Distinguished dairy scientist David P. Dickson dies at 71

David P. Dickson, age 71, passed away after a courageous battle with cancer on Friday, July 9, 2010.

David, the oldest of six chDavid Dicksonildren, was born to Paul and Elsie Dickson in Everson, Washington on February 26, 1939. He graduated from Meridian High School as class valedictorian, and went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in dairy science from Washington State University. In 1960, Dickson became the second person in the U.S. to earn high individual honors at both the National 4-H Dairy Cattle Judging Contest and the Intercollegiate Dairy Cattle Judging Contest. These honors earned Dickson National Dairy Shrine’s famed Kildee Scholarship, which he used to further his dairy education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison earning both a Master’s and a PhD.

After graduation, Dickson joined the University of Wisconsin-Madison Dairy Science Department where he served as professor for over three decades. As his career unfolded, he was chosen by his peers to chair the department from 1984 to 1990.  Dr. Dave’s ability to teach students was recognized by the American Dairy Science Association in 1996 when he won the Purina Mills Teaching Award in the first year he was nominated. He was the founding advisor to UW-Madison’s Badger Dairy Club. Additionally, he served as advisor to the Midwest and National student affiliate divisions of the American Dairy Science Association.

During his distinguished career he judged more shows at World Dairy Expo than any other official. In addition, he judged dairy cattle in over 20 countries and served on the All American selection committees for all seven recognized breeds. He was the first American to judge the European Championship Holstein Show and the New Zealand Royal Agricultural Holstein Show. He led judging conferences throughout the U.S. and in Australia, Belgium, Canada, Italy, Japan and Spain. Beginning in 1968, Dickson led UW teams to seven national championships at the National Intercollegiate Dairy Cattle Judging Contest. Perhaps more impressive, his teams won 18 team “reasons” titles at the national contest.  His brochure, “Dairy Cattle Judging Made Easy,” has been translated into Italian and Spanish.

Dickson was a long-time chapter advisor for UW-Madison’s Alpha Gamma Rho Fraternity and a long-time advocate and supporter of Madison’s Association of Women in Agriculture (AWA) – both agricultural professional-social organizations for young men and women. AWA awarded him Honorary Membership. In 2005, Dickson was honored as an Alpha Gamma Rho “Brother of the Century” during the Fraternity’s 100th anniversary celebration and won Distinguished Service Awards from multiple organizations.

Beyond his University work, Dave was an active member of Madison West Kiwanis.  He believed strongly in the value of community service and was instrumental in creating the Madison West Kiwanis Foundation and the Henry Alghren Scholarship which specifically recognizes a college freshman with demonstrated commitment to the larger community.

Dave was also passionate about music, golf and poetry.  He was an accomplished pianist and one of the few people in Madison with a golf green in his back yard.  Many friends  remember Dickson’s Christmastime poems deeply rooted in dairy tradition.

He is survived by his sisters, Bonnie (Tom) Garnett and Linda (Ralph) Sorstokke and brother Dale (Robin) Dickson;  nieces and nephews Virginia (James) Turnbull, Christine (Steven) Carty, Thomas (Andrea) Garnett IV, Timothy (Lisa) Garnett, Anthony (Erin) Dickson, Heidi Dickson, Paul Jason Dickson, Thaddeus (Ramona) Dickson and Travis Dickson. He was preceded in death by his parents Paul and Elsie Dickson and by brothers Daniel and Michael.

Dr. Dave was a man of many talents who will be sorely missed by his family, many friends, students and colleagues.

Visitation will be on July 14, 2010 from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. at Cress Funeral Home at 3610 Speedway Road, Madison. A memorial service will follow at 3:00.  Memorial gifts can be made to the UW Foundation c/o David Dickson Dairy Cattle Judging Team Fund, US Bank Lockbox, PO Box 78807, Milwaukee, WI 53278-0807.