In memoriam: Richard 'Dick' Saacke, professor emeritus of dairy science
Saacke, of Blacksburg, joined the faculty of Virginia Tech’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences in 1965, devoting his career to excellence in research, teaching, and mentoring graduate students in the field of bovine reproductive physiology and artificial insemination.
Richard “Dick” Saacke, professor emeritus of dairy science, died on Aug. 20. He was 91.
Saacke, of Blacksburg, joined the faculty of what is today the Virginia Tech College of Agriculture and Life Sciences in 1965, devoting his career to excellence in research, teaching, and mentoring graduate students in the field of bovine reproductive physiology and artificial insemination.
His research program can be credited with many firsts in the area of bovine reproduction. His lab was instrumental in leading the artificial insemination industry through the transition from unfrozen, cooled semen to frozen semen. His work led the transition from glass ampoules to French straws for semen storage, and the guidelines he developed for freezing sperm continue to be an integral part of the artificial insemination industry today.
“Dr. Saacke’s work and that of his colleagues put Virginia Tech and the reproductive biology group – arguably one of the stronger groups of that time – on the map,” said David Gerrard, director of the School of Animal Sciences. “His legacy continues in the School of Animal Sciences to this very day.”
For his contributions, Saacke was inducted into the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Hall of Fame in 2016.
Saacke’s guidance of 23 graduate students through his laboratory continues to have a global impact on the dairy and livestock industries. Outside of the lab, nearly 3,500 undergraduate students were impacted by his Physiology of Livestock Reproduction class.
Dave Winston was once a student in that Physiology of Reproduction class. Years later, he became a colleague of Saacke when he returned to Virginia Tech as a faculty member in the Department of Dairy Science, now the School of Animal Sciences.
“I greatly appreciated him in both roles,” said Winston, a Virginia Cooperative Extension dairy specialist. “He was a man of tremendous character who cared deeply about his work and people. Perhaps that will be what he is remembered for the most by those he impacted at Virginia Tech and the dairy industry across the state, nation, and world.”
Saacke and his family continue to this day to have a positive impact on students in the college by providing philanthropic support through the Richard G. & Ann L. Saacke Undergraduate Scholarship.
A native of Newark, New Jersey, Saacke completed his education at Rutgers University and Pennsylvania State University. He spent the first part of his career as an Extension dairy specialist at the University of Maryland and then on the faculty in the Department of Dairy Science at Penn State. He also served in the U.S. Army Signal Corps.
Saacke is survived by his longtime wife, Ann, as well as five children, 15 grandchildren, two great-grandchildren, and numerous friends. A celebration of life will be held on Sept. 22.