One of the foremost authorities on dairy cattle judging passed away Friday, July 9, in Madison, Wis., after a courageous battle against cancer. During his distinguished career, David Dickson judged more shows (13 total) at World Dairy Expo than any other official. In addition, he placed dairy cattle in over 20 countries and served on the All American selection committees for all seven recognized Purebred Dairy Cattle Association breeds. He was the first American to judge the European Championship Holstein Show and the New Zealand Royal Agricultural Holstein Show. He has led judging conferences throughout the U.S. and in Australia, Belgium, Canada, Italy, Japan and Spain. During his career as the University of Wisconsin-Madison dairy cattle judging coach which officially began in 1968, Dickson led teams to seven national championships at the National Intercollegiate Dairy Cattle Judging Contest. Perhaps more impressive, his teams won 18 team reasons titles at the national contest.
David P. Dickson was born in Everson, Wash., on February 26, 1939, and graduated from Meridian High School as class valedictorian. He went on to earn a bachelor's degree in dairy science from Washington State University. In 1960, Dickson became the second person (a fete that was later matched by one other person) in the U.S. to earn high individuals honors at both the National 4-H Dairy Cattle Judging Contest and at the Intercollegiate Dairy Cattle Judging Contest. It was that second honor, high individual at the college contest, that earned Dickson National Dairy Shrine's famed Kildee scholarship. He used that money to further his dairy education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where he went on to earn both a Master's and a PhD.
After graduation, Dickson joined the University of Wisconsin-Madison Dairy Science Department where he served as professor for over three decades. As his career unfolded, he was chosen by his peers to chair the department from 1984 to 1990. Dickson served on the World Dairy Expo board of directors and also was a Holstein Foundation trustee. He was the founding advisor to UW-Madison's Badger Dairy club. Dickson was a long-time chapter advisor for UW-Madison's Alpha Gamma Rho Fraternity and a long-time advocate and supporter of Madison's Association of Women in Agriculture (AWA) . . . both agricultural professional-social organizations for young men and women. AWA has awarded him Honorary Membership. Additionally, he served as advisor to the Midwest and National student affiliate divisions of the American Dairy Science Association.
His ability to teach students was recognized by the American Dairy Science Association in 1996 when he won the Purina Mills Teaching Award in the first year he was nominated. In 2005, Dickson was honored as an Alpha Gamma Rho "Brother of the Century" during the Fraternity's 100th anniversary celebration and has won the Distinguished Service Award from multiple organizations. Always an educator, Dickson was the Kickoff Inspirational Speaker at the National 4-H Dairy Conference for ten consecutive years. During his tenure, he helped to produce over 20 videos on oral reasons that were shared with others across the country. Additionally, his dairy cattle judging brochure, "Dairy Cattle Judging Made Easy," has been translated into Italian and Spanish. Later on, that publication was made into an effective interactive teaching tool available on CD. Many dairy producers also may remember Dickson's Christmastime poems deeply rooted in dairy tradition.