Professor Emeritus Theodore (Ted) Peterson was inducted into the Wisconsin Forestry Hall of Fame on Sept. 2, 2019, during the Wisconsin Society of American Foresters annual meeting in Stevens Point, Wisconsin.
Peterson spent his career as a professor and extension forester at University of Wisconsin–Madison in what is now called the Department of Forest and Wildlife Ecology. Peterson is the 51st inductee into the Wisconsin Forestry Hall of Fame and the fourth professor from the department to be inducted. (Past departmental inductees are Ray Guries in 2018, John Kotar in 2010, and Aldo Leopold in 1999.)
Peterson taught the forestry classes in the Farm Industry Short Course for 17 years. His Farm Forestry Short Course served the family farms in Wisconsin and the many woodlots that go with these farms. Peterson was able to show these students that in addition to their cropland, their forestland could provide a sustained and useful crop of timber. He also taught courses in wood products for the forestry major. During the forestry summer camp at Kemp Natural Resources Station, he taught wood utilization and exposed students to the industry through mill tours. This was an important part of the preparation of new foresters to be able to connect the log raw material to the final product and how their actions impact log quality and usability.
Peterson worked closely with Wisconsin and national wood-using industries, especially through associations, in educational programming. He conducted specific courses at the request of the industry on topics of need such as lumber drying, process improvement, and maintenance. He also conducted lumber grading short courses for more than 20 years. As a companion to the lumber grading short courses, Peterson authored and published the Hardwood Lumber Inspection Manual for the National Hardwood Lumber Association (NHLA). The NHLA is the largest wood industry association in the United States and sets the grading rules for grading North American hardwood lumber. These rules are the standard for North American hardwood lumber in markets across the globe. The manual is still in use today by the NHLA’s Hardwood Lumber Inspection School in Memphis and in lumber grading courses offered throughout the United States, including Wisconsin.
“Ted was my mentor and a leader in hardwood lumber grading education,” says Tim Kassis, an international sales manager for Kretz Lumber and former NHLA district trainer. “Ted and I taught many short courses together in Wisconsin and beyond. He was a pioneer and was able to explain the complex rules of lumber grading in simple and understandable terms.”
At the time of his retirement, Peterson was program leader of the National Wood Products Extension Program at the Forest Products Laboratory (FPL) under a cooperative agreement with Federal Extension, UW- Extension, and the FPL. The program mission was to utilize the national Extension network, in collaboration with Forest Service efforts, in technology transfer of forest products research information.
Peterson was also a leader with the Sawmill Improvement Program, a sawmill technology transfer effort, working closely with the FPL to develop sawmill assessment tools such as lumber size process control and sawmill study procedure protocols for increasing lumber recovery by improving sawmill conversion efficiency. These tools included Peterson’s earlier R&D work to adapt statistical quality control techniques such as Shewhart Control Charts for the sawmill industry for controlling sloppy sawmilling practices such as thick and thin lumber. The Sawmill Improvement Program was implemented across the United States benefitting thousands of companies. Peterson authored “Tightening Up” slide projector/audio tape programs for improving lumber recovery at band saw and circular head-rigs. These teaching aids were developed for line-level employees in the sawmill. Peterson understood that mill profitability started with the decisions made by these employees.
Peterson also led a successful technology transfer program of sawmill optimization technology called Best Opening Face. Success of Best Opening Face’s adoption by industry was made possible with Peterson’s efforts in the Sawmill Improvement Program, National Wood Products Extension Program, and cooperation with the FPL’s State and Private Forestry Unit. A later outcome of Peterson’s work, as computer technology caught up, was the commercialization of Best Opening Face computer automation and optimization. The impact of Best Opening Face commercialization continues today as most softwood dimension lumber in the United States and around the world is manufactured using Best Opening Face-based sawing optimization technology pioneered at the FPL and brought to industry with Peterson’s efforts.
Peterson also provided training for the experts. Many states employ a wood products specialist to work with the state’s forest products industry. Peterson trained many of these specialists to help implement the Sawmill Improvement Program.
“Ted was instrumental in bringing sawmill improvement efforts to Wisconsin and beyond. His training efforts brought many sawmills from making sawdust to making money and a quality product,” says Terry Mace, a retired Wisconsin forest products specialist .
Overall, Peterson has made a real impact on forestry and forest products education. His lasting legacy will be his role in teaching, applied research in sawmill improvement, and bringing that applied research to industry. Peterson retired in 1991 after 37-1/2 years of service to the University of Wisconsin and the forest products industry.
Peterson’s induction plaque contains the following statement:
For nearly 40 years, Dr. Theodore Arthur Peterson developed applied solutions for the forest products industry. He provided dedicated service to a diverse clientele utilizing new emerging technology. His work with Wisconsin companies, the National Wood Products Extension Program, and the Sawmill Improvement Program continue to pay dividends today.
Background on the Wisconsin Forestry Hall of Fame
The Wisconsin Forestry Hall of Fame was founded in 1984 by 10 public and private forestry organizations in 1984 to honor those who have made exceptional contributions to the field of forestry in Wisconsin. The Forestry Hall of Fame exhibit is in the College of Natural Resources at UW–Stevens Point in the College of Natural Resources Building. It is open for viewing during school hours.