Since giving up his semi-retirement and returning to the University to serve as interim dean in 2005, Guthrie has also served as director of the Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station for the last five years.
“Most of his efforts have been related to the Experiment Station, associated research and coordinating programs within the Extension service,” said Dale Coleman, professor and coordinator of undergraduate programs in animal science. “However, he has always valued the academic side and recognizes accomplishments of students and faculty.”
Growing up on a small farm in Union Springs, Guthrie has had a rich agricultural background.
Guthrie’s family owned dairy and beef cattle and raised broilers for a period of several years.
“My brother, dad and I had to get up early and milk cows every morning,” Guthrie said. “We had to get done in time to catch the school bus. We did whatever we could do to make a living.”
Guthrie’s mother helped on the farm when her sons were at school and her husband worked elsewhere, but she was responsible for many other household tasks too, Guthrie said.
“She did a whole lot of cooking, canning and freezing and also worked in the garden,” Guthrie said. “She didn’t have a job, but she worked really hard all her life.”
Guthrie graduated from Auburn and worked for the U.S. Department of Agriculture in the Soil and Conservation Service for 20 years.
He returned to Auburn University in 1983 to become a professor and head of the Agronomy and Soils Department.
“Managerial training, like learning how to manage and supervise personnel in government, helped me realize that I might like (a dean’s position),” Guthrie said. “I became a manager in the government at a reasonably high level, and the faculty here recognized that I had a Ph.D. and had done well in my government job and might have the potential to manage aspects at the University.”
Two years later, Guthrie became dean of the College of Agriculture.
In 1988, he was named associate dean of international agriculture programs until his first official retirement in 2003, according to the Auburn University Web site.
His contributions to agriculture have not gone unnoticed among colleagues.
“He has a deep connection to agriculture because he grew up in agriculture and understands the joys and plights of family farming,” Coleman said. “The core of his decision making has been what’s best for agriculture and what’s best for Auburn.”
Guthrie’s recent induction into the Agriculture Hall of Fame reflects just how many people recognize his contributions, Coleman said.
Wayne Greene, professor and head of the animal science department, came to Auburn a few weeks before Guthrie returned as dean in 2005 and has been in direct contact with him ever since.
“Dr. Guthrie is my immediate supervisor within the College of Agriculture and the Experiment Station, so I’ve looked to him for leadership in various areas as I have set the stage within the department to become who we are today in teaching, research and extension programming,” Greene said.
Guthrie said he has spent his time at Auburn attending meetings with faculty, other deans, farmers, cattleman, forest landowners and state officials.
“A big part of this job is building relationships,” Guthrie said. “Also, we have faculty in the College of Agriculture who are committed to getting to know and working closely with students.”
Those relationships are what Guthrie said he will miss most.
“My plans (after retirement) are to do a whole lot less of what I’ve been doing and to relax,” Guthrie said. “I have a membership at a fishing club, and I enjoy playing golf. I’ll spend more time with my grandson, Will, who is almost 2 years old.”
Guthrie and Greene are working together to find a deserving candidate to replace Guthrie as the dean of the College of Agriculture.
“I hope that when the next history of the College of Ag is written, they’ll say I was a good dean and director,” Guthrie said. “I want my time here to be remembered as a good period in Auburn’s history.”