MSU dairy science alum establishes discretionary endowment for animal science

MSU dairy science alum William (Bill) Oswalt has established a new endowment to provide discretionary support for the MSU Department of Animal Science.

William (Bill) Oswalt and his son Mike Oswalt, also an MSU animal science alumnus on their family farm.
William (Bill) Oswalt and his son Mike Oswalt, also an MSU animal science alumnus on their family farm.

Michigan State University (MSU) dairy science alumnus, William (Bill) Oswalt, of Vicksburg, Michigan, has established a new endowment to provide discretionary support for the MSU Department of Animal Science within the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR).

The William Oswalt Discretionary Endowment in Animal Science will be used to support the department at the discretion of the chair.

“We are so grateful for Mr. Oswalt’s generosity and thoughtfulness to provide such flexibility for the future,” said Catherine Ernst, Ph.D., chairperson for the Department of Animal Science. “This gift is powerful because of its discretionary nature. Future department chairs will be able to respond to changing programmatic needs by directing expenditures toward the most pressing needs at the time. Mr. Oswalt’s generosity will have a tremendous and long-lasting impact on our students and faculty and will provide vital support for enhancing our animal science teaching, research and outreach missions.”

Agriculture runs generations deep in the Oswalt family history. Bill’s desire to maintain a thriving agriculture industry in Michigan has led him to this gift to MSU. He is establishing this endowment to give back to the institution that provided him with a life-changing experience through the Animal Science Department and to provide a similar experience to others from his alma mater.

“MSU was established as and continues to be recognized as one of the premier land-grant universities,” Oswalt said. “Life on this planet will continue to evolve and the validation of animal science must meet the challenges encountered along the path of inevitable change. It is, and always will be, a piece of the architectural challenge of survival and help keep the focus where it belongs.”

“After careful consideration, I purposefully elected to provide this gift as a discretionary endowment in the Department of Animal Science to give maximum flexibility to those to whom the appropriate stewardship of the funds has been entrusted. I would like there to be a priority to be placed on financial assistance for students who need a helping hand if the choice of greatest need is optional,” he said.

Oswalt grew up on his family dairy farm in Vicksburg, Michigan. In 1954, he came to MSU initially majoring in music, but after two years returned to his roots to major in dairy science. His MSU experience was well-rounded and included singing with the Men’s Glee Club and lettering on the MSU Track Team as a pole vaulter. He has fond memories of traveling with the Glee Club which included singing at President Eisenhower’s inauguration and appearing on The Ed Sullivan Christmas Show, as well as competing with the Dairy Cattle Judging Team.

“Because of a natural propensity for vocal music, I had to give music a shot. I knew if I chose not to continue the music major, there would not be a downside to switching to dairy science, and that’s what I decided to do,” he said. “I never met a professor or support person I did not like or respect all the way through. I knew I always had someone to turn to for assistance.”

His MSU experience resulted in many life-long friendships, including dairy professor and mentor Dr. Clint Meadows and Dr. Lon McGuillard, his advisor who found him a job at the MSU Dairy Store. To this day, Bill remembers the sweet aroma of roasting pecans for butter pecan ice cream.

After graduating from MSU’s Dairy Science Program in 1958, Bill worked three years at the Michigan Animal Breeders Cooperative located just south of campus. In 1961, he and his wife, Patricia (Pat), returned to his third-generation family dairy farm in Vicksburg to take over the day-to-day management duties in partnership with his father, Stanley Oswalt.

“Dr. Clint Meadows was a grand example of a very well-respected professor … He continued to be a great resource for me after I came back to manage our home farm in Vicksburg. And even during our extended pursuit of developing a respected registered Holstein herd, he was always just a phone call away and freely gave his perspective on issues common to dairy farmers in Michigan.”

One of Bill’s many goals was to transition from an all-grade dairy herd into a high-producing herd of registered Holsteins. He realized his vision by creating a carefully controlled breeding management program, which included artificial insemination and embryo transfer.

Pat was also active in the farm decisions, as well as their allied business, Ozland Enterprises, Inc. She volunteered with community activities and was a board member of South County Community Services for several years. In 1972, Bill and Pat were selected as Outstanding Young Dairy Couple by Michigan Milk Producers Association and in 1983 Bill was recognized as Dairy Farmer of the Year by MSU Animal Science. In 2016, Bill was named one of the charter members of the Farm Lane Society for his lifetime contributions to CANR.

Bill’s hard work and endless creativity led to the creation of Ozland Enterprises, established in 1972, which manufactures and markets dairy management products throughout the U.S. and internationally. The company’s first product, the Dairy Herd Monitor, became a benchmark management tool in the dairy industry. The new breeding wheel was a management breakthrough that offered farmers a glimpse of the breeding status of the entire dairy herd at once. With Ozland Enterprises well established, they developed many products over the years, including the first use of VELCRO® as a cattle leg band and nylon hobbles to replace chains and ropes.

Founded on Bill’s hard work and honest values, Ozland Enterprises is now a second-generation business run by his son, Mike Oswalt, also an MSU animal science alumnus. Though the company has grown over the years, Ozland Enterprises still works to create products to advance the agriculture industry according to the values and traditions of its founder, Bill Oswalt.

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