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Dan Stein spends his free time training his oxen Burt (above) and Spock. (Photo by Ellie Fly)

Destined for Significance: USDA honors Stein for dedication to students

Thursday, December 21, 2023

Media Contact: Sophia Fahleson | Digital Communications Specialist | 405-744-7063 |

Growing up on his family’s farm and ranch in Cherokee, Oklahoma, Dr. Dan Stein was immersed in production agriculture. He developed a passion for the livestock industry and a desire to one day operate the family farm, he said.

Today, Stein shares his firsthand experiences with students in the Oklahoma State University Ferguson College of Agriculture.

Stein’s father, Leroy Stein, shared wise words with his son, and now Dan Stein passes the same wisdom to his students: “An education is something no one can take away from you.”

Dan Stein’s parents, who recognized the importance of a college education, strongly encouraged him to get a degree before he began working full time on the farm.

As a result, Dan Stein began his undergraduate studies at Northwestern Oklahoma State University in the fall of 1974.

“Like many first-year students, I struggled to adjust to college life,” Dan Stein said.

By fall break, he had decided college was not for him, he said, so he loaded his pickup and headed home.

However, his father’s unwavering wisdom prevailed, Dan Stein said. Leroy Stein reminded his son: “Finish what you start. You started the semester. You need to finish the semester.”

Following this firm motivation, Dan Stein resumed his undergraduate education and completed his time at NWOSU in 1978 with a Bachelor of Science in agricultural ecology.

He returned home to the farm, and in the early 1980s, four Steins — Leroy, his brother Don, and his sons Dan and Sam — joined forces to establish the Stein Angus Farm partnership.

“I had the privilege to work with my dad half my life,” Dan Stein said. “I got to learn from him and share this partnership with him.”

The operation eventually grew to more than 2,800 acres of leased and owned farm ground to produce wheat and alfalfa as well as more than 1,500 leased and owned acres of native and tame pasture.

The Steins also had a stocker operation and more than 380 head of registered cows and cows used for embryo transfers.

“I cherished the privilege of working alongside my father,” he said, “learning invaluable life lessons that textbooks could never provide.”

Dan Stein poured everything he had into the family operation, he said. He and Sam Stein, who earned his bachelor’s degree at OSU and became an attorney, made breeding decisions, Dan Stein added, and the genetics of the Angus herd evolved, eventually becoming one of Oklahoma’s highest-performing herds.

During the last decade of the Stein Angus Farm partnership, its accomplishments included having the first- and third-highest gaining and overall indexing bulls among 215 bulls on test at Oklahoma Beef Inc.

The farm also exhibited the reserve intermediate champion Angus bull at the Houston Livestock Exposition and leased one of its herd sires to a national semen service company.

As Stein Angus Farm grew, the Steins transitioned from private treaty sales to hosting an annual production sale. In 2001, after the sale, Don and Leroy Stein visited with Dan and Sam Stein to tell them they were ready to retire from the cattle operation, Dan Stein said.

As he considered the best option for everyone involved, Dan Stein faced a pivotal time in his life, he said.

In the end, the best choice was a herd dispersal, he said.

“It was the most difficult decision I have made,” Dan Stein said.

The dispersal sale in the spring of 2002 brought the end of the Stein Angus Farm partnership and marked a turning point in Dan Stein’s life and future, he said.

He decided to return to school to pursue graduate degrees and a potential teaching career.

“Dan had filled all the boxes of what he wanted to do in production agriculture,” said Jana Stein, his wife of 27 years. “He’s always been someone who has taught. Even on the farm, he always had high school boys he would teach and mentor.”

In the summer of 2002, Dan Stein completed classes at Texas A&M University to show commitment to furthering his education before applying to OSU, he said.

Dan Stein remembers the day he visited OSU to inquire about graduate school, he said.

Application in hand, he visited two professors’ offices. The first professor did not have an assistantship available.

The second professor, applications spread across his desk, said he would not have anything available in five minutes as he was making his final decision from the applicant pool.

“That means I haven’t missed the deadline,” Dan Stein said while handing the professor his application.

The professor asked when Dan Stein could start, who replied, “Tomorrow, if needed.” The professor told him Monday would be fine.

Thus began the next challenge for Dan Stein.

At OSU, Dan Stein earned his master’s degree working with Leon Spicer and his doctoral degree mentored by Rodney Geisert, both of whom were animal science professors.

“You just got to keep rattling doors and see if they open,” Dan Stein said. “I had to believe that this is what I was supposed to do when I started because there were some trials, but that helps me relate to my students.”

Dan Stein sought every opportunity to teach during his time in graduate school, Geisert said.

“Even then, it was clear that he really liked teaching,” Geisert said. “Sometimes you can read people early, and when I met him, I knew he really wanted to teach.

“I would let him sometimes go in and give lectures,” Geisert said. “It was very obvious teaching was really more his forte and what he wanted to do.”

Dan Stein was hired in the animal and food sciences department in fall 2009. Today, he resides in Animal Science 114e, the first office he was given and Geisert’s former office.

Dan Stein has taught the animal reproduction course at OSU since 2006. He also taught the introduction to animal science course for 11 years and livestock handling for two years.

“His background made him a unique professor with his real-world experience,” said Dr. Corbit Bayliff, a physician and Dan Stein’s former advisee and student. “He shows students what they really need to know.”

Dan Stein maintains his involvement with agriculture through his OSU Extension efforts to serve producers across the state as well as through the oxen he trains at his home on the outskirts of Stillwater, Oklahoma.

During his time teaching, Dan Stein has impacted hundreds of students — his kids — and did not waste that special opportunity, Bayliff said.

“His kids keep him up at night,” Bayliff said. “He wants them to succeed. He wants what’s best for them.”

Though there were many unseen trials and errors, Dan Stein always stood by the belief every individual deserves a chance, he said.

“Dan has always gone above and beyond to give each kid a chance,” Jana Stein said. “Nobody is going to outwork Dan. He teaches the same way he farmed — 24/7.”

For his outstanding dedication to students, Dan Stein received national recognition in November 2023. He has been awarded the U.S. Department of Agriculture Teaching and Student Engagement Award for excellence in college and university teaching in the food and agricultural sciences.

“The awards I have received are great validation, but they are not the reason I came back to school,” Dan Stein said. “I came back because I wanted to make a difference in students’ lives.”

Dan Stein’s dedication and genuine care for his students leaves a legacy of significance, Bayliff said.

“On the day I met Dan Stein, he took me under his wing, as he does for all of his students,” Bayliff said. “He is no doubt the most devoted teacher I have ever known.”

Dan Stein is set apart by his passion to constantly update his lecture material and teaching style to engage younger generations, Jana Stein said.

“Although he does everything in his power to equip his students to be successful, he is never content with the status quo and constantly strives to come up with an improved approach to his teaching,” Bayliff said.

Dan Stein has grown in significant ways during his years at OSU, Geisert said, and he deserves recognition for this accomplishment.

“Learning and growing is your whole life,” Dan Stein said, “and that has taken place here. It’s been a great ride. I want it to continue as long as I think I am making a difference in students’ lives.”

Story by: Ellie Rose Fly | Cowboy Journal

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