This morning I had a chance to drink a cup of coffee with my father-in-law before heading out to work in West TN. We spent a little time talking about things that we had each done, and how our lives have been influenced by decisions made in the past. It got me to thinking about my time here in Tennessee, and all of the opportunities that have been provided to me by the simple decision to come to this wonderful state and work at such a great university.
I started to work at UT on November 3, 1993, then got married and brought my wife here on November 20 of that year. I was a young kid that really didn’t have a clue what I was doing. I just knew I loved learning and teaching about forages in the livestock industry. There was no doubt that Tennessee was the best place to do that.
I had one guiding principle that I followed: Do what I could to help the producers of Tennessee. I was going to provide the best information and latest research I could find. If I didn’t know the answer to something, I wouldn’t be too proud to say that, but I would go back and find the answer.
I did this because I wanted to serve that university and the producers of our state. What I didn’t realize is how much each one of you would come to mean to me. You took a young man from south Louisiana and accepted him as one of your own. We laughed together, went through hard times together, and have had some wonderful successes together. I have given you glimpses into my personal life, and you have given me encouragement and compliments that are underserved.
Over the years I have had opportunities to go work other places, but each time my wife and I considered an option, there never was a better place to work than right here in Tennessee. We have never regretted our decision to stay right here. As I look back over 30 years, coming to Tennessee was one of the best decisions I ever made.
In my current role as the department head of Plant Sciences I have been part of hiring several new faculty over the last year. It is very easy for me to recruit new people to come here, since I have experienced the benefit of working at UT and in our state. I tell people you will never find a more beautiful place with more wonderful people. I can do that with specific examples from my experiences with all of you.
I have always said that anyone that grows up in Tennessee should be forced to leave for one year, so that when they come back they can appreciate what they have. When we first moved here, I never really thought about how long we would stay. Now, after 30 years, this is home and I really can’t imagine leaving.
You have embraced me and my family, and allowed us to become part of the wonderful community of producers across the state. The Cattlemen’s Association has allowed me to write whatever was on my mind and heart, giving me the complete freedom to do what I wanted with this column. I have always viewed this column as a wonderful opportunity. I always look forward to writing to my friends.
Thank you for allowing me to be part of your lives, and for being part of my life. I can honestly say that one of the best decisions I have ever made is coming to Tennessee. I love this state and I love each of you.