Thomas G. Coon, the newly appointed vice president, dean and director of the Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources (DASNR) at Oklahoma State University, has a passion for teaching and learning, and likes to apply both to issues that matter to people.
Oklahomans of all ages will benefit from that passion as Coon officially assumed his new role July 1 directing DASNR’s academic programs, research and Extension activities.
“Thomas Coon brings a 25-year track record of leadership in higher education and expertise in agriculture and natural resources, specifically in the areas of water ecology and management that are becoming increasingly important issues across the state, nation and world,” said OSU President Burns Hargis. “He also brings a commitment to OSU’s land-grant mission and its heritage of service to Oklahomans. We are pleased to have Dr. Coon join the OSU team.”
Coon comes to OSU from Michigan State University, where he was director of Extension and a professor in the department of fisheries and wildlife. At Michigan State, he directed more than 600 staff and faculty on campus and in Michigan’s 83 counties.
He also formerly served as associate dean for graduate and international programs in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources and associate department chairperson and acting chairperson in the department of fisheries and wildlife at Michigan State.
“I consider it a great honor and responsibility to be one of the messengers to the people of the state about how important our land-grant mission is and how hard we work across the division to fulfill that mission,” Coon said.
Given that he has served on the boards of trustees for the National 4-H Council and the Michigan 4-H Foundation and was the 2013 recipient of the Gary L. Davis award for leadership in 4-H, perhaps it is not surprising Coon often likes to use the 4-H motto, which is to make the best better.
“The faculty and staff who are engaged with DASNR’s teaching, research and Extension programs are providing top-of-the-line programs. However, we can make the best better and that’s a spirit I hope to convey to people outside of DASNR to help them understand our aspiration,” he said. “I really appreciate all that goes into making the division a success, and I appreciate good teaching and faculty who are dedicated to students.”
Coon will spend the early weeks of his tenure traveling extensively across Oklahoma, meeting people, learning about the state and becoming familiar with its agricultural economy and natural resources.
Even as he gets acquainted with DASNR and Oklahoma, Coon already envisions a robust future for the division that includes having a meaningful influence on a variety of statewide and national issues such as water, climate, bioenergy and biomaterials, and livestock production.
Specifically, he said DASNR has every reason to expect to grow in the number of students served and people impacted through Extension programs, as well as the amount and quality of the research conducted.
“We have more we can be doing if we get the right resources,” Coon said. “That means going after the best faculty and students and being very competitive for grant funding to support our projects. We should feel proud of what OSU stands for and what DASNR is able to accomplish in service to the state and the country.”
Coon earned a B.A. in biology from Luther College in 1976 and earned both a master’s degree and doctorate in ecology from the University of California-Davis. He succeeds Mike Woods, who served as interim vice president, dean and director and who will return to serving as head of the department of agricultural economics.