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Rodney Bertramson, 91, Retired WSU Ag Administrator

PULLMAN, Wash. — B. Rodney Bertramson, 91, long-time chairman of the agronomy department at Washington State University and director of resident instruction of the College of Agriculture, died Wednesday (March 23) at Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane following a fall in Pullman the previous afternoon.

Rodney Bertramson, retired director of resident instruction, Washington State University of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences
Rodney Bertramson, retired director of resident instruction, Washington State University of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences. Click image for a larger version.

“He was an icon in the community and at the university,” said R. James Cook, interim dean of the College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences, on Wednesday afternoon.

“Last night, I had a copy of a letter from Rod that he had written to Alan Busacca, (professor of crop and soil sciences) who had done this great talk for the Kiwanis. Rod wrote this wonderful, typically Rod letter, back to Alan complimenting him on this great talk and asking if he could go along with Alan the next time he did one of his field trips to get some pictures and he copied me. I put a note on this letter, Rod is still Rod, and today I learned he has passed away.”

“Rod will be missed by many of us in this Pullman community,” said Pullman Mayor Glenn Johnson, “because of his generosity, not only giving of himself but of his money. He was a great philanthropist in this community in terms of his help for the Heritage Addition to Neill Public Library and his help in the Pullman Regional Hospital.

“I considered Rod a mentor because he showed by example that you don’t necessarily retire from office but you are always helping and giving of yourself.”

B. Rodney (“Rod”) Bertramson was born on a livestock and grain farm near Potter, Neb., on Jan. 25, 1914, to James W. and Gladys Nelson Bertramson.

He received his B.S. in agronomy and M.S. in soils from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln in 1933 and 1937 respectively. In 1938 he married Eleanor Maloney of Omaha, Neb. Bertramson went on to further graduate study at Oregon State University where he earned his doctorate in soils in 1941.

After working with the Soil Conservation Service in Rapid City, S.D., and teaching at Colorado State University (then Colorado A&M) for a short time, Bertramson was drafted in 1942 as a first lieutenant. He served with the Tank Destroyer Officer Candidate School in Fort Hood, Texas.

Later Bertramson was promoted to food and agriculture officer for the Rhineland and Gross Hessen regions in Germany. His job was to set up an administrative organization for food and general agriculture.

After his discharge from the military in 1946, he was employed by the University of Wisconsin as an assistant soils scientist, but later that year moved to Purdue University as an associate soil chemist and assistant soils scientist.

Bertramson became the chairman of the agronomy department at Washington State University in 1949 and served in this capacity for 18 years.

He was appointed director of resident instruction of the College of Agriculture in 1967, serving in that capacity until his retirement in 1979.

During 30 years at Washington State University Bertramson worked closely with a number of agriculture associations within the state and region. His administration was also identified with several historically significant events, including the release of high yielding Gaines wheat developed by Dr. Orville A. Vogel.

Bertramson was the author or co-author of numerous articles published in various trade magazines. He was active in many professional and honorary agricultural organizations, including the Crop Science Society of America, the Soil Science Society of America, Soil Conservation Society of America and others.

In 1960, he was elected vice president of the American Society of Agronomy and in 1961 served as president of the Society. Later, Bertramson was elected a fellow of the ASA. He also served as the President of the Agronomic Science Foundation and editor of the Journal of Agronomic Education. In 1978, Bertramson was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by the University of Nebraska at Lincoln.

He was active in civic affairs, including the Kiwanis Club of Pullman, and in Pullman beautification projects of the mid-1960s. He also served as president of the Pullman Chamber of Commerce, president of the Pullman Community Hospital Corp. and was a member of the Pullman City Council.

In 2003, he received the Pullman Chamber of Commerce Modern Hall of Fame award for his service to the community and the chamber.

Surviving family members include his wife Eleanor of Pullman, son Jim of Durango, Colo.; daughter Susan Bertramson-Thomson of Sandpoint, Idaho; six grandchildren; and his great-grandchildren.

Memorial services will be held at 1:30 p.m., Monday, March 28, at the Pullman Presbyterian Church. Arrangements are being handled by the Kimball Funeral Home in Pullman.

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