David C. Pfendler
He had a big heart, a firm hand and could really get your attention with unsolicited no-nonsense advice when necessary. He was a special mentor to hundreds of Purdue Agriculture undergraduate students from 1939 to 1974, beginning as Assistant to the Dean and retiring as Associate Dean of Agriculture and Associate Director of Resident Instruction.
David C. Pfendler earned the Bachelor of Science in Agriculture in 1932. He was a county extension specialist before returning to Purdue to earn his master’s degree in Animal Husbandry in 1939.
“Dean” Pfendler was the catalyst of many changes that reshaped the School of Agriculture undergraduate programs during his time.
Perhaps most significant was Pfendler’s leadership in building flexibility into School of Agriculture undergraduate programs. He mentored “general agriculture” students to reach individual educational goals that simply could not be fulfilled in the very rigid department-dictated plans of study in the 1930s, 1940s and early 1950s. Pfendler put the emphasis on the student’s objective when it conflicted with the departmental plan.
More than one-third of the sophomores, juniors and seniors moved to “general agriculture” and were counseled by Pfendler, leading some School of Agriculture departments to revise curricula or go out of business.
Dean Pfendler encouraged his students to challenge themselves with leadership roles while in college and after graduation. Some “general ags” who accepted the challenge were Donald Foltz ’46, Birch Bayh ’51, John Mitchell ’51, Wayne Townsend ’51 and Robert Peterson ’52. Each of the five was elected to the Indiana General Assembly before age 30.
Dean Pfendler served on the Board of Directors of the Ag Alumni Seed Improvement Association. He held key positions in the Purdue Agricultural Alumni Association and was instrumental in the establishment of the Purdue Agricultural Alumni Trust Fund that has funded student scholarships for more than one-half century.
Pfendler contributed to many other changes that redefined the School of Agriculture undergraduate experience, including starting the course Agriculture 1 (Agricultural Lectures, now Agriculture 10100).
Purdue named a building in his honor. Agriculture Hall was opened in 1902, renamed Entomology Hall in 1965 and dedicated as David C. Pfendler Hall of Agriculture on April 17, 2004.
In the April, 1974, issue of The Ag Student Intercom, Dean Pfendler concluded, “In the years I have been here, Purdue has changed from a cow college to a true university.”
Dean Pfendler was a significant part of that transformation.