Father of the Year claims former students as adopted children
Dr. Wayne Greene, head of the Department of Animal Sciences at Auburn University, has the joy of working with students and making a difference in their lives radiating for miles.
"In the six years I’ve been at Auburn, the students have been a big part of my life," he said.
Greene, who makes valuable contributions to animal agriculture and the beef industry within our state and nation and molds future leaders within the industry, is always available to lend an ear or direction to his students.
After making time in his schedule for a student reporter, Greene graciously served coffee and shared his life.
He threw in anecdotes amid the serious parts of the interview and mentioned students who ride horses with him.
"I pick on them, but I think they pick on me more," Greene said.
Fondly, he showed the reporter beautiful photos and cherished keepsakes given to him by former students—several of whom he considers adopted children.
Even in his own days as an undergrad, Greene knew animal agriculture was going to be a main component of his life.
"I always tell my students, if you really enjoy and love your job, you will never work a day in your life," Greene said. "I don’t work very often because most days I’m involved in animal agriculture."
Greene’s experiences at his first teaching and research position at Texas A&M shed light on a future career path.
"I spent a lot of time with undergrad students in and outside of the classroom," Greene said. "I found as time went on, I enjoyed more of the interaction with students on a one-to-one basis in terms of counseling—giving directions in terms of careers."
The enlightening event which led him to his current position at Auburn was a meeting with a Texas A&M undergrad who was debating on changing her major to animal science and obtaining a master’s degree in nutrition.
Greene said a two to three-hour consultation with the student made him realize he needed to leave the research lab for a more academic environment with undergrad students.
Shortly afterward, he found an announcement for the position of Auburn University department head on his desk.
When Greene graduated with a Ph.D. in animal science, he did not always have aspirations of being a department head.
"I always tell my students, when you have a career goal in front of you, you have career aspirations, but never be afraid to test out other things that cross your path because you might find you really enjoy something else as well, and to follow up on career directions interesting you," Greene added.
One of the turning points of Greene’s career occurred when he moved from a primary teaching position at Texas A&M to a position at the Texas AgriLife Research and Extension Center at Amarillo.
Being surrounded by about 7.5 million cattle within a 150-mile radius was heaven for the ruminant nutritionist.
"I had very close associations with the industry, a lot of support from the industry and a significant amount of research funds," Greene said. "It was a good decision. I trained a lot of graduate students."
Greene continues to keep in contact with some of his former graduate students from Amarillo.
Throughout his career he has tried to repay Miss Huey, a professor who pulled him aside for a stern discussion after he earned a low GPA his first semester freshman year, and then taught him how to study more effectively and improve his reading comprehension skills.
Greene teaches a success strategy course for freshman and also interacts with the Camp War Eagle groups, freshman students going through orien-tation at Auburn during the summer.
He asks the incoming freshman to take a pledge to make an effort to become acquainted with five Animal Science faculty members when school starts and find out what their position entails.
His goal is for students to form networks among their professors and peers, and exchange ideas.
"I think someone can make their own self successful if they work really hard, but without those people around them, it would be difficult," Greene said. "I credit any success I’ve ever had in my career not by who I was on the inside but the people who were surrounding me."
When he was young, he thought he had a lot of the answers, but, as he got older, he realized it is not so much about what he knew, but it is what the people around him knew and how to use all of that knowledge.
Greene works with the Animal Science Department to provide a variety of career track options for students.
In 2006, he helped establish the Equine Science option at Auburn.
Since a lot of people are involved in the horse industry in our state, students who are involved in the industry need to be trained to play a major leadership role, he said.
Some opportunities the major provides includes learning how to manage a barn, coach equestrians, engage in the business aspect and work with pharmaceutical companies.
Greene is working with the department to open a Companion Animal option for the future.
He said a lot of students interested in going to vet school may have had beloved pets like dogs, cats or hamsters while they were growing up, but have never had any official training with companion animals, and the new option would benefit them.
"The companion animal area could be big business for students," Greene observed.
Majors Auburn offers like Agricultural Communications and Agricultural Business and Economics incorporate animal science classes into the curriculum.
"We have a philosophy in the Department of Animal Science," Greene explained. "If a student is in this building and they are in one of our classrooms—they are an animal science student."
Currently, animal care and well-being is an issue at the forefront of Greene’s career in the state.
He said activist groups across the country would like to see animal products taken completely off the table.
"As we face a growing population and as the middle class of our society continues to increase, there is going to be a greater and greater demand on higher-quality and safer food supplies," Greene said. "Those of us in animal agriculture have a responsibility to produce a higher-quality and safer food supply as well as maintain a positive environment for animals we use in animal agriculture."
He said society needs to realize many farms negatively coined as "factory" farms are actually family farms.
The transition from diversified farms to specialized farms allows producers to capitalize on their strengths and to increase the efficiency in which food is produced, Greene added.
Greene is also the president of the Alabama Coalition for Farm Animal Care and Well-Being and serves on animal agriculture boards throughout the state.
On June 24, Greene was honored with the Alabama Cattlewomen’s Association (ACWA) Father of the Year award at the Department of Animal Sciences faculty and staff cook-out luncheon.
"We like to reach out and recognize those who are outstanding in our industry—that’s what helps us carry on the future just like Dr. Greene helping us get the collegiate Cattlewomen’s Association started through Auburn University," said Evelyn Brown, president of ACWA. "That’s another outreach program for the cattlewomen to further our beef industry."
Greene is close with his three successful sons and wife, his hometown sweetheart. Recently, he became a grandfather.
Greene claims several former students across the country as adopted children.
Jade Currid is a freelance writer from Auburn.