The College of Agriculture and Life Sciences family grieve the passing of Joe Townsend, Ph.D., but share in the joy of remembering the lasting impact he left in Aggieland. Townsend had a passion for developing students into advocates and one of the guiding leaders who helped develop an agricultural leadership degree in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Texas A&M University.
For more than 30 years, Townsend, known as “Dr. Joe” to many students, served as associate vice president for student development and as associate dean for student development in addition to teaching in the College. He touched the lives of countless current students and former students, often helping them become leaders in agriculture. His career culminated with the establishment of the Dr. Joe Townsend ’67 Leadership Fellows Program in 2008, which supports the advancement of undergraduate study in leadership theory through the activities of a select cohort of students.
“Our department mourns the loss of a close faculty colleague who exuded positivity and the core values of Texas A&M,” said Matt Baker, Ph.D., head of the Department of Agricultural Leadership, Education and Communications. “Dr. Joe directed literally thousands of students to the caring faculty and staff in ALEC.”
Making the classroom ‘feel like home’
“My first class at Texas A&M was AGLS 101 with Dr. Joe,” said Jennifer Strong, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Agricultural Leadership, Education and Communications and faculty director for the Dr. Joe Townsend ’67 Leadership Fellows Program. “He had the amazing ability to make even our largest classes and classrooms feel like home. Each student knew how much Joe cared about them, and his teaching style captivated and inspired us. Joe was the master of giving you a hug at the exact right time and a good kick in the pants when you needed it.”
Throughout her time in graduate school and as an academic advisor, she witnessed Townsend interacting with new freshmen at new student conferences.
“He put the parents’ minds at ease, made everyone laugh and taught me how to care for students,” she said. “When I returned to Texas A&M as a faculty member, I was blessed with the opportunity to be the faculty director for the Fellows program. We have had several hundred students complete the program and get to interact with Joe during the process. The world is a better place because of Joe Townsend.”
“Dr. Joe is an educational visionary,” wrote Leroy “Shafe” Shafer, chief operating officer emeritus of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo in Townsend’s Outstanding Alumni Award nomination in 2017. “He is a consummate educator and administrator. The agriculture industry has benefitted greatly from his advice and the outstanding leaders he sent their way.”
Both Townsend and his wife Christine Townsend, Ph.D., who was often called Dr. Chris, were faculty members in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Christine Townsend is a former head in the Department of Agriculture Leadership, Education and Communications. Both were honored with a proclamation from the 81st Texas Legislature for their agricultural advocacy and leadership. The proclamation recognized the couple “as role models for educators, mentors and advocates for young people across Texas and that they be extended our sincerest appreciation for their service to our state through their efforts.”
A lifelong Aggie
Joe Townsend earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Texas A&M in 1967 with an agricultural education major and emphasis in teaching, student development and leadership. He was a Squadron 6 member of the Texas A&M Corps of Cadets and served as president of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Student Council.
Following graduation, he began his teaching career at the high school level, then later in college while earning a doctoral degree at Iowa State University in 1981. He returned to Texas A&M in 1984, where he began teaching. In 1996, Joe Townsend received the Texas A&M John Koldus Student Services Award. Both Joe and Christine Townsend were selected to the Hall of Honor for the Texas A&M Letterman’s Association in 2011.
He received numerous teaching awards throughout his career, including University Distinguished Teaching, Student Relations and Administration awards from the Texas A&M University Former Students Association.
“Our hearts are with Dr. Chris, another dear faculty colleague, during this difficult time,” said Baker. “Dr. Joe’s legacy will continue through his Townsend leadership endowment program and through the many students and their families that Joe touched.”
Funds for this program are used to enhance student learning by funding activities that support advanced undergraduate study in leadership.
To give in honor of “Dr. Joe” and continue impacting the lives of students, you can give online to the Dr. Joe D. Townsend ’67 ALEC Leadership Fellows Program Endowment or contact Trace Roller ’00 at email@example.com.
Celebration of life
To pay tribute to Dr. Joe and the legacy he left on Aggieland as a beloved teacher, mentor, colleague and friend—we invite you to join us for a celebration of life on Friday, July 16 at 2 p.m. CDT.
The event will be held at the Shirley and Joe Swinbank ’74 AgriLife Center. Parking will be available in Lot 100C. For those unable to join us in person, the event will be streamed live.
To help with planning, we are asking in-person attendees to RSVP. To RSVP, sign the virtual guestbook, watch the livestream or give to the Dr. Joe Townsend ’67 ALEC Leadership Fellows Endowment, please visit tx.ag/CelebratingDrJoe.