Dr. Don Good, Kansas State University Animal Science Professor Emeritus, passed away not long ago. I must admit that the week of his passing I sat down to dedicate a column to him. Try as hard as I might, I could not make the right ideas come through my keyboard. I had many thoughts but struggled to put them in any order. Then this week they became clear.
We often hold up celebrities and glorify those who entertain us without spending much time reflecting on those who made a real difference in the world around them. Dr. Good spent a lifetime improving our lives and touching all of those he came in contact with. He truly was a legend in the livestock business and all of us who had the opportunity to meet him experienced something special.
Everyone who has come into the livestock industry in the past half century has been touched by Dr. Good’s influence and teachings. Many of the leaders in the production of animal proteins came through the halls of Kansas State University and most sat in his classroom. If you ate a steak at a high end steakhouse or consumed a burger at the burger shack down the road, you were touched by Dr. Good’s work.
Dr. Good was a retired when I entered Weber Hall. However, he was in his office nearly every day. At a time in his life that he could have chosen to ride off into the sunset, he instead, chose to come to work. I remember him walking down the hall and taking the time to talk to each student along the way. He remembered each of us by name and took time to say something positive each time we passed. If Dr. Good couldn’t make you feel good about yourself, no one else could. He was a Grandfatherly figure with kind eyes, a warm smile and time for everyone.
I remember the first day of livestock judging practice. Dr. Calvin Drake led us up and down the halls of Weber showing us the livestock judging teams of the past, many of whom were coached by Dr. Good. Many of the leaders in the livestock industry were in those pictures. The tour ended in front of the picture of Conoco, the first crossbred steer to win a national show. Dr. Good made that earth shaking decision. When Dr. Drake finished, I am quite sure we all aspired to be just like Dr. Good.
For us to live our life like Dr. Good is a great goal. If we all set our sights to be more like Dr. Good this world would be a much better one. In addition to being one of the great leaders in his chosen field, Dr. Good was a truly good man with a great passion for teaching and serving others. We all hope to leave this world a better place, and Dr. Good certainly did that.
My favorite memory of Dr. Good came when I was an Extension Agent. The Pottawatomie County Livestock Judging Team earned the honor of representing Kansas at the Denver Stock Show. In the months leading up to the contest, I arranged practices for the team. I contacted Craig Good about coming to Good Farms. Craig graciously agreed to host us and asked if it was OK if his Dad was there.
Let me set the stage for those of you not familiar with the world of livestock judging. This would be something along the line of Dean Smith attending your basketball practice or Albert Einstein helping you prepare for the science fair. I am not sure if Craig even finished his sentence before I fell all over myself accepting his offer.
The day of the practice I spent the van ride explaining the significance of Dr. Good’s presence to the kids. I gave them a version of the talk Dr. Drake had given us at K-State. While I am not completely sure of what I told the team, I do remember one statement. I stated that this opportunity may not mean much to them right at that moment, but some day it would. Don’t get me wrong, the five 4-Hers on that team were tremendous young people but I wasn’t sure the importance of the impending practice had occurred to them.
The practice was great and we got an incredible amount of work done, but that wasn’t the best part of the day. After practice, Craig and Amy invited us into their house for snacks. During that time Dr. Good spoke to the kids about the livestock and life. It was one of the most meaningful and memorable hours of my life, and I can only hope it touched the kids as much as it did me.
When I heard of Dr. Good’s passing my thoughts went back to that day. What I wouldn’t give to spend another hour sitting and taking in his observations on life and livestock. He was a truly great man, an example of a life well spent and how to make a difference with the one life we are each given. For that I am very thankful.