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Donald M. Elkins Leadership Scholarship

(From a press release May 2005)

Don Elkins began his career here as an agronomy student in 1958, and he'll end his career here when he retires as dean of the College of Agriculture and Human Ecology this month.

Don Elkins, who returned to campus in 1995 to head our Agriculture and Human Ecology program, remembered what it was like to be a student and always made them his highest priority.

If I leave a legacy, I hope it is to be remembered as a students' dean, Elkins says. For many years now, my greatest rewards have had nothing to do with personal achievements, but in watching the achievements of our students and celebrating their successes.

I've always had an open-door policy and have tried to help students in any way I could to make their lives at the university better.

His outlook mirrors the example set by the late Willis Huddleston, who was dean when Elkins was a student and the person Elkins credits with keeping him enrolled.

There were a couple of times during my freshman year, I had my suitcase packed and was ready to just go home and work on the farm in Franklin County, but Dean Huddleston wouldn't let me, says Elkins. He made me promise to finish my first quarter, then my freshman year. He said he wouldn't stop me after that, but by that time, I'd found my place.
He continues to be inspired by Huddleston's example, although Elkins says he can never live up to it. They just don't make them like him anymore, and there's no way a guy like Don Elkins can fill the shoes of somebody like Willis Huddleston.

After graduating from TTU in 1962, Elkins earned both a master's degree and doctorate in agronomy from Auburn University in 1964 and 1967 respectively.

Later in 1967, he began what would become a 28-year career at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale.
I enjoyed my career there as an agronomy professor and researcher so much that I turned down some good opportunities at other universities, he says. I had no intention of leaving Southern Illinois. I thought I would be there forever.
Then in June 1994, he learned of the opening for our position of dean of Agriculture and Human Ecology. After some urging from friends and colleagues, Elkins decided to submit his application.

He started his new post on Oct. 1, 1995, but in August, as newly appointed dean, he was invited to attend the dedication of the new Hyder-Burks Agricultural Pavilion.

I felt honored to be invited to the dedication, Elkins says. It was such an impressive ceremony, and I remember thinking to myself that I had made a great decision by accepting this position.

The job hasn't come without trials, however. Elkins says his greatest challenge was encountering tight budget issues, but that the rewards have always far exceeded the challenges. Among his greatest accomplishments, he believes, is starting student ambassador programs both here and at SIU.

Our AG/HEC Ambassador program allows outstanding Agriculture or Human Ecology students to serve as recruiters of new students and public relations representatives for the college.

Overall, it has been rewarding to come back to my alma mater, establish the ambassador program and do the best I could as dean, says Elkins. I've certainly felt inadequate in that role in comparison to some of the great deans who came before me, but it's mainly the wonderful, dedicated faculty and staff who make this college what it is today.

Upon retirement, Elkins said he plans to spend more time visiting family, gardening, reading and attending athletic events, especially here and at Auburn.

Don Elkins passed away at the age of 72 on July 23, 2013.
Scholarships associated with Donald M. Elkins Leadership Scholarship
  • Donald M. Elkins Leadership Scholarship