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Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources

Former DASNR Dean and Director Sam E. Curl passes

STILLWATER, Okla. – Sam E. Curl, dean and director of Oklahoma State University’s Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources from 1997 to 2004, passed away Aug. 2 in Granbury, Texas.
Former DASNR Dean and Director Sam E. Curl passes

DASNR's Sam Curl at his desk in Agricultural Hall. (Photo by Todd Johnson)

“I remember Sam as always being kind, generous and exceedingly polite to everyone, no matter the situation or the difficulties facing a particular unit or the division as a whole,” said Don Wagner, who from 1990-2008 served as head of the division’s department of animal science. “I really liked working with him and admired his quiet professionalism.”

Terry Detrick, president of American Farmers and Ranchers, remembers Curl fondly as a “quiet visionary in a very important job that affects the lives of many people.” DASNR is comprised of the college and two state agencies, the Oklahoma Agricultural Experiment Station system and the Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service.

“You know the old saying: The right person in the right place at the right time? That was Sam Curl to me,” Detrick said. “He was what we stakeholders needed given both the challenges and opportunities facing Oklahoma producers, agribusinesses and rural communities during those years. I’m truly sorry at his passing.”

For Bill Raun, OSU Regents professor of soil fertility, the word “pleasant” was the first thing to come to mind when asked about Curl.

“Pleasantness has a big value,” Raun said. “He was not a micro-manager, preferring to let a person speak and then delegate according to what a person or group of people could bring to whatever it was that needed doing. He also took an interest in people beyond their position and the job at hand. I really appreciated him and his management style.”

Donald Stotts of OSU Agricultural Communications Services worked closely with Curl on a number of news, media relations and promotional endeavors throughout the latter’s tenure as leader of DASNR. “Ask about Sam and you’ll often find people remark on and most appreciate the little things,” he said.

Foremost among his memories were the impromptu lunches with Curl at a local sandwich shop.

“Time and again, I would be running in to grab a sandwich, with the intention of heading back to the office and working through lunch,” Stotts said. “There would be Sam, sitting at a table. He would wave me over, tell me it was important to take a break and we would end up doing lunch. If other members of DASNR came in, he would wave them over to join us. They were quite the confabs, with Sam taking a great interest in how others saw the division and how everybody’s work and life was going.”

Curl developed his low-key approach early on in life, growing up on a farm near Tolar, Texas, and eventually graduating from Tolar High School in 1955. He earned a junior college diploma from Tarleton State University in 1957, a bachelor’s degree from Sam Houston State University in 1959, a master’s degree in animal genetics from the University of Missouri in 1961 and a doctoral degree in animal physiology from Texas A&M University in 1963.

“I grew up as a military brat in the late 1950s and 1960s. Once we got on about his time as a U.S. Army officer, where he eventually attained the rank of captain,” Stotts said. “From there, the conversation spun off and we started talking about the best TV shows of the period, and without any prior planning, we each simultaneously launched into the trademark da-da-da-dum music from ‘Have Gun – Will Travel’ that went with whenever the camera showed Paladin’s business card. Other customers were looking at us strangely but we didn’t care.”

Curl’s interests included spending time with his family, a lifelong love of fishing, sports of almost any kind and traveling. He loved to share and hear stories about all those subjects with others who enjoyed them as well.

Prior to assuming leadership of DASNR, Curl spent a total of 31 years at Texas Tech University, where he served for three years as associate vice president for academic affairs and as dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources from 1979 to 1997. He served as president of Phillips University in Enid from 1976 to 1979.

However, Curl’s time as DASNR dean and director was not the first time he worked at Oklahoma State. In 1972 and 1973, he was the special assistant to the university president as part of an American Council on Education Academic Administration Internship at OSU.

“I was fortunate enough to serve on the selection committee when Dr. Curl was chosen for the position of DASNR dean and director,” said Joe Neal Hampton, president of the Oklahoma Wheat Growers Association. “I remember vividly that he spoke softly but always had a great message. Oklahoma’s agricultural industries were fortunate he came when he did.”

After leaving OSU in 2004, Curl engaged in professional consulting, working for Tarleton State University as executive assistant to the provost and special assistant for research and development to the dean of the College of Agricultural and Consumer Sciences.

During his career, Curl served as president of the Southern Association of Agricultural Scientists, the Southern Region Administrative Heads and the Lubbock Economic Council. He also served as the Mid-America International Agricultural Consortium chairman of the board.

Honors include Curl being named a Distinguished Alumnus from both the University of Missouri and Sam Houston State University.

“We are saddened to hear about the passing of one of our own, especially someone who is remembered fondly by so many,” said Tom Coon, DASNR vice president. “Our thoughts and prayers are with his family.”

Curl is survived by his wife, Mary; the mother of his children, Betty Curl Malone; daughters Jane Parker and husband Dan of Beaumont, Texas, Julia Curl and Christopher Rezler of Rosenbeurg, Texas, and Karen Boozer and her husband Britt of Indianola, Iowa; Mary’s children who live in Austin, Texas, Ryan Botkin and his wife Desiree and Shelly Marquess and her husband Ryan; and six grandchildren.

He was preceded in death by his father, Henry Clay Curl, and his mother, Mary Elva Watson Curl.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Dean Sam E. Curl Agricultural Leadership Endowment at Texas Tech University, Acton United Methodist Church or the Tolar Volunteer Fire Department.


Donald Stotts
DASNR News and Media Relations
Agricultural Communications Services
132 Agriculture North
Oklahoma State University
Stillwater, OK 74078
Phone: 405-744-4079
Fax: 405-744-5739

Oklahoma State University - Stillwater, OK 74078

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