Dr. Eugene Trotter was a professor and the founder of the Wedgworth Leadership Institute for Agriculture and Natural Resources at the University of Florida. He served as director of the institute for 12 years, from 1992 to 2004, helping to train scores of young leaders. Graduates of the institute include a state senator, a deputy commissioner of agriculture, members of agricultural industry boards, and many other influential people who are helping to shape the future of Florida.
Trotter was born in 1943 and raised on a farm in rural Illinois. He earned a master’s degree in horticulture and higher education from Southern Illinois University in 1970 and a doctorate in education from the University of Illinois in 1973.
Before joining the faculty at the University of Florida in 1990, Trotter taught at Michigan State University and directed the university’s Agricultural Leadership Program for 11 years. Because of his success in Michigan, Trotter was recruited by UF to build a similar program in Florida. He spent two years traveling around the state, meeting with agricultural leaders to promote the concept of the institute, recruit the first class, and find necessary funding.
Florida’s agriculture community enthusiastically threw its support behind the new institute. Trotter got the institute up and running and, through tireless fundraising, built a substantial endowment fund to make sure it would stand the test of time. He taught the first five classes at the institute, devoting a significant amount of his personal time and effort to mentoring students and alumni.
The Wedgworth Institute is administered by UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS). It develops leadership skills in people ages 25 to 45 who plan to become involved in agriculture and natural resource policy formation. The 22-month program includes 11 seminars held in Florida, Washington, D.C., and even other countries. Students are offered insight into the complex issues facing Florida agriculture and are provided with the tools to bring about positive change.
Today the institute has 218 graduates and is considered a model of excellence for other states to follow. Graduates have gone on to accept local, state, national, and international leadership positions on industry and commodity boards and in numerous other organizations.
Trotter published articles on agriculture and education in a wide variety of scholarly publications and professional journals. He was a member of the International Association for Programs of Agricultural Leadership, the Association of Leadership Educators, the World Future Society, Gamma Sigma Delta, the American Association of Teacher Educators of Agriculture, the National Vocational Agriculture Teachers Association, and the American Vocational Association.
In 2003 Trotter was presented with the Outstanding Leader Award from the International Association for Programs of Agricultural Leadership. He was recognized for his “vision and dedicated service spanning a quarter of a century in two states, and preparing talented young leaders for the challenging years ahead.”
In 2004 Trotter was named assistant vice president and director of the IFAS SHARE office, which works to raise funds in support of agricultural research and education. Dr. Trotter passed away after a brief illness that same year. He is survived by his wife, Gale, and their daughter, Dottie.