In Memory of Bill Wilcke

November 21, 2013

               Bill Wilcke

Bill Wilcke, image courtesy of the University of Minnesota

On November 18, 2013, our dear SARE colleague and friend, Dr. William (Bill) Wilcke, passed away.

Bill was born and raised on a small, diversified crop and livestock farm in northwest Iowa. As with many farming families in the 1950s, hard work and perseverance were valued. After graduating from Battle Creek High School, Wilcke received all three of his post high school degrees in Agricultural Engineering from Iowa State University at Ames, Iowa in 1976, 1980 and 1985. He focused on grain drying and storage with a minor in energy engineering.

His first job after receiving his PhD at Iowa State was at Virginia Tech at Blacksburg, Virginia in Extension Crop Drying and Storage. After almost four years at Virginia Tech, Bill was hired by the University of Minnesota in an extension and research position in post harvest crop drying and storage. He researched the storability of grain under a variety of conditions and advised Minnesota farmers about their grain drying and storage systems.

Among a wide variety of activities to advance sustainable agriculture, Wilcke served as the Minnesota State SARE Coordinator from 1996-2004, and was also elected to the NCR-SARE Administrative Council in the mid 1990s.  He co-chaired the University of Minnesota’s Small Farm Task Force from 1997-1998, was a founding member of the Northwest Regional Development Partnerships Board, served on the Minnesota Organic Advisory Task Force, was a member of the SAN Steering Committee, and was a board member of Compatible Technology International. He served on the Board of Directors of the Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Agriculture from 1994-1999, and provided interim leadership as Acting Administrator from 2000-2002. In 2002, Bill became the NCR-SARE Regional Coordinator and remained in that position until disability forced him to give up the position in 2010. Bill retired in fall 2011 and established a graduate fellowship to perpetuate his interest in sustainability and to guarantee the future professional work of the Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering Department at the University of Minnesota. 

A dear colleague and friend, Bill was dedicated to his work, but he also appreciated taking a break with a bowl of ice cream. He traveled for business and pleasure, and shared many interesting stories about the time he spent in the former Soviet Union providing information on grain drying and storage and his experience studying small-scale organic farming in Cuba. He was an avid Minnesota Twins and Vikings fan, and enjoyed gardening and yard work. 

Bill brought great credit, visibility, and leadership to the NCR-SARE program in his long career of service to sustainable agriculture and its people and communities.  Bill was selected as the first-ever recipient of the NCR-SARE Hero Recognition. Started in 2012, the NCR-SARE Hero Recognition program acknowledges individuals who 1) have provided service to NCR-SARE, sustainability, and/or national SARE, 2) have shown leadership in sustainable agriculture locally and regionally, and 3) have made lasting impacts to sustainability in the North Central region. Many leaders in sustainable agriculture offered tributes as Wilcke was nominated and selected to receive this recognition. They mention how generous he was with his time and expertise, his dedication, his ability to really listen, and his wonderful sense of humor. You can read those tributes online.

Bill was preceded in death by his grandparents; his mother, Helen; and his sister, Cindy Rossow. He is survived by close friends and caretakers, Mari and Hopper; father, Floyd; brothers, Tom (Cindy) of Battle Creek and Bob (Lynne) of Ponca, NE; brother-in-law, Ron Rossow of Fremont, NE; and nieces, nephews cousins, aunts and uncles.

Memorials can be made in Bill’s name by donating to the following:

  • The Lift, a faith based nonprofit community that develops and restores mutually respectful relationships between people from diverse backgrounds who together invest in the youth of east side St. Paul, equipping them to become self-sustaining, productive, and caring adults.
  • The University of Minnesota Foundation: William F. Wilcke Fellowship Fund which provides scholarship funds for biosystems and agricultural engineering students and students studying sustainable agriculture. Checks can be made payable to the University of Minnesota Foundation. Indicate in the memo line that the gift is for the William F. Wilcke Fellowship Fund.