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Reader reflects on impact of great teacher

Mark Legan
DELIVERS TRIBUTE: Mark Legan, Coatesville, Ind., pays honor to Robert Taylor, his former Purdue professor, mentor and adviser, who passed away earlier this year.
Reader Report: A successful hog farmer and his family praise Purdue’s Bob Taylor, who died earlier this year.

Robert Taylor was a teacher in Purdue University’s Agricultural Economics Department for 50 years. He also excelled at helping farm family members learn how to work together through Extension efforts. Taylor passed away earlier this year.

Indiana Prairie Farmer reflected on his career in the August 2018 issue in “Taylor leaves living legacy in Indiana and beyond.” It also ran online. Mark Legan saw that article. It inspired him to write a letter to Jay Akridge, former dean of Purdue’s College of Agriculture and now Purdue provost.

Legan and his family operate a large hog operation near Coatesville, Ind., and cooperate with two other families through separate businesses to finish hogs. Raised in Johnson County, Ind., but not on a farm, Legan was a county Extension ag educator before entering farming and is a past president of the Indiana Pork Producers.

Poignant letter
This letter to Akridge is reprinted with Legan’s permission:

Dear Jay,

I was getting caught up going through magazines this evening and read your comments on Dr. Taylor’s legacy in the August Indiana Prairie Farmer. I would like to share my Dr. Taylor story.

As a junior Animal Science major, I took Ag Econ 310. I enjoyed it and learned more from Dr. Taylor than any other professor at Purdue. The next year I graded papers for Dr. Taylor and continued to admire the man.

I remember remarking after one exam some guys in the House were complaining about the test being too long and they couldn’t get it done. Dr. Taylor’s remark was that that was the way life was and you must decide what’s the most important to get done, in both exams and life. I use this analogy regularly.

As a young Ag Extension agent, it was always a thrill to have Dr. Taylor present to a group of ag lenders or farmers.

Five years after my BS degree, Purdue Extension allowed me a semester to return to the university and finish my Masters’ Degree. Dr. Taylor was my major professor. Phyllis, one-year old Beth and I moved to married student apartments. I remember telling Phyllis, who also didn’t grow up on a farm, that she should take Ag Economics 310 because I thought someday I would like to try farming. It would give her perspective.

She did and learned from the class and the man.

Before deciding to leave Extension and start farming, Phyllis and I spent half a day talking to Dr. Taylor. My charge to him was to talk me out of it. He didn’t.

Fast forward 20 years. Our daughter Beth is a student in the College of Ag. She took Ag Econ 310 and graded for Dr. Taylor for two years. Before Beth and her fiancé, Nick Tharp, decided to join the farm, we all spent time visiting with Dr. Taylor and seeking his advice. Nick also took classes from Dr. Taylor.

During my life I’ve been privileged to have many people invest time in and mentor me. Without a doubt my family wouldn’t be farming today and living out our dreams if it was not for Dr. Taylor. We use economic principles and budgeting he taught, but he also taught life lessons and the importance of working with others.

You were exactly right that Dr. Taylor’s legacy lives on in students, and in our case, families, that he touched.

Sincerely, Mark Legan

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