standard closing comment that “you’re doing such a good job for agriculture” was often accompanied by a friendly pat on the back. It was his kindly, thoughtful way of privately trying to provide a little more encouragement to work and harder and perhaps do even more. That likely was a tactic he had used with his thousands of agricultural students over the years as well.

“Kildee Hall on the Iowa State University (ISU) campus houses the Department of Animal Science. It was one of the first buildings named for a living great of ISU. It was dedicated June 3, 1966 with Dean Emeritus H. H. Kildee in attendance but seated out of the limelight, as was his nature throughout a very productive career.”[1] 

Kildee died February 19, 1973, following a long illness. He is interred in the Iowa State University Cemetery.

Selections of text 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

Henry Herbert Kildee Papers, RS 91/113, Special Collections Department, Iowa State University Library.

Becker, R. B. 1973. Dairy Cattle Breeds: Origin and Development, University of Florida Press, Gainesville.

Briggs, H. M. 1958. Fifty years of growth and progress. J. Anim. Sci. 17:911.

Craft, W. A. 1962. The change from animal husbandry to animal science. Presented to animal science staff at ISU (Mimeo).

Darlow, A. E. 1958. Fifty years of livestock judging. J. Anim. Sci. 17:1058.

Hilton, R. T. 1966. Profiles of Iowa State University History. Iowa State University Press, Ames.

Ross, E. D. 1942. A History of Iowa State College of Agriculture and Mechanical Arts. Iowa State College Press, Ames.

Willham, R. L. 1986. From husbandry to science: A highly significant facet of our livestock heritage. J. Anim. Sci. 62:1742.

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