Ron Krutsinger’s life was defined by his passion for Nebraska’s cattle business. He embraced the freedom of wide open spaces growing up on his family’s southwest Nebraska ranch and built a career in the industry by raising, buying and selling cattle.
So when Ron passed away in 2020, his wife, Carol, of Norfolk, decided to honor his legacy by helping to ensure the future of Nebraska’s beef industry.
Carol made a $1 million gift to the University of Nebraska Foundation to benefit the University of Nebraska–Lincoln and the Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture. The gift to help develop the next generation of beef industry leaders was made possible by the sale in December of the couple’s 15,500-acre ranch in Dundy County in southwest Nebraska.
The gift will support three priorities:
• $700,000 to create a permanent endowment to support the Nebraska Beef Industry Scholars Program at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, which prepares students to be leaders of the beef industry through an academic minor. The program will be renamed the Krutsinger Beef Industry Scholars Program in honor of Ron and Carol Krutsinger.
• $250,000 to award scholarships to students in the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources. Preference will be given to students who are graduates of high schools from the southwest Nebraska counties of Dundy, Hitchcock, Red Willow, Frontier, Hayes, Chase and Perkins.
• $50,000 to award scholarships to NCTA students. The Krutsinger gift will be matched by other funds to create a $100,000 scholarship fund. NCTA, a two-year technical college in Curtis, prepares students for careers in livestock industry management, animal science, veterinary technology systems and other agriculture-related industries.
“Scholarships are critical for our students to be able to complete their education and prepare for the agricultural workforce,” said Larry Gossen, NCTA dean. “Without generous donors and sponsors like Carol Krutsinger, many of our students may not be able to attend college.”
A strong work ethic
Ron was born in Benkelman on Aug. 22, 1939, graduating from high school there and learning the strong work ethic of living and working on a family ranch. He moved to Norfolk in 1966 to work for Production Credit Association, an agriculture lender. He fed cattle on the side before purchasing and operating the Fore-Quarters Feedlot from 1972 until 2005.
Carol said her husband of 46 years loved his work with cattle and ranching. Carol, a retired kindergarten teacher in Norfolk, recalled how she met Ron at a party hosted at his home, having been invited by mutual friends. Ron was late arriving because he was out feeding cattle.
“He was a worker and always up for a challenge,” she said. “I supported that because I knew he was happy. He told me once that he would never retire.”
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Ron’s longtime bookkeeper, Sheila Dreismeier, described him as someone who did business on a handshake.
“He was a gentle giant,” she said. “He was compassionate. He got along with everybody. All the cattlemen respected him and his opinion, and he guided a lot of young people.”
Ron died Nov. 15, 2020, at a Norfolk hospital after contracting COVID-19 during the first year of the pandemic.
Carol said that after the unexpected loss of her husband, she decided to sell the Krutsinger family ranch, which had grown from 160 acres to 15,500 acres through land purchases by Ron’s late father, Bus, and later by Ron and his late brother, Garry.
Stretching nine miles from north to south, the family had spent many Thanksgiving holidays at the ranch, and Ron enjoyed trout fishing and duck hunting there.
With no children, Carol knew the sprawling ranch was more than she could manage.
She devoted some of the proceeds from the sale to help agriculture students at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln and NCTA. Ron attended Colorado State University for one year, then went back home to work on the family ranch. He always wished he had been able to get his degree, Carol said.
“I knew that this was what I wanted to do for Ron,” she said.
Krutsinger Beef Industry Scholars Program
The Krutsinger Beef Industry Scholars Program is housed in the Department of Animal Science. The program develops students to be leaders of the beef industry through academic coursework, tours of Nebraska cattle operations and the building of relationships with ranchers, cattle feeders, processors and industry leaders.
“I cannot express enough gratitude for the gift that Carol Krutsinger has provided in support of our Nebraska Beef Industry Scholars Program,” said Thomas E. Burkey, interim head of the department. “Since 2006, this program has leveraged our strengths in beef systems education to provide students with unique opportunities to apply knowledge gained to address current and emerging issues in the beef industry. This generous gift will help us to solidify our commitment to providing opportunities to develop the next generation of beef industry leaders.”
Agriculture is the No. 1 industry in Nebraska, and cattle production represents the largest segment of the industry, according to the Nebraska Beef Council.
Tyler Perrin is a senior animal science major at Nebraska and Beef Industry Scholar. Having grown up on his family’s farm near Ogallala, he said he wants to work in the beef industry after he graduates in May and eventually own a cow herd. He said his experiences in the program have given him a better understanding of the consumer impacts of cattle production and allowed him to meet people in Nebraska’s beef industry.
“It’s very beneficial,” Perrin said. “I’ve made a lot of connections through the university, through classes and guest speakers. So later when you go into business with them, you know them and can relate to them on a personal level.”
Carol Krutsinger’s gift in support of agriculture students is part of “Only in Nebraska: A Campaign for Our University’s Future.” Announced last fall, the campaign has a goal to raise $3 billion from 150,000 benefactors to support the University of Nebraska. The campaign’s biggest priority is students, with more than half the funds dedicated to ensuring a high-quality, affordable education for Nebraska students.