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Donald R. Peterson, Former UW-Madison Extension Leader, Dead At 73

Donald R. Peterson, emeritus professor of agronomy at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, died of a heart attack Saturday, Aug. 8 in Madison. He was 73 years old.

Peterson was born and raised in Wood County, Wis., and earned B.S., M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in agronomy and soil science at UW-Madison. Following two years as research agronomist at Washington State University, he joined the faculty of the Agronomy department at UW-Madison”s College of Agricultural and Life Sciences in 1954.

Peterson began his Wisconsin career as an Extension weed control specialist, at a time when weed control options for field crops were greatly expanding for growers. He developed field demonstrations, prepared fact sheets, spoke at meetings throughout the state, and teamed with other CALS faculty to bring the latest in University crop production and weed control research to state farmers.

Peterson was director of Agricultural Research Stations from 1962 to 1974, and associate dean for Extension and state Extension program leader for agriculture and agribusiness from 1974 to 1990. During the budgetary crunches of the 1980s, Peterson wisely used limited financial resources to maintain and improve programs that were essential to Wisconsin”s agricultural sector. A tireless team-builder, Peterson encouraged statewide interdisciplinary programming, bringing together community, business and government representatives and UW System and Extension experts to serve Wisconsin agriculture and agribusiness.

Although he retired from the UW-Madison in 1990, Peterson remained active in many Wisconsin agricultural activities. He served as chairman of the Wisconsin Agribusiness Council board of directors from 1995 to 1996, and also served as president and CEO for that organization. He was an organizer of the Consortium of Animal Agriculture Resource Development, and remained active in its operations. He was associated for many years with Wisconsin Farm Progress Days, Inc., as chairman of the board of directors, and most recently as executive director and secretary/treasurer.

Peterson also assisted FFA and 4-H programs in the state, and served on many College, University, regional and national committees, including several years on the UW athletic board.

Funeral services were held Wednesday, Aug. 12 at 11 a.m. at Holy Cross Lutheran Church, 2670 Milwaukee St., Madison. The family requested that memorials be made to Grace Lutheran Church, Bethany Lutheran College in Mankato, Minn,, or a charity of your choice.

Peterson is survived by his wife, Gloria, of Madison; two daughters, Noreen Peterson of Geneva, Ill. and Kristin Peterson of Edgerton, Wis; a son, Paul (Danielle) Peterson of Blacksburg, Va; a sister, Priscilla (Robert) Wallis of Beloit, Wis; daughter-in-law Christine (Hilgart) Peterson of St. Paul, Minn; and several nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his son, Ralph A. Peterson, his parents, and his sister, Phyllis (Marlowe) Nelson of Westby, Wis.