The first organization for agricultural students was formed in November, 1882 by students W.S. Deval, W.C. Mills, W.P. Bentley, and Professor N.S. Townshend, then the only Professor of Agriculture at the college. The organization was named, The Kirtland Agricultural Society, after Professor Townshend’s friend and co-laborer, Dr. Kirtland.
The first reported documentation of approval of the vote to form the Society appears in the 1883 Makio University Yearbook, making it the oldest continuously active undergraduate student organization at The Ohio State University. The first President of the Society was William Brotherton. There were 11 active members of the Society plus four honorary members including Walter Quincy Scott, President of The Ohio State University; Norton S. Townshend, Professor of Agricultural and Veterinary Medicine; William R. Lazenby, Professor of Botany and Horticulture, and W.I. Chamberlain, Secretary, State Board of Agriculture. The organization met on alternating Friday nights in rooms of the Experiment Station.
Interest and membership were high during the years that Professors Townshend and Lazenby were advisors, but when these men retired, students’ interest greatly diminished.
In 1892, several energetic students, including H. H. Richardson, F. P. Stump, and F. W. Rane, called a meeting in the reading room of the Horticulture Building and reconfigured the Society known as, The Association of Agricultural Students. Charles W. Burket was elected President and during his term of office, the association, the students, and the university benefited greatly. Attendance jumped from four in 1893 to 90 in 1895.
In 1895, R. W. Dunlap was elected President. During his term, the organization became so successful that it outgrew its constitution. It was decided that the name, Association of Agricultural Students, meant too little. Therefore it was changed to, The Townshend Agricultural Society, in honor of Dr. N.S. Townshend.
Meetings of the Society during the 1890s were held in University Hall and the Horticulture Building. Townshend Hall was built in 1898; soon after, it became home for the Society. During this time period, the organization again experienced a name change and became, The Townshend Literary Society, allowing anyone in the University membership.
Although most of the members were agricultural students, the university-wide membership philosophy left the agricultural college without an organization strictly of agricultural men. In 1904, an associated organization of all agricultural men was formed which took the old name, Townshend Agricultural Society. Rivalry between these two organizations interfered with growth, and as a result, neither was as prosperous as they might have otherwise been.
Consequently, in 1916, a movement was started to merge the two societies. A joint meeting of the two societies was held on May 27, 1916, and the two societies were officially united under the name of the Townshend Agricultural Society.
As the college expanded from year to year, more departments came into existence, which brought about more student organizations. This created a complex problem for the Townshend Agricultural Society because it was not affiliated with any department of the College, thus depriving it of definitive faculty guidance and support.
In 1926, Dean Alfred Vivian and Professor W.F. Stewart launched a new program for the Society. The name was changed to the Townshend Agricultural Education Society. “Agricultural Education” signified that the new Society was designed to serve the needs of men majoring in Agricultural Education, and that the Society was affiliated with the Department of Agricultural Education. Dues were set at $1.00 per year. Meetings were held the second and fourth Tuesdays of each month.
Dynamic change came to the Townshend Agricultural Education Society, when, once again, a name change took place on November 12, 1963; The organization became the Agricultural Education Society. Beginning in December, 1963, with final revisions of the Society adopted in December, 1964 changes took place including women being considered, but declined, for membership into the organization. Other changes included the adoption of a new crest, new symbols, and new opening and closing ceremonies for meetings and events.
The first woman President, Ann Elaine Schaible, was elected in 1978. Women members have been active in the society from the mid-1970s. Other changes have included a major constitution revision in 1991 that resulted in the removal of the opening and closing ceremonies, a restructuring of the officers and committees, and a raise in the $1.00 dues that were set in 1926, to $5.00. Dr. M. Susie (Quay) Whittington became the first woman advisor in 2000. A new crest was designed by Janice DiCarolis, Research and Extension Communication Liaison in the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences, and adopted by the Society in 2004.
By 2010, The Agricultural Education Society had been served by fourteen advisors in its 128 year history: Lazenby, Townshend, Stewart, Hutchinson, Fife, Rhoad, Bender, Woodin, Wolf, Newcomb, Knight, Cano, Whittington, and Kitchel
The general operation of the Agricultural Education Society continues to be steeped in its original, rich, traditional roots, but is influenced and supported by dynamic, creative, and positive thinking from its members across the department, college, and university. Today the Society is proudly housed in the Department of Agricultural Communication, Education, and Leadership in the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences at The Ohio State University.
Edited from the 1960s version by:
M. Susie Whittington, Professor, with dedicated assistance from Ryan McMichael, AES 125th Anniversary Committee co-chair, and The Ohio State University Archives.