PULLMAN, Wash. — Bill Bennett spent a lot of time on the Washington State University campus when he was a boy.
He returned Thursday to accept the Outstanding Alumnus Award from the animal sciences department. The annual award recognizes alumni who have made outstanding contributions to business and industry-related animal agriculture during their lives.
When Bennett was growing up, his parents operated the largest registered Polled Shorthorn herd in the world on a ranch in western Whitman County. When his father visited animal scientists on campus, he often brought his son along.
Bill recalls visiting the old Beef Barn when he was seven. It became his home away from home in 1947 when he enrolled at the university and became the first student to reside there.
Bennett left college after a year to go on the show circuit with his brother. They took a boxcar of cattle from the Winona ranch to shows in Portland, Ore.; San Francisco; Ogden, Utah; and Chicago, living in the boxcar with the cattle while they were on the road.
Bennett married his wife Norma in 1949. They ranched until 1957 when they moved to Pullman where Bennett was put in charge of the university’s beef herd. The family left in 1963 to become partners in a Hereford operation at Connell. It was sold in 1969.
The Bennetts started over with four kids, 12 cows and a new home place — the BB Cattle Company. Within 11 years the BB was registering more Herefords than any other ranch in the United States. The ranch has since diversified to six breeds, making the Bennetts the second largest registered cattle breeders in the world.
“Bill has long been a friend and supporter of the department, contributing time, advice and cattle to our research and teaching efforts,” said Jerry Reeves, animal scientist. “Many students have started learning the practical applications of the cattle industry on his operation.”
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