Distinguished AgEcon Alumni

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W. Wayne Townsend

B.S., Agricultural Economics, 1951, Purdue University

Townsend Photo

When W. Wayne Townsend came to the proverbial fork in the road, he took three paths simultaneously. So far, he's racked up more than 50 years farming, 22 years in public office, 23 years in service to education and countless more in community activities.

Raised on a farm, Townsend started his own operation in 1951 after earning a Purdue agriculture degree. What began as a 225-acre venture is now a 2,500-acre farm with a 2,400-sow, farrow-to-finish operation that ships 1,000 hogs a week.

Public service came early, at age 32 when Townsend was first elected to the Indiana House of Representatives. He went on to the Indiana Senate and, in 1984, a run for governor. From the beginning, public education was his passion, serving on the team that worked for passage of the School Reorganization Act of 1959 and its reauthorization in 1965.

“My dad spoke of public affairs three times a day,” Townsend recalls. “Mealtime was a lively discussion of the affairs of the world. If you didn't want to hear that, you went hungry. I didn't miss many meals.”

Education too, was rooted in early childhood, even though neither of his parents attended school beyond 8th grade. “For us, school came first. Going to college was part of the program, even though we had very limited resources. That was first on the agenda.”

His passion for education continued as a trustee for Earlham College for eight years, and for fifteen years for Purdue University .

Townsend's community activities have included agricultural organizations, his church, social service groups and the Indiana Farm Policy Study Group. “You look for places where you might make a difference, where you might affect the outcome of some issue on the table.


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