Kansas State University


Graduate School

Alumnus is life-long learner

Emery Castle

As the May 2012 College of Agriculture commencement speaker, Emery Castle told graduates to remember that “a well-educated person knows much and is to be admired; a wise person recognizes also there is much he or she does not know.”

Castle has followed his own advice by being a lifelong learner; maintaining professional relationships with teachers, colleagues and students; and responding positively to personal and professional challenges and opportunities.

After returning to K-State at the end of World War II, Castle pursued a degree in agriculture. Inspired by the teaching of Dr. Edgar Bagley, Castle soon became so immersed in economics that he “couldn’t sleep at night because [he] was so excited.”

“Coming from a poor family, I saw the relationship between public policy and people when I took Dr. Bagley’s course,” said Castle. “That’s what attracted me to economics.”

After graduating from K-State with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in agricultural economics, he taught agricultural economics at K-State for two years before completing a doctorate at Iowa State University. Castle then worked as an agricultural economist for the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City. The experience allowed him to become familiar with, and to contrast, the practicalities of private enterprise and government regulation.

Realizing that he missed teaching and research, Castle accepted an assistant professor position at Oregon State University. His position involved teaching and research in the traditional field of farm management and production economics, but it was the emerging field of resource and environmental economics that dominated his efforts. Castle was also a pioneer in the field of water resource economics.

While at Oregon State, Castle served as dean of the Graduate School, head of the department of agricultural economics, director of the Water Resources Institute and dean of the faculty. In 1975, he accepted a position as vice president of Resources for the Future, a non-profit organization founded in 1952 to conduct independent research into environmental, energy, and natural resources in Washington, D.C. He served as president of the organization from 1979 to 1986.

Castle returned to Oregon State as professor of the university graduate faculty of economics, serving as chair from 1986 to 1991. He retired with emeritus status in 1998 and remains active within the university.

Castle has been a mentor to numerous graduate students and young faculty. Eight recognized scholars have chosen Castle as an escort when receiving the designation of fellow, the highest honor accorded by the Association of Agricultural and Applied Economics.

In addition to writing various journal articles, Castle was the lead author for a textbook, Farm Business Management: The Decision Making Process, in 1962 with a second edition in 1972 and a third in 1986. It has been translated into six languages and has sold more than 100,000 copies.

He also wrote an autobiography, Reflections of a Pragmatic Economist, which was released in 2010 to coincide with the American Agricultural Economics Association meeting. In addition to his academic career, it chronicles his time as a radio operator on a B-17 bomber during World War II.

In the book, Castle admits to having one hobby — raising roses. In 1955, he acquired 13 “out of patent” roses for 35 cents each and exhibited his first roses at the Corvallis Rose Show in 1957. He won the novice trophy and two years later, best of show. Castle was “hooked” and continues to grow roses and design rose gardens.

While Castle was president of Resources for the Future, the organization developed a parcel in downtown Washington D.C. The development provided a courtyard, including a rose garden, to the public.  In celebration the organization’s 50th anniversary, the rose garden was dedicated to and named for Castle in 2002.

The breadth and depth of Castle’s professional efforts have been recognized in numerous other ways.  He was awarded honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degrees from Iowa State University and Oregon State University.  He is a fellow of the Association of Agricultural and Applied Economics, the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Association of Arts and Sciences.

Based on article published in Fall 2012 AgReport.