Vol. 38, No. 18
By: Kim Burdett
Microbiologist leaves university with close to 50 years of service
The year he stepped on Ohio State’s campus, Fidel Castro had taken over Cuba and Bobby Darin ruled the airwaves.
It was 1959 when Burk Dehority became an assistant professor of animal science at Ohio State. After nearly 50 years of university service, Dehority retired in June from the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences as one of the world’s leading rumen microbiologists.
“He will definitely be missed,” said Francis Fluharty, research associate professor with the Department of Animal Sciences. “It will not be possible to replace him. How do you replace 50-plus years of knowledge?”
His accomplishments span the half-century he was associated with Ohio State. Dehority’s research focused on microorganisms in the first stomach compartment of ruminants such as cattle, sheep and deer.
He demonstrated the synergism between bacteria species and digestion and discovered a new family of protozoa in marsupial stomachs. Using in-vitro culture techniques and a new procedure for estimating generation time, he also explained how ciliate protozoa could maintain their numbers in rumen.
Feed companies and organizations worldwide implemented Dehority’s findings on a daily basis. The impact he’s had on the industry is tremendous, Fluharty said.
Dehority’s research eventually led to the discovery of many new species of protozoa, two of which his colleagues named after him: Eudiplodinium dehorityi and Amylovorax dehorityi.
While Dehority has written a textbook and a lab manual, authored more than 153 peer-reviewed journal articles and 10 book chapters and was invited to make presentations at nine international symposia, he is still itching to return to the Wooster campus to complete some unfinished research.
“I quit too early,” he said as he discussed the notes that still needed to be published. “It’s been a great ride but the ride’s not quite over.”
Dehority earned his bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Blackburn College and began teaching two years after receiving his Ph.D. in biochemistry from Ohio State.
“Not only has he traveled all over the world doing research and giving lectures, but he also has a continuous string of Ph.D. students from all over the world come to study under him,” Fluharty said.
Fluharty, a former student of Dehority, praised the retiree not just as a researcher but a mentor.
“I give him a lot of credit for teaching me to think like a scientist,” he said. “He truly is a great man, and to me that is his legacy.”
Along with tying up loose microbiological ends, Dehority plans to use his free time fixing up his recently purchased home and spending time with his family.
When asked what he will miss most about Ohio State, Dehority mentioned his “little friends,” the microorganisms he studied over the years. However, he also noted his love for the university.
“Ohio State is an outstanding academic institution and I’ve been honored to work here for so long,” he said.