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Daniel C. Pfannstiel

Daniel C. Pfannstiel

Hall of Fame Class of 2010

With a 42-year distinguished and celebrated career as administrator of a large state adult education organization, graduate teaching in the field, extensive international activities, and participation in military education, Daniel C. Pfannstiel has made a tremendous impact on the lives of adult learners, low income families, and the field of cooperative extension. While his accomplishments are too lengthy to be easily summarized, a review of three areas in particular illustrates this outstanding adult educator’s contributions: his leadership in the Texas agricultural extension enterprise, his efforts to aid impoverished families through education, and his active participation in German exchange programs.

After receiving his PhD in cooperative extension administration from the University of Wisconsin in 1959, Pfannstiel rejoined the Texas Agricultural Extension Service (TAEX). He served as director from 1976 to 1982. Under his leadership, TAEX experienced growth in budgets, staff, and outreach with many new programs inaugurated to reach new audiences, which included the population in all of the state’s 254 counties. Following the passage of the Sea Grant College Act, and through Pfannstiel’s efforts, marine extension agents were added to the county staffs in Texas coastal counties and educational programs were inaugurated to serve commercial fishermen and other maritime interests.

One of Pfannstiel’s most notable contributions to the field of adult education was the implementation of a study to identify the most effective teaching methods for reaching low income Hispanic families with basic nutrition information, a program popularized as The El Paso Project. This project became the prototype for a federally funded War-on-Poverty program. Through education, millions of low income families improved their diets and, in turn, their quality of life. The program continues today as the Expanded Foods and Nutrition Educational Program, mainly in urban areas.

In the 1980s, with the support of the International Section of the American Association of Adult and Continuing Education (AAACE), Pfannstiel developed collaborative working relationships with German counterparts to arrange dozens of conferences, courses, seminars, and study tours in Germany to help U.S. educators learn more about the adult and university educational programs in that country. These activities provided an in-depth look at the outstanding adult education programs in Germany called Volkshochschules. Pfannstiel was organizer, leader, and translator for groups of Texas A&M faculty and graduate students who participated in week-long agricultural study tours.

Pfannstiel also played an international role by serving as a consultant in some 25 developing countries seeking to emulate the U.S. model of the land-grant universities system of teaching, research, and educational outreach. Advocating the value of learning from “best practices,” he drew upon what innovative farmers were doing and shared these successful practices with other farmers worldwide. Further, as part of the staff of the National Agricultural Extension Center for Advanced Study at the University of Wisconsin, supported by the Kellogg Foundation, Pfannstiel taught the core course Extension Organizational Management, which attracted students from Canada and from developing countries. In this way, too, he globally extended his expertise.

In addition to his civilian accomplishments, Pfannstiel served with the U.S. Army Reserve. A colonel, he was liaison officer for the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. There he interviewed prospective applicants, including several of the first women to enter the academy. He taught at U.S. Army Reserve schools, helping other officers learn adult teaching methodology. Recognizing that the military has “a pretty darn good system of adult education itself,” he taught other instructors in the military to appreciate the relevance of adult education principles and concepts in an effort to improve military instructional effectiveness.