Mick Botkin found his calling early in life on the Botkin family farm near Fruita, Colorado.
Born in 1922, Botkin was engaged from the get-go in all aspects of working on the farm, but he had a special affinity for animal husbandry.
"I was always interested in livestock," says Botkin, a 2012 Outstanding Alumni Award recipient and former faculty member in the college. "I was in 4-H and raised animals – sheep, pigs, horses, and dairy cows."
Botkin's father, Paul, once recounted his son's remarkable abilities with animals.
"As a young boy, Mick could walk into a barn full of mama ewes and baby lambs and know exactly which lamb went with which ewe," he says. "He was the only one in our family who could do that."
Friend's Persuasion Led to UW
After high school, Botkin attended Mesa Junior College in Grand Junction, Colorado, in 1941 and 1942. Then, Botkin's longtime friend, Ward Smith, persuaded Botkin to move to Laramie and enroll in the University of Wyoming.
"I was led up to Laramie by Ward who was on the UW faculty at the time," Botkin recalls. "He gave me a place to stay and helped me out. It was an easy decision."
Botkin enrolled in UW in 1942 and enlisted in the Army Reserve. He had completed two quarters at UW when duty called. Botkin was deployed to Europe in 1943 where he served in the 76th lnfantry Division of the U.S. Army, attained the rank of sergeant, and was a squad leader. His division helped defeat the German Army during the Battle of the Bulge in December 1944 and January 1945.
"The most memorable part of all was the terrific force that was generated by us and our allies that totally destroyed Hitler's plan for world domination," says Botkin. "That was our purpose in being there."
The war ended and Botkin returned from Europe unscathed; he says home was never sweeter.
"I'd been overseas so long that I figured once I got home to America I'd stay there," says Botkin. "I didn't ever want to leave again."
Finishes College, Marries
In 1948, Botkin received his bachelor's degree in animal production from UW and married his sweetheart, Lynn, in Fruita — they have four children: Jean Pederson, Paul Botkin, Jan Botkin-Therkildsen, and Julie Wade.
"Mick Botkin is my father, and I am so proud to call him Dad," says Wade. "He possesses a combination of qualities rarely found in one person. He is extremely smart, and at the same time, he truly and intentionally holds every person in the highest regard."
Botkin received his master's degree in animal production at UW in 1949 and his Ph.D. in animal husbandry from Oklahoma State University in 1952 with a thesis on the "Repeatability of weights and gains in range beef cattle." Botkin's academic work earned him membership in the prestigious Phi Kappa Phi.
"His membership in Phi Kappa Phi, based on his superior scholarship at the University of Wyoming, was an outstanding achievement, given that he put himself through school while working several jobs," recalls Botkin-Therkildsen.
Enjoyed Students, Colleague Relationships
Botkin was appointed assistant professor in the Animal Production Department at UW in 1952. He particularly focused on mentoring students, judging 4-H and state fair livestock contests, publishing articles and manuscripts, and contributing his expertise to bettering the Wyoming sheep industry.
It wasn't all work, though.
"Somewhere along the line, after serving on many programs at the university, Mick somehow became permanent chairman of the ad hoc "tavern committee," says Don Meike, UW graduate and longtime friend. "Mick well recognized the necessity of relaxation and fun even when confronted with very serious problems."
Above all, Botkin recounts the relationships he developed with colleagues and students.
"I enjoyed knowing them and working with them," Botkin says. "Some of the best memories are the trips I made with students out in the field and putting them to work. We were lucky that a lot of them became good friends."
Botkin, who will turn 90 in September, retired from UW as professor emeritus in December 1984. He still maintains ties to sheep producers through his continued membership in the Wyoming Wool Growers Association and Wyoming Stock Growers Association.
Many significant contributions to his field
Botkin's contributions include development of facilities and procedures in breeding and management research in both swine and sheep and developed procedures for progeny testing of sheep; involved in initial research in employing llamas in prevention of sheep predation; member of regional research committees and served as chair; published 34 manuscripts in refereed journals; published 17 bulletins and circulars; after retirement, wrote heep and Wool: Science, Production and Management, a 451-page college textbook; with a 60-percent teaching appointment, taught up to six individual courses in sheep and swine production and management in animal breeding and livestock evaluation; coached the Livestock Judging and Live Animal Evaluation Team in the Department of Animal Science for more than 25 years; advised up to 10 undergraduate students annually and numerous graduate students during his 32 years as a faculty member and continues to mentor many former students; helped establish and administer the Wyoming Rambouillet Association Ram Test from the early 1960s until his retirement in 1984.