Stanley Curtis, legendary swine researcher, dies at 68
April 27, 2010
 
Dr. Stanley Evan Curtis, 68, of Urbana, Ill., died on Sunday, April 25, at Carle Foundation Hospital in Urbana. Curtis was a retired professor in the department of animal sciences at the University of Illinois.

Curtis grew up on a farm near Culver, Ind., and distinguished himself as a student receiving valedictorian honors and achieving status as a National Merit Scholarship Finalist. He received his bachelor's degree in 1964 from Purdue University in animal sciences. He went on to achieve his master's degree and Ph.D. from Purdue in animal sciences and environmental physiology.

In 1968, he became an assistant professor in dairy husbandry at the University of Missouri before moving to the U of I in 1970. He rose through the professional ranks at U of I and established himself internationally for his acclaimed research, teaching and outreach programs in farm-animal environmental physiology, behavior and care. In 1990, he became the head of the department of dairy and animal science at Pennsylvania State University before returning to U of I in 1998.

Curtis' experiments focused on fundamental aspects of practical problems in the livestock industry. Most of his research was with pigs. Revolutionary behavior-based approaches he devised led to outstanding animal equipment and facility design. He generated more than 135 peer-reviewed journal articles, 150 scientific-meeting papers and 45 book chapters.

He was featured in The Wall Street Journal, The (London) Times, LIFE, Scientific American, and National Geographic. As well, he appeared on CBC, ABC, Animal Planet, BBC, Children's Television Workshop, and CNN.

He wrote the first comprehensive textbook on animal-environmental management. From 1965 on, he formulated science-based responses to organized criticism of livestock state of being on farms. He wrote and spoke on the topic around the world, serving as a leader and member of innumerable university, state, national and international committees.

Curtis was a legacy in the classroom and left a lasting impact on his students in courses focusing on animals' environmental needs, management, growth, and energetics. He advised more than 120 undergraduate students, 35 master's students and 16 Ph.D. students, many of whom are recognized around the globe as leaders in the field of animal environmental management.

Jim Pettigrew, U of I professor of animal sciences, considered Curtis an important mentor when he was a Ph.D. student, even though Curtis was outside of his discipline of nutrition.

"Dr. Curtis was arguably the most accomplished communicator the field of animal science has ever known," Pettigrew said. "His facility with words, in both written and oral forms, was both impressive and powerful. He essentially created the specialty of environmental physiology within the field of animal science. By force of intellect and personality, he made people in both industry and academia acutely aware of environmental influences on animals."

Neal Merchen, head of the department of animal sciences at the U of I, said Curtis' work was timely and crucial in the development of modern confinement production practices for the pig. This resulted in his identification as one of the 50 most influential people in the U.S. swine industry by National Hog Farmer in 2005.

"More than any other animal scientist in the United States, Stan Curtis took the fundamentals of the science of environmental physiology and studied the ways that they applied to the housing, management and well-being of farm animals," Merchen said. "His work represents the best kind of example of the expectations of a public land-grant university — it extended basic science into application in ways that improved agricultural practices."

His impact in the animal sciences industry resulted in numerous awards and honors, including the National Pork Producers Distinguished Service Award, National Pork Producers Innovation in Applied Swine Research Award, AAALAC Bennett J. Cohen Award, Distinguished Purdue Agricultural Alumnus, U of I Funk Award, CAST Charles A. Black Award, American Association of Swine Practitioners Dunne Memorial Lecturer, ASAS Animal Management Award, U of I Outstanding Instructor in Agriculture, and ASAS Midwestern Young Researcher Award.

Curtis was a member and leader in many organizations including the American Society of Animal Science, American Dairy Science Association, The Poultry Science Association, American Registry of Professional Animal Scientists, International Society of Applied Ethology, International Society of Biometeorology, Alpha Zeta, Gamma Sigma Delta, FarmHouse, and Sigma Xi.

Curtis was born on April 3, 1942, in Plymouth, Ind. He was the son of Forrest and Mildred Henning Curtis. His mother, Mildred Curtis, of Pensacola, Fla., survives. He married Carol Sell on June 17, 1967, in Big Rapids, Mich. She survives, residing in Champaign.

Also surviving are one son, Iain S. Curtis of Urbana; two daughters, Margaret (John) Curtis-Brown of Savoy and Frances Siegel of Urbana; four grandchildren, Cara and Colin Siegel of Urbana and Evan and Elena Brown of Savoy; three brothers, Thomas Curtis of Massachusetts, David (Darla) Curtis of South Carolina, and Lindon Curtis of Georgia; and one sister, Colleen (Petar) Grozdanovski of Pensacola, Fla.

He was preceded in death by his father.

Memorial services will be held at a later date. Morgan Memorial Home, 1304 Regency Drive West, Savoy, is handling the arrangements,

-30-