Bill McFee received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Tennessee, and his master’s and Ph.D from Cornell. Between his undergraduate and graduate programs, Bill served in the U. S. Army as an aviator and artillery observer. In 1965, he began his career at Purdue as an assistant professor of agronomy in the area of soils. For seventeen years he was the director of the Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences interdisciplinary undergraduate degree program. And, from 1991 until 2000, he was head of the Purdue Agronomy Department. After nine years in administration, he returned to the department’s faculty where he teaches and conducts research in soil science.
Bill’s career has been devoted to studying the interactions of soils and the environment. He has studied the effects of environmental pollutants on soils and their resulting effects on forest and crop ecosystems. In 1983 he coauthored a chapter on acid rain that was included in USDA’s annual Yearbook of Agriculture. Equally devoted to his teaching career, Bill also pioneered new methods in the classroom. Nineteen years ago he coauthored a journal article on the development of computer programs to assist in soils instruction.
And his record of leadership and service activities to the agricultural profession are as distinguished as his professional activities. From 1991 to 1992 he served as president of the Soil Science Society of America, and from 1996 to 1997 he was the president of the 12,000-member American Society of Agronomy. During his tenure, he brought about important changes to these societies by involving soil and crop consultants in joint meetings, establishing new discipline divisions and adding to their publication journals. He has consulted with the U. S. Department of the Interior and USDA, planning research needs for mine land reclamation and developing competitive grant procedures for acid rain research, respectively. He was a research advisor to the U. S. Forest Service’s Eastern Hardwoods Research Cooperative. And he chaired the Environmental Protection Agency’s review panel for its Forested Watershed Manipulation Research Plan. Closer to home, he has been on the board of directors for the Indiana Crop Improvement Association and the Indiana Agricultural Leadership Institute.
Bill has been involved in community activities as well. He’s coached basketball and little league baseball, and he’s served the Boy Scouts of America as a Webeloes Leader, Scoutmaster and member of the Troop Committee. He is an elder of Covenant Presbyterian Church in West Lafayette where he has chaired the Stewardship Committee.
Bill’s career accomplishments have been recognized with numerous awards. He’s received both the Outstanding Teacher and Outstanding Counselor Awards from Purdue’s School of Agriculture. In 1981 he was named a Fellow of the American Society of Agronomy and a Fellow of the Soil Science Society of America. In 1999, the Indiana Crop Improvement Association honored him with its Crops and Soils Merit Award.
Bill, for your service to the agricultural profession above and beyond the call of duty, it is my pleasure to award you this day, the Purdue Ag Alumni Association’s Highest Award, the Certificate of Distinction.