He steps into the position held by Dr. Charles Scifres, who died of an apparent heart attack on July 28.

"Bob Whitson is a consensus builder who is well known and highly regarded by people both within our Agriculture Program and throughout the state," said Dr. Ed Hiler, vice chancellor and dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and director of the Texas Agricultural Experiment Station. Hiler announced the appointment Friday.

"He brings a high level of dedication and commitment to the organization; he has a good understanding of our statewide research effort."

Hiler praised Whitson for his work in a previous temporary capacity. During the first half of 2002, he was interim head of the department of animal science, where he developed a range of strategic directions by seeking the ideas and involvement of faculty and administrators.

"I look forward to the opportunity to work with both internal and external constituencies to build on the positive momentum of the Experiment Station," Whitson said. "The Experiment Station plays a critical research role for the state and nation, and this role will continue to be aggressively pursued during this interim period."

Whitson, whose appointment is effective Aug. 15, will be responsible for the day-to-day operation of the Experiment Station, the state's major agricultural research arm and an agency of The Texas A&M University System. The Experiment Station supports the work of more than 450 scientists involved in research on the Texas A&M campus and some two dozen sites around the state.

Whitson, 61, grew up in the Panhandle town of Spearman, earned two degrees from Texas Tech University and completed his doctorate in agricultural economics at Texas A&M in 1974.

He taught agricultural economics and range science at Texas A&M from 1974 to 1981, then worked for 12 years in the trust division of Frost National Bank in San Antonio, where he rose to the rank of senior vice president.

Whitson returned to Texas A&M in 1993 to become professor and head of the department of rangeland ecology and management.

He and his wife Linda reside in College Station, and have two daughters, Cristie and Susan, who are married and live in San Antonio.

Dave Mayes is a writer for Texas A&M University.

e-mail: d-mayes@tamu.edu