Picture of
Allan Goecker (right) and Morgan Winder pose for a photo at the College of Agriculture Scholarship Dinner in September. Photo provided by Purdue Agricultural Advancement.

Goecker rescues history from the dustbin of AGAD building

Allan Goecker's makeshift office is located in a dark storage room in the attic of the Agricultural Administration Building. His iMac sits on a card table with a single lamp - both brought from home - and is connected to an extension cord, because there's only one outlet in the whole room.

When the old Mac finally boots up, he shows me the project he's been working on for almost two years: identifying and indexing more than 2,100 articles from the Agriculturist magazine beginning with the year 1906. They're all meticulously organized into labeled folders. ask to see an article about soil judging, and in moments he prints me a copy of the fall 1969 edition of the Agriculturist featuring a photo of the Region 3 travelling trophy for soil judging, which my soil judging team had won the past two years.

It's an amazing feat. If Goecker, even in retirement, hadn't done this work, all of this information would have been lost to history. And this issue of the Agriculturist may never have been published.

In a way, Goecker's involvement with the Agriculturist has bookended his relationship with Purdue. He rose through the ranks as an undergraduate (working as a staff writer and eventually editor), and the magazine kept him around in retirement after a 40-year career in student services.

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Allan Goecker (far right) was part of the staff for The Purdue Agriculturist in this 1962 Dedris photo.
One afternoon in the late 1990s, long after the Agriculturist had ceased publication, Goecker stumbled across three boxes next to the Dumpster behind the Agricultural Administration Building. Those boxes contained every edition of the Agriculturist ever published. He knew he couldn't let the history in those pages be lost forever. He hauled the boxes up to the attic and stashed them, not sure how to proceed. It wasn't until after he retired in 2013 that he finally found the time to go back for them. He set up his hideout in the attic and got to work uncovering the mysteries in the boxes he saved all those years before.

Thumbing through the yellowed pages of the Agriculturist from 1906 up to his own articles in the 1960s, Goecker found something amazing: stories. The story of Purdue Agriculture's first woman graduate, Lillian Lamb in 1919. She also happened to be a writer for the Agriculturist. He found some interesting names in the bylines as well: Glenn W. Sample, Earl Butz, Joe Pearson, Orville Redenbacher, and David Pfendler were among them.

That was the genesis for this commemorative issue of the Agriculturist. Just as before, students used the publication to record their perspective of Purdue Agriculture. Goecker said he hopes the Agriculturist will return to publishing regularly, at least annually.

History has inherent intrinsic value: history for history's sake. But for me (and I think for Goecker as well) it has undeniable sentimental value. It bears the weight of all those who came before us, and helps to bridge a gap between our generations. Every student who walks the grounds of Purdue will experience it differently and have her or his own perspective. In writing those perspectives down, we can glimpse into the lives of students from every decade and feel the common thread that connects us all: the legacy of being a Boilermaker.

 


By Morgan Winder, Agricultural Education and Applied Agricultural Economics, senior

 

 

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