January 2014
Youth Matters

Auburn’s Bob Ebert Retires

  Bob Ebert in his office at Auburn University.

But He’ll Stay Busy

Robert A. "Bob" Ebert, Extension Animal Specialist/4-H Youth Animal Programs, Auburn University, began life on a diversified crop and livestock farm in St. George, Kan. The Ebert family farm was settled by his great-grandfather in 1854. Bob’s family consisted of his parents and nine children with Bob being the oldest. They farmed more than 1,000 acres and lived in the house his grandfather built after his marriage. Bob and six of his siblings have an LLC that owns the farm today.

Ebert has retired after a successful career at Auburn University. He joined the staff in August 1985 as the Beef Teaching Unit manager in the Department of Animal and Dairy Science and served in this position until August 1995 when he assumed the position he had until retirement.

Ebert is a 4-H alumnus whose years in 4-H work strongly influenced his life and his choice of a career. He joined the Riley County (Kan.) Bonfire 4-H Club in 1957 and was an active member and leader through his senior year in high school.

Bob Ebert with Cathy Crow, president ACWA, and students Chandler Mulvaney, Jason Edmonson, Carla Weissend and 4-Her Emma Merriman.  

Ebert wrote in his Kansas 4-H Club record book, "Since I’ve been in 4-H, I have taken many projects and have benefited from all of them. I have had 10 years in 4-H work. I have worked my hardest and strived to improve myself each year …. This year I took fat lambs and baby beef. I think these were my two favorite projects. I like animals above everything. That, I guess, is why I am taking Animal Husbandry at Kansas State University."

Fat lambs (market lambs in today’s language) were Ebert’s first project and remained one of his favorite projects. Over his years in 4-H, he also had projects in market lambs, breeding sheep, steers, heifers and grain crops. The Bonfire 4-H Club met once each month where they had junior and senior leaders. He served in most of the offices in this club and also served on the county council. The Bonfire 4-H Club is still active today in Riley County.

  Bob Ebert with his 1965 Reserve Grand Champion at the Kansas State Fair.

Ebert’s young life consisted of farming, 4-H, the county fair, baseball and basketball. During his years in 4-H, he attended 4-H Day in the spring where he competed in speaking, model club meeting competition and did many demonstrations. Later he had a new experience when he attended State 4-H Congress as a senior. A highlight other than the competition at the state fair was getting to stay in the dorm with three-high bunk beds. At state fair, he competed in livestock shows, livestock judging, sheep shearing and tractor driving.

Ebert had a somewhat different schedule in high school. For three semesters he attended two high schools at the same time because there were not enough boys to have Ag classes at both. As a freshman, he was one of 24 total students in his high school. While in high school he joined FFA where he would eventually become president of his chapter. Ebert had the great opportunity to start driving to school when he was 13, until he graduated with the other five in his graduating class.

While attending Kansas State University, Ebert worked at the sheep and beef barns as a student employee. After 2 years, he moved on and started managing the personal cowherd of Dr. Don Good, head of the Department of Animal Science. As a member of the Block and Bridle Club at Kansas State, he served as an officer for 3 years and in 1969 was a member of both the Livestock and Wool Judging teams. He also chaired the committee to honor the Rogler Family for their contributions. At the time Mr. Rogler was a state representative. Because of the relationship Ebert had with the Rogler family, he was hired upon graduation to manage their cattle operation.

Starting in 1970, he had a short stint with Black Watch Farms owned by an investment company. Then in November 1970, he was hired by Kittiwake Farms in Jasper to manage their Polled Hereford cattle operation. While employed by Grady Sparks at Kittiwake, Ebert managed five production sales and the dispersal, showed cattle from Colorado to New York, and hosted numerous 4-H and Junior Cattlemen meetings and cattle fitting demonstrations. Also, he was active in the Alabama Cattlemen’s Association where he served as president of the Walker County Cattlemen’s Association. He served as president of the Alabama Polled Hereford Association for 2 years and was instrumental in the formation of the Alabama Purebred Beef Breeds Council. As a loyal customer and supporter of Quality Co-ops, he was asked to serve on the board of directors for the Walker Farmers Cooperative.

After the dispersal of Kittiwake Farms, Ebert moved to Auburn and became the manager of the Auburn University Beef Teaching Unit in August 1985. For the next 10 years, he lived in the Herdsman’s House, now part of the Auburn University College of Agriculture Ag Heritage Park. His responsibility at this unit was to manage the livestock used for the classes taught in the Department of Animal Science. While he was unit manager, he applied for graduate school and completed his master’s degree in adult education. In 1995, he was hired as an Extension specialist. In this position, Bob has trained and mentored too many youth to count in 4-H and FFA livestock programs.

While he was managing all these duties over the years, he also judged livestock shows of four species in 10 states. Officiating livestock judging contests in four states was another of Ebert’s accomplishments. He mentioned that over the years he had some innovative ideas that were tried - some worked, some did not. You might ask Ebert about these when you have an opportunity.

Ebert’s retirement from Auburn University was effective Dec. 31, 2013. We asked him what he would like to be most remembered for as the Extension youth livestock specialist.

"The most satisfying experience is reflected by young people telling me of their experiences because of me being in their lives," Ebert replied.

Many people have shared with Ebert the positive effect his actions, no matter how insignificant he thought the act was at the time, have had in their children’s lives.

"Bob Ebert spent a career in education of youth in Alabama. As I watched him one-on-one with the youth, it is apparent he puts his heart into what he does with the youth. Not long after arriving as department head, I made the comment to our staff that after seeing Bob’s work at the Alabama Jr. Livestock Expo, I wish every faculty member would take steps that Bob takes the week of the Southeastern Livestock Expo. What he has done is increase the outreach to target future students and agriculture leaders," said Dr. Wayne Greene, head of the Department of Animal Science at Auburn University.

Each year the Alabama Cattlewomen’s Association honors a gentleman with the Father of the Year award. In 2013, they chose Bob Ebert to recognize, not only for his biological family but also for all the youth he helped raise over the years. Grady and Connie Sparks graciously hosted the award presentation at their ranch just outside Auburn.

Bob and his wife Carol have five children and 14 grandchildren who live from Atlanta all the way to Richland, Wash., and range in age from 18 months to 18 years. Ebert says he will phase out retirement as he will assist with the transition of the youth programs to a new person. As he does this, he and Carol will travel and he will start writing his memoirs so his grandchildren will understand the life of growing up on a Kansas farm.

As the old saying goes, "What goes around, comes around." It is the relationships people make in their lives that keep them going. So now from the time in 1970 that Grady Sparks brought Bob Ebert to Alabama, it is appropriate for Ebert to be associated with Drummond Sparks Beef to keep him busy in retirement.

Galen Grace is a development officer with the Alabama 4-H Club Foundation and Charlotte Deweese is a coordinator with 4-H Development Programs.