District names new agri center

03/03/2014 12:37 PM

03/03/2014 12:38 PM

Despite spending more than a quarter of a century teaching agriculture in Mansfield, Ron Whitson was still surprised when the district named its new agricultural science center in his honor.

“I was absolutely excited and very humbled,” said Whitson, 61, who spent 29 years teaching teens how to take care of cattle, goats, sheep and horses, 27 of those years in Mansfield. “That’s not why you teach. You do the best job you can.”

Evidently, Whitson did a pretty good job. The district asked for nominations for names for the new agricultural science center, located at 6069 Retta Mansfield Road in Burleson, and received 80 submissions, 17 for Whitson. Jerry Knight received 37 nominations, but trustees said they felt the former career and technology director would be a better fit for a technology building and would reserve his name.

Trustee Courtney Lackey Wilson spoke out at last week’s school board meeting after trustees approved the name of the new center. Whitson taught Wilson, who graduated from Mansfield High School in 1989.

“He was very involved and cared about us learning about our animals,” Wilson said. “For us, it was truly like a first business. We had to keep records on our animals.”

She recalled one trip that showed how Whitson got things done.

“We had gotten every animal to the Stock Show and had one lamb left,” Wilson said. “He picked it up, put it in a kennel in the back of his truck and drove over icy streets to the Stock Show.”

The new agricultural center will offer more room than Whitson could have imagined while he teaching in Mansfield from 1980-2007. A pair of 10,000-square-foot barns will have animal pens that will be configurable depending upon what kind of animal it houses. There will also be an 11,000-square-foot show barn, a 400-square-foot greenhouse, chicken coops, an outdoor classroom setting, pastures for grazing, a fish hatchery with a tank for fingerlings, three ponds and several nature paths.

The center, located behind the new Tarver-Rendon Elementary School, can also be used for student field trips. The Ron Whitson Agricultural Science Center is expected to open in May.

Whitson, who left the district to become a career and technology coordinator for the Texas Education Agency, said he appreciates the Mansfield district’s commitment to agri education.

“I was fortunate to go into Mansfield, a really great program with great teachers,” he said. “Any success I had was because of that.”

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