Dr. Emerson Besch, former college administrator, dies

Dr. Emerson Besch

Dr. Emerson Besch

Dr. Emerson Besch, the UFCVM’s founding associate dean for academic affairs and a professor emeritus in the department of physiological sciences, passed away on Nov. 16 in San Antonio, Texas, where he had lived for many years.

He served as a professor of physiology and mechanical engineering at UF from 1974-1993. He was the college’s founding associate dean for academic affairs from 1974-1980 and was executive associate dean from 1981-1988. Besch served as acting head of the department of physiological sciences from 1974-76 and was acting dean of the college from 1980-81, following founding Dean Charles Cornelius’ retirement. Dr. Besch also served as acting associate dean for research and graduate studies in 1987.

Dr. Gary Ellison, a professor of small animal surgery, said Besch had formally hired him as a faculty member.

“He definitely was the consummate right-hand man for Dean (Kirk) Gelatt and was a key player in making this place run,” Ellison recalled. “During my interview, he made me feel relaxed and welcome. He had a large beer mug in his office, so we talked about drinking beer in the Hofbrauhaus in Germany during the interview.”

Ellison said that back then, UF did not allow for moving allowances and he was “dirt poor” with three young children.

“Dean Besch was kind enough to start me on payroll to ‘finish up my research’ a month before I actually arrived in Gainesville,” Ellison said. “Without that I’m not sure I could have made the move. I was always very grateful to him for that and it gave me a sense of loyalty to UF before I ever arrived.”

He added that behind the scenes, Besch effectively led the college through some very difficult times, including budget cutbacks, sick-building syndrome and other challenges faced, but eventually overcome, in the late 1980s.

Dr. Daryl Buss, a professor emeritus of physiological sciences at the college and a former dean at the University of Wisconsin’s College of Veterinary Medicine, said “Em” had been a great friend and administrative mentor.

“I’ll miss trading emails with him,” Buss said. “And given his passing, I’m all the more glad I met him for breakfast while in San Antonio recently.”

Besch’s obituary is here.




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