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CSU community reflects on life of late professor Jack Fenwick

 “Oh What A Beautiful Morning” was playing softly underneath a newly-planted Eastern Redbud tree last Saturday evening. This tree was dedicated to a beloved Colorado State University professor, Jack Fenwick, who passed away in March.

The plaque underneath the Dr. Jack Fenwick memoriam tree reads, “In Memory of Dr. Jack R. Fenwick, 42 years of service to the students of The Department of Soil and Crops Science. ‘To make the best better’ -Go Rams!” The tree was planted in September this year. (AJ Frankson | Collegian)

Fenwick was a professor in the soil and crops department for 42 years, teaching numerous courses, developing curriculum, and recruiting and building lasting relationships. At the tree dedication, attendees spoke fond memories of Dr. Fenwick. Friends, family, and alumni all resounded the same theme: Jack would go out of his way for anyone.

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“Everybody knew Jack,” said Ann Fenwick, Jack’s wife of 27 years. “He taught introduction to crops, a class that everyone had to take. He had over 4000 [total] students from that class alone.”

Fenwick was instrumental in recruiting new students to the soil and crops department, even when interest in the field reached record lows. One influential course was Crop and Soil Managment Systems, co-taught with Professor Emeritus Gary Peterson, who taught at CSU for 24 years.

“In our profession, people usually have a research program,” Peterson said. “[Jack] sacrificed his research so he could dedicate time to his teaching and the students. As a result, he was never promoted to full professor. Some people might view that as a negative, but I think it shows how much he loved the students and their success. If you don’t love something, it’s hard to really be good at it.” 

It was not just a job to Fenwick.

“Jack was the epitome of an ag teacher,” said Jerry Johnson, a CSU professor and extension specialist. “He worked here for 42 years, so it was a cumulative effect that fused Jack to CSU and Eastern Colorado as a whole. I work with the extension service, so I work with a lot of farmers – it is rare I encounter anyone in ag that didn’t know Jack, or who didn’t have some connection to him.”

In addition to Fenwick’s dedication to learning and teaching, he was also a loyal Ram athletics supporter since his time at CSU began. Fenwick was a 42-year season ticket holder for both men’s football and basketball, and attended as many volleyball and women’s basketball games as possible, according to his wife. 

“Jack and I bonded over sports,” said Johnson. “When I first started here, my son was playing ball in Sterling. There was a huge snowstorm, so I couldn’t drive all the way out there. Jack said to me, ‘I’ll take you!’ and he drove me all the way to Sterling so I could watch my son play.”

Anne Fenwick tells a story about her late husband Professor Jack Fenwick in front of the tree planted in his memoriam behind the Plant Sciences building. (AJ Frankson | Collegian)

In 2009, the Jack Fenwick Centennial Scholarship was founded to award outstanding students in the CSU Agronomy Club, a student organization Fenwick was the advised over for many years. Fenwick developed and taught the class along with other seed science courses, and in 2011 he won the Seed Science Award, granted by the Crop Science Society of America.

“Jack was the most dedicated person I’ve ever known with respect to mentoring and advising students,” said Scott Haley, current Agronomy Club adviser. “Jack was always up, in a good mood and positive about life and working in agricultural research. He was a dear friend and we all miss him.”

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Linc Thomas can be reached at entertainment@collegian.com and on Twitter @lincthomas1

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