Dr. William “Bill” Randle stepped in as dean of the SAES on Sept. 1. He brings a broad background to the administrative suite at Webb Hall. In a career that has taken him to three of the nation’s preeminent land-grant institutions — Louisiana State, Georgia and Ohio State — Randle has distinguished himself as a researcher, instructor and administrator. His CV also includes impressive credentials in international agriculture, cutting-edge technology and a stint in private sector agribusiness. And although he’s never been on the payroll of a Cooperative Extension unit, his research work in support of Georgia’s Vidalia onion industry — when Vidalias were catching momentum with consumers nationwide — made him such a go-to guy for media relations and support for frontline Extension work that his understanding of the outreach facet of the land-grant mission is comprehensive.
Randle pinpoints a top priority among his extensive slate of SAES responsibilities with the reassurance that “My job is to be an advocate for the School; I work for the faculty and staff.” He has three enthusiastic bullets to tick off when asked what he has found most appealing about the SAES. He says, “First of all, its diversity and history.” He then adds, “I think there’s great potential. We’re positioned to make a big step forward.”
A specific priority that Randle has been quick to mention in making the rounds to introduce himself to SAES faculty and staff is a new long-term strategic plan, a successor to Planning for Our Preferred Future that was unveiled at the start of the 2005–06 academic year. “The new strategic plan is going to take a lot of work, and it’s going to involve input from almost every member of the staff,” Randle says. “But once the new strategic plan is ready to roll out, we will once again have a road map to turn to for all our major decisions.”
Originally from northern Illinois, Randle went on from high school to make horticulture the backbone of his academic work as he earned a bachelor’s at the University of Arizona, a master’s at Michigan State and a doctorate at the University of Minnesota.
His land-grant career began at LSU, where he was part of a team of scientists that developed and released the “Beauregard” sweet potato that’s now the most popular variety grown in the United States. The next port for Randle’s career in plant breeding R&D was Basic American Foods in California, where he was director of variety development for a food processing company that’s among the world’s leading suppliers of dried potato and bean products. In 1989 he launched an 18-year career at the University of Georgia, where he was a plant breeder and geneticist with the Department of Horticulture.
Randle summarizes his teaching career at Georgia and elsewhere as one that has encompassed, “Graduate and undergraduate courses; introductory as well as advanced.” A feature story about him in the departmental newsletter lends support to that summary in a paragraph that begins “Teaching has been the main focus of Dr. Randle’s career,” and then goes on to provide specific support with a sentence listing a classroom instruction resume that includes horticultural physiology and plant propagation.
For several years Randle was the graduate coordinator for the Department of Horticulture at Georgia, but the same 2004 newsletter story describing his commitment to training the next generation of scientists begins with the observation, “When you think of Bill Randle, onions come to mind.” That collective reaction to mention of the name “Bill Randle” was a consequence of his work with the Vidalia onion industry that had major newspapers calling him the University of Georgia’s “onion flavor expert” and trade publications recognizing that methodologies developed by Randle had become the rules and regulations used by the Georgia State Department of Agriculture to designate what is (and isn’t) a Vidalia onion.
Randle comes to the SAES from The Ohio State University, where he has served as chair of the Horticulture and Crop Science Department since 2006.