Western Canadian agriculture is mourning the loss of one of it most recognized and dedicated academics, teachers, extension workers and promoters.
Charles Melville Williams, known as Red, passed away March 26 at the age of 93.
During a career that spanned eight different decades at the University of Saskatchewan, Williams established deep connections in the Canadian agriculture industry as a teacher, mentor, researcher and academic.
He was also a respected public policy adviser, having advised various governments at the provincial and federal levels on a diverse range of issues including beef production, grazing and land management, rangeland ecology, water conservation and animal welfare.
Williams joined the U of S in 1954, where he was named an assistant professor of animal science.
Soon after joining the university, he built a reputation as an inspiring teacher and communicator.
In 1963, he became a full-time professor in the Department of Animal and Poultry Science and later took on additional responsibilities as a senior extension specialist.
Williams’ research and extension work influenced many people in many areas but his work in the areas of animal husbandry and animal welfare stands out.
He played an instrumental role in the formation of the Canadian Council on Animal Care, an organization that is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2018.
Throughout his career, Williams advocated for the adoption of improved animal housing practices through the use of practical tools such as windbreaks, overhead shelters and straw bedding in feedlots.
He also studied effects of loose housing on dairy cattle.
As well, he lectured on the benefits of cross breeding in Canadian beef herds, a message that was not always warmly received by purebred producers and associations.
Williams was eventually named head of the Animal and Poultry Science Department at the U of S College of Agriculture in 1975, an office he held until 1983.
During his tenure, Williams hired one of the first Canadian faculty members who specialized in animal behaviour, a move that coincided with the formal introduction of animal care and animal behavioural issues into the U of S curriculum.
Williams was also involved in numerous international research and development projects and led many organizations, local and national, including the Canadian University Service Overseas (CUSO) and the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra.
He was also named teacher of the year at the college’s School of Agriculture, a member of the Order of Canada, a fellow of the Agricultural Institute of Canada and an honourary life member of the Canadian Society of Extension.
Williams was inducted into the Saskatchewan Agricultural Hall of Fame in 1996.
For all that Red Williams did, what I will always remember during my crazy first years as a faculty member at 5:30pm he would stand at my door and say “you have a wife and kids to get home to, so let’s go” and he’d wait for me- saying no was not an option. Of course he was right. pic.twitter.com/whznDYGKz3
— Ryan Brook 🇨🇦 (@RyanKBrook) March 26, 2018
David Christensen, professor emeritus at the U of S College of Agriculture, took undergraduate classes from Williams in the 1960s and later joined Williams as a faculty member at the university.
He described Williams as a dedicated and tireless worker, who was dedicated to learning about agriculture and sharing his knowledge with others.
Even outside of the classroom, Williams was willing to engage with students.
As an undergraduate student, Christensen recalls informal discussions involving Williams and other students, where Williams would boil water, provide tea and encourage discussions.
“His major contribution was his dedication to teaching within the college, which was focused primarily on animal production, especially physiology and beef cattle,” said Christensen.
“Red was a people person,” he added.
“I can’t remember him ever saying anything mean or disrespectful about anyone. Among his peers and his students, he was always just one of the guys but he never tried to ingratiate himself with anyone.
“He was just social and respectful — obviously a leader that many people respected.”