Dr. Joe Townsend1945 - 2021
For more than 25 years, Joe Townsend put his heart into the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Texas A&M University. Known as “Dr. Joe,” he is best known for his work as associate dean for student development, where he recruited, taught, counseled, and mentored thousands of students. This leader of agriculture came from humble beginnings. Born in McAllen, Texas, Townsend reminisced that he was a “very shy kid from a money-poor farm.” Townsend’s success in agriculture began early, and he credits many of his achievements to his 10-year membership in the Edinburg 4-H club. During this time, he won a Sears & Roebuck essay contest, was awarded 2 gilts and a boar and started a hog-feeding operation, which was unique to the Rio Grande Valley. His Edinburg 4-H Grand Champion chicken pen broke the 1958 Valley Livestock Show sales record at $37.00/pound. Because of his success in 4-H, in 1964, he dined at the White House with President Lyndon B. Johnson and First Lady Claudia “Lady Bird” Johnson.
Upon completion of his Texas A&M University Agricultural Education degree in 1967, Townsend taught high school agriculture for seven years in Guttenberg and Delhi, Iowa, and three years in Aubrey, Texas. He completed a M.S. and Ph.D. in Agricultural Education at Iowa State University and taught there for four years, followed by three years at Illinois State University and 25 years at Texas A&M University.
Townsend returned to Texas A&M in 1984 with a position in the Department of Agricultural Education. He was recognized for his love for students, Texas A&M, and agriculture. It was fitting that from 1990-2008 “Dr. Joe” was the Associate Dean for Students in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. He taught a freshman agriculture course for over 20,000 students. Dr. Jennifer Strong of Texas A&M University, wrote “Dr. Joe had the amazing ability to make even our largest classes feel like home. ach student knew how much Joe cared about them, and his teaching style captivated and inspired us.” Townsend facilitated the Agricultural Consortium of Texas and enhanced communication among the universities that offered agricultural degrees. He excelled at finding the right niche for students and matching graduates with agricultural industries. Leroy “Shafe” Shafer, chief operating officer emeritus of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, said Joe was an “educational visionary. The agriculture industry has benefited greatly from his advice and the outstanding leaders he sent their way.”
Throughout his Aggie career, Townsend received numerous awards, including four from the Texas A&M Association of Former Students: Administration, Student Relations, University Teaching, and College Teaching. In 1996, he received the John Koldus Student Services Award. In 2011 “Dr. Joe” and his wife, “Dr. Chris,” were inducted into the Texas A&M Letterman’s Association Hall of Honor. Dr. Joe and Dr. Chris Townsend were honored with a proclamation from the 81st Texas Legislature for their agricultural advocacy and leadership. The proclamation recognized the couple as “role models for educators, mentors and advocates for young people across Texas.” In 2015, Dr. Joewas inducted into the Texas A&M Corps Hall of Honor and was recognized as a mentor for students throughout the university.
It is said that Dr. Joe opened many doors of opportunity for thousands of students and was always available if they took a wrong turn and needed redirection. Dr. Joe Townsend impacted Texas agriculture by cultivating students. Brandon and Gara Hill said “Dr. Joe mentored us and now we mentor others. His love and gift of encouragement lives on forever.”
Dr. Joe has two children: Kelly Townsend Moore, College Station, TX and Mike Townsend, Terrell, TX. Dr. Joe’s wife of 41 years, Dr. Chris Townsend, shared his love for students, Texas A&M, and agriculture. She was a professor and department head at Texas A&M for 25 years.