Charles Fenster

Former UNL dryland cropping system specialist Charles Fenster inspects winter wheat stubble in a chemical fallow field in 1974.

New High Plains Ag Lab building to be named for Fenster

The new office and laboratory building at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln High Plains Agricultural Laboratory (HPAL) near Sidney will be named the Charles R. Fenster Building in recognition of Charles Fenster, a pioneering UNL researcher into dryland cropping systems in the Nebraska Panhandle and High Plains region.

Approval of the building name was announced by Dr. Jack Whittier, UNL Research and Extension Director for the Panhandle District, at the annual meeting of the High Plains Ag Lab Advisory committee recently. Plans will be made for a formal dedication and sign to coincide with the summer Field Day in August.
After the building name was requested by a local group, it was endorsed by Whittier, IANR Vice Chancellor Ronnie Green, Chancellor Harvey Perlman and Interim President James Linder. Final approval was granted in January by the NU Board of Regents.

"Charlie is well-known and highly respected for his work in dryland cropping systems and minimum tillage production practices focused on wheat. Charlie initiated a research program immediately after HPAL was established as an experiment station," Whittier said. "We believe naming this building in his honor would be an appropriate and meaningful tribute to his career and support of the University of Nebraska and its mission." 

Fenster began with UNL in 1956 as a crop management specialist and conducted research into controlling wind erosion. Many of the techniques he developed are widely used throughout the world and provide the foundation for today's conservation tillage movement. His research also established an association between optimum date of wheat seeding and elevation. In 1966 Fenster became a full-time professor and extension agronomist until retiring in 1982.

Since retirement he has remained active in Nebraska agricultural circles. He lives in Gering and holds the title of professor emeritus at the Panhandle Center. Charlie and his late wife Eunice have also been major contributors to the university. He has been involved in the Farm and Ranch Museum (now Legacy of the Plains Museum) in Gering since its inception.

He was inducted into the Nebraska Hall of Agricultural Achievement in 1983, and in 1991 was recognized as an honoree for the Nebraska Hall of Agricultural Achievement. In 2000 he was recognized as an honoree for the Nebraska Agribusiness Club Public Service to Agriculture Award. He was the 2008 winner of the UNL Outstanding Service to Panhandle Agriculture Award.

In 2005 the Fensters endowed a major gift to establish the Panhandle Center's first ever endowed professorship: the Charles R. and Eunice R. Fenster Professorship Fund at the University of Nebraska Foundation. Income from this endowed fund provides an annual stipend to a full- time faculty member working on dryland cropping systems, new crop development, pest management or other practices relevant to dryland crop producers.

The new HPAL building was dedicated in 2014. Ground was broken in August 2013 for the 2,800-square-foot building, which has office space, a laboratory, and an improved area for processing samples of grain and forage. A local building committee and the University of Nebraska Foundation conducted a campaign that raised about $500,000 from more than 50 individuals, foundations, and agricultural businesses.