With the death of Larry Turner, 51, the University of Kentucky lost a forward-looking agriculture leader whose efforts had earned him national as well as statewide respect, colleagues said yesterday.
Turner, who grew up on a farm in Rising Sun, Ind., began his career with the UK extension service in 1978. Since 2002, he held the influential post of associate dean for extension and director of the Cooperative Extension Service in UK's College of Agriculture.
He oversaw more than 1,000 employees and offices in all 120 Kentucky counties, and he was helping farmers chart a new course after the federal tobacco support program was abolished.
"He was really innovative and was nationally recognized as an emerging leader" for initiatives in such areas as community development, fine arts, health education, youth development and family studies, said Scott Smith, UK's agriculture dean.
Smith described Turner as "a very easygoing, soft-spoken sort of guy who was aggressively moving extension forward."
UK President Lee T. Todd Jr., in a statement, said of Turner: "His love for -- and commitment to -- his adopted state ran deep.
"He undoubtedly touched countless lives with his deep integrity, commitment and gentle nature. He often said the extension service could be described in three words -- 'people, programs and partnerships.' "
Al Cross, director of UK's Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, said Turner "was, effectively, Kentucky's chief extension agent."
Cross said that during Todd's "Dream Tour" across the state last year "it became clear how well-liked and respected Larry was across the state. This is a big loss for the university and a big loss for the commonwealth."
Turner was the only male breast cancer survivor featured a few years ago on a "Faces of Hope" calendar published by the Mayor's Task Force on Breast Cancer.
Turner, whose specialty was agricultural engineering, earned bachelor's and master's degrees from Purdue University and his doctorate from UK.
Survivors include his wife, Lois, and three children, Molly, Amy and Clay.