NOTED AGRICULTURE FACULTY MEMBER, ADMINISTRATOR, COMMUNITY LEADER LOSES BATTLE WITH CANCER
NOTED AGRICULTURE FACULTY MEMBER, ADMINISTRATOR, COMMUNITY LEADER
LOSES BATTLE WITH CANCER
MARTIN, Tenn. — Dr. Jerry Gresham, professor emeritus of animal science and retired
interim college dean for the University of Tennessee at Martin, died Thursday, March 2, in Memphis
following a battle with cancer. He was 73. Gresham advocated for agriculture and experience-based
learning, and his long history of service to the Martin community included a major role in creating
the city of Martin’s successful Tennessee Soybean Festival.
Visitation is from 3-6 p.m., Sunday, March 5, at Murphy Funeral Home in Martin, and
Monday, March 6, after 9 a.m. until funeral time at 11. Monday’s visitation and services will be at
First United Methodist Church in Martin.
“I had the honor of meeting Dr. Jerry Gresham in the winter of 2006. His love for family,
agriculture, students, his colleagues and the Martin community was evident in every aspect of his
professional and personal life,” said Dr. Keith Carver, UT Martin chancellor. “Dr. Gresham was the
ultimate ambassador for the UT Martin campus and Northwest Tennessee.”
Gresham, a native of Altus, Okla., earned bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees from
Oklahoma State University. Following completion of his undergraduate degree, he served four years
in the U.S. Army, including a year in Vietnam, and earned the rank of captain before returning to
Oklahoma State to complete his education. He and his wife, Carolyn, relocated to Martin in 1973,
when he began his tenure as an assistant professor of animal science. The Greshams raised two
children, Darcia, who lives in Nashville, and Darryl, of Memphis.
“I knew Dr. Gresham and Carolyn long before assuming my current position, but I was
especially grateful for the opportunity to work closely with Jerry when he served as interim dean
from 2011 to 2013,” said Dr. Jerald Ogg, provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs. “He liked
to joke about the ‘aggie math’ he used in his budget presentations, but what I remember most was his
incredibly passionate advocacy for his faculty and students we serve. He believed in this university
and its mission, and we are fortunate his legacy continues in our programs, our facilities and our
Gresham spent almost 40 years with the university, moving through the academic ranks to
department chair and interim college dean, a post he held until his retirement in May 2013. Among
his teaching honors, he received the university’s Cunningham Outstanding Teacher/Scholar Award in
2003 and was named the University of Tennessee National Alumni Association Distinguished
Service Professor in 2005.
His commitment to the growth and development of experiential-learning opportunities for
agriculture students led to creation of the university’s teaching and demonstration farm and,
ultimately, UT Martin’s successful Veterinary Health Technology Program. The primary classroom
in that program’s renovated building was named for him in April 2016.
In addition, Gresham was director of UT Martin’s first Governor’s School for the Agricultural
Sciences in 2004. He was also involved in the university partnership between academics and
intercollegiate athletics that created the Rhodes Golf Center, which opened in fall 2013. Golf course
management students were involved in the establishment of turf grass for the state-of- the-art facility.
Gresham was known internationally for his animal science expertise. He worked closely with
Australian livestock producers to share U.S. technology on ultrasound techniques for evaluating an
animal’s meat production efficiency and led multiple educational trips to the continent.
Dr. Todd Winters was named dean of the UT Martin College of Agriculture and Applied
Sciences following Gresham’s retirement. “Dr. Gresham was responsible for building the agriculture
program at UT Martin into a nationally-known brand,” Winters said. “He touched many across the
state of Tennessee and led the UTM Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources and the
College of Agriculture and Applied Sciences with distinction. He will be missed.”
Active in the Martin community, Gresham was a Rotarian, a member of First United
Methodist Church in Martin, and volunteered many years in youth sports, serving as a coach, vice
president and president for Little League Baseball. He is also credited as founder of the local youth
soccer league. In September 1994, the award-winning Tennessee Soybean Festival began under
Gresham’s leadership, with Gresham serving as the first director of the joint community/university
festival committee. In 2004, he was named to the Tennessee Soybean Festival Hall of Fame for his
role as festival co-founder and his many contributions to the event.
“Jerry Gresham has been a real leader in the community,” said Martin Mayor Randy
Brundige. “… Jerry is one of those folks who I would like to see emulated by all of our citizens –
someone who works hard and cares about bringing about opportunities to celebrate community.”