CAHNR Celebrates Kirklyn Kerr’s Decades of Service

Members of the College and University community came together to recognize Dean Kerr's 30-plus years of service to UConn

Former CAHNR Dean Kirklyn Kerr's contribution to the University was celebrated on May 10, 2024. (Jason Sheldon/UConn Photo)

Former CAHNR Dean Kirklyn Kerr's contribution to the University was celebrated on May 10, 2024. (Jason Sheldon/UConn Photo)

Kirklyn Kerr has served the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources (CAHNR) in various capacities for more than 30 years.

Kerr joined UConn as the dean of the College (then, the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources) in 1993. Under his leadership, the University, the College, and the state of Connecticut made impressive strides in research, teaching, and Extension engagement.

While Kerr was dean, the Department of Pathobiology and Veterinary Science at UConn isolated West Nile Virus from birds in Connecticut and researchers from UConn’s Department of Animal Science cloned a dairy cow.

It was all in a day’s work for Kerr.

“To say that Dean Kerr left a mark on UConn and CAHNR would be an understatement,” says Indrajeet Chaubey, current CAHNR dean. “On behalf of the College, I would like to thank Dean Kerr for his commitment to advancing our research, teaching, and extension mission in such a profound way.”

To recognize these and other contributions, CAHNR recently hosted alumni, students, staff, and former colleagues at a retirement reception for Kerr.

Making a Mark

Before coming to UConn, Kerr held administrative positions at the Ohio State University and Louisiana State University.

He credits his participation as a youth in 4-H for his educational success. As Dean, he would go on to strengthen UConn’s own 4-H program significantly.

Kerr served as CAHNR’s dean for 15 years. During his tenure, Kerr oversaw the modernization of the College’s and related University’s programs.

One major initiative was the introduction of biotechnology, a brand-new field at the time, into the College.

“We advised the University administration that we would enhance the traditional programs but that we would also try to add what we thought we should be doing with biotechnology,” Kerr says.

Kerr also advocated for the construction of the Agricultural Biotechnology Laboratory Building and later the Advanced Technology Laboratory. Other CAHNR facilities like the greenhouse, new equine arena, and new Plant Science turf program facility at the Plant Science Farm were also completed under Kerr’s leadership.

“It wasn’t all just building and facilities,” Kerr says. “With that, we built the educational programs and strengthened UConn Extension.”

Kerr also chaired the university advisory committee tasked with implementing UConn 2000. This program focused on modernizing, rehabilitating, and expanding UConn’s infrastructure to meet the educational and economic needs of the state and the University in the 21st century.

“If you look around, there have been many, many changes to the University campus,” Kerr says.

Kerr also worked to create a welcoming culture in the College. His late wife Anna Rosemary Parker Kerr even made lunch for dozens and sometimes even hundreds of people in the Ratcliffe Hicks Arena.

“Those lunches were a tremendous help in building the family environment we had at the College,” Kerr says.

Since completing his third and final term as dean, Kerr, a board-certified veterinary pathologist, has worked in the Connecticut Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory (CVMDL) where he is a senior pathologist for diagnostic necropsies.

Kerr has also served as academic and experiential learning advisor to undergraduate students in the Department of Pathobiology and Veterinary Science. Kerr has coordinated the department’s Residency Program in Veterinary Anatomic Pathology where he helped train many residents over the years. Kerr has also coordinated a course on biomedical issues in pathobiology for the department.

“It’s really outstanding,” says Paulo Verardi, professor and head of the Department of Pathobiology and Veterinary Science. “How do you get the energy to dive back into so much teaching, research, and service after being in leadership for so long? That was really impressive.”

The Connecticut legislature is currently considering renewing the funding of a bill named in honor of Kerr. The bill, HB-5338, would fund the Kirklyn M. Kerr grant program and form an agreement between UConn and the Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine.

Because Connecticut does not have a veterinary school, this agreement would allow Connecticut residents to pay in-state tuition at Iowa State University each year with assistance for out-of-state tuition. This would help address a major need for more trained veterinarians in Connecticut.

The grant program would provide students with $15,000 per semester for four years to help cover the cost of the out-of-state tuition.

“This program was extremely effective in expanding access to our top students when it was originally launched, and it could not have happened without Dean Kerr’s commitment and advocacy,” says Chaubey.

A New Chapter

Kerr will continue to participate in the College as a professor emeritus after his retirement, which will take effect on July 1.

While Kerr may be retiring, his legacy at UConn will live on for years to come.

In fact, in June 2023, a red Holstein calf from UConn’s award-winning herd was named D.K. for “Dean Kerr.” The calf currently lives in UConn’s Cattle Resource Center, and it embodies the new life Kerr infused into so many of UConn and CAHNR’s programs.

“[UConn] has been very good to me and my family,” Kerr says. “We think it was a wise move to come to the University of Connecticut.”


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