Robert A. Easter was appointed president-designate of the University of Illinois in March 2012, and became the university’s 19th president in July 2012.
Before becoming president, Easter spent his entire 40-year career as a senior administrator and faculty member on the university’s Urbana-Champaign campus, where he earned his doctorate in animal science in 1976. He was interim chancellor from 2009-2011, serving as chief executive officer of the 42,000-student campus, and also served as interim provost and interim vice chancellor for research.
From 2002-2009, he was dean of the nationally ranked College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences. Before that, he served as head of the Department of Animal Sciences, where he has been a faculty member since 1976.
An expert in livestock feeding, Easter has co-authored a book on livestock production and has written more than 90 peer-reviewed articles, 11 book chapters, and numerous papers for conferences and industry publications. He also has spoken to audiences in the U.S. and 30 foreign countries on livestock feeding.
In 2006, he was appointed by President George W. Bush to the Board for International Food and Agricultural Development (BIFAD), and was appointed as chair of BIFAD in 2007. He also is a member of the American Society of Animal Science and the British Society of Animal Science, and he serves on the Illinois Agricultural Leadership Foundation and the Governor’s Committee on China.
Reared on a grain and livestock farm in southwest Texas, Easter earned an undergraduate degree in agricultural education in 1970 and a master’s degree in animal nutrition in 1972, both from Texas A&M University. He completed a doctorate in animal science at the University of Illinois in 1976 and immediately joined the Animal Science Department as an assistant professor of swine nutrition and management. He presently holds the rank of Professor Emeritus.
His teaching has been recognized by the Midwest Section of the American Society of Animal Science and at the departmental and college levels. In 1992, Easter received the American Feed Industry Association Award in Nonruminant Nutrition Research from the American Society of Animal Science. In 1994, the University of Illinois College of Agriculture awarded Easter with the prestigious Paul A. Funk Award for contributions to Illinois agriculture.
He operates a small grain farm in central Illinois and is a retired officer in the U.S. Army Reserve, where he served for 20 years. He also is an avid gardener and reader.
Easter and his wife Cheryl have two adult children and six grandchildren.