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C. Oran Little had immeasurable impact on agriculture

C. Oran Little had immeasurable impact on agriculture

C. Oran Little had immeasurable impact on agriculture

C. Oran Little provided invaluable services to Kentucky and received substantial national and international recognition.


C. Oran Little once said, “Any major undertaking in science and technology takes a good team.” A nationally distinguished animal nutrition researcher, Little led a vast, multidisciplinary team and served the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food and Environment as dean from 1988-2000.

Little passed away on Dec. 17, and he leaves behind a legacy of numerous footprints on agriculture in Kentucky and across the country.

“Despite being, as he called it, the ‘dean twice removed,’ his influence has lasted long past his deanship,” said Nancy Cox, vice president for land-grant engagement and dean of UK CAFE. “His vision is still being enacted on the farm that is named for him to continually serve agriculture in new ways.”

Recently, the college recognized Little and his wife, Myrtle, with the CAFE Friend Award. He was happy to share the honor with his beloved wife of 67 years.

“Myrtle has always been a close partner in this whole process of our lives,” he said in a recorded acceptance of the award. “We’ve formed a lot of friendships. A lot of good things have happened in our lives, and many times, we consider those almost as divine guidance that have kept us on track.”

Most who met Little knew he was a Texan by birth. Charles Oran Little was born in Schulenburg, Texas, in 1935, but often said he came to Kentucky as quickly as he could. His love for UK was unwavering, and he was a loyal supporter of UK Athletics and the Big Blue Nation.

Little earned a bachelor’s degree in 1957 from the University of Houston and master’s and doctoral degrees in animal nutrition and biochemistry from Iowa State University in 1959 and 1960, respectively. He received a Marshall Foundation Scholarship awarded through the Houston Livestock Exposition, which provided full support for his undergraduate and partial support for his graduate studies.

Little began at UK in 1960 and progressed through the ranks to full professor in 1967. From 1969-1985, Little served as associate dean for research and associate director of the Kentucky Agricultural Experiment Station.

In 1985, he became vice chancellor for research at the Louisiana State University Agricultural Center and director of the Louisiana Agricultural Experiment Station.

Little returned to Kentucky in 1988 to head the college, the Kentucky Agricultural Experiment Station and the Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service. He remained at the helm until his retirement in 2000.

During his tenure as dean and director, CAFE’s academic, research and extension programs provided invaluable services to Kentucky and gained substantial national and international attention.

Early in his administration, he prioritized finding a replacement for Coldstream Farm and developing a cutting-edge research and education facility. Little led successful efforts to convince decision-makers and the public of the need and tremendous opportunity for a new research farm, uniting statewide agricultural leadership in support of this initiative.

When a 1,500-acre site along U.S. Highway 60 in Woodford County became available, the Kentucky General Assembly appropriated funding to first acquire the farm property and, soon after, to replace the aging farm structures with modern research buildings.

In December 2010, the UK Board of Trustees approved naming the farm in Woodford County the C. Oran Little Research Center.

In retirement, Little documented his almost fifty years of observations and experiences in education and agriculture through the UK library oral history program. To listen to Little’s recordings, visit and request access.

He continued to serve in leadership and support roles through organizational board appointments and event participation to advance education and agriculture development at the local, state and national levels. He also served in several leadership roles in his church.

Little maintained contact with many former students and spent time visiting and interacting with Kentucky farmers and agricultural industry leaders. He and Myrtle enjoyed spending time with family, especially being able to share in many activities with their three granddaughters.


In lieu of flowers, send donations to Southern Hills United Methodist Church, 2356 Harrodsburg Road, Lexington, KY 40503 or the C. Oran and Myrtle Little Scholarship in the UK College of Agriculture, Food and Environment. Make checks payable to the University of Kentucky and send to the UK CAFE Philanthropy Office; ATTN: Little Scholarship, 1451 University Dr., Lexington, KY 40546.



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