In memoriam: William D. Wampler, livestock pioneer and College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Hall of Fame alumnus
William "Bill" D. Wampler, pioneer of livestock production techniques, a Hall of Fame alumnus of the Virginia Tech College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and retired chairman of WLR Foods, died on March 15 in Bridgewater, Va. He was 85.
A native Virginian, Wampler’s service to agriculture and the university was widespread and profound.
Wampler graduated from Virginia Tech in 1950 with a degree in poultry husbandry. Upon graduation, he established a trend of generously giving back to the university by making Wampler farms and facilities available to Virginia Tech faculty for field-testing and applied research.
Years later, both Wampler and his wife Bonnie Lou continued to have a significant impact on the university and supported the construction of the Alphin-Stewart Livestock Teaching Arena where the Wampler Classroom is housed. Today it is a space that hosts numerous Virginia Cooperative Extension events, outreach happenings, and youth activities.
Another testament to his legacy at Virginia Tech is the Wampler Conference Room, a hallmark of the college, located in Litton-Reaves Hall. The room chronicles the evolution of William Wampler's development of innovations that led to the creation of the modern poultry enterprise through a museum-quality pictorial timeline. Wampler and his family are universally credited for establishing modern scientific methods and vertical integration in the poultry industry.
Wampler also established numerous scholarships for students of the college.
“In addition to his significant leadership and service to the poultry industry, Bill exemplified the Virginia Tech motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve), said Alan Grant, dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. “His service to Virginia Tech and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences includes gifts of time, treasure, and talents that have spanned across many decades.”
A member of 4-H as a youth, Wampler served as state 4-H president in 1947. Both he and his wife Bonnie Lou were active supporters of 4-H and received state and national recognition for their involvement.
In 2004 Wampler was named to the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Hall of Fame, a distinction which honors those individuals who have given outstanding service to the college.
"His involvement in the poultry and turkey industry has literally covered his lifetime starting with his 4-H activities with poultry,” said former department head of animal and poultry sciences Mark McCann. "His leadership roles started when he was a youngster in 4-H and was elected president of the Virginia 4-H Congress Cabinet and continued through serving as president of the National Turkey Federation, the Virginia Angus Association, the Virginia Poultry Federation, and the Virginia Beef Cattle Improvement Association."
Paul Siegel, distinguished professor emeritus of animal and poultry sciences, worked closely with Wampler and found Wampler's generosity was also in sharing his time.
“When you talk about someone who is a benefactor, usually you talk about their financial gifts. But when I first came to Virginia Tech Bill Wampler and I did field trials and we developed a lighting program to bring turkeys into production. He told me to write up our findings so everyone in the industry could use them as a guide. That’s how he was. He wasn’t searching for credit for that research and those trials became the basis for industry-wide changes. He was generous with time and expertise.”
Wampler was born April 9, 1928, a son of the late Charles W. Wampler Sr. and Zola H. Wampler. William Wampler's father pioneered the modern poultry industry, establishing the legacy of contributions to agriculture that his family has maintained through the decades.