C. Curtis Mast, 82
By Stewart MacInnis
Spectrum Volume 20 Issue 24 - March 19, 1998
C. Curtis Mast, a long-time professor of animal science at Virginia Tech and an Extension specialist whose work with beef and sheep producers in the state energized important sectors of the state's agriculture industry, died March 7 at his home in Blacksburg at the age of 82.
Mast, a 32-year employee of Virginia Cooperative Extension, is credited with helping establish the Virginia Beef Cattle Improvement Association, the first such program in the nation. He also helped establish a system in Virginia to test forage samples and evaluate hay and silage to improve their nutritive value.
"Many innovations in livestock production and marketing were brought about as a result of his solid leadership," said A.L. "Ike" Eller Jr., who worked with Mast as an Extension animal scientist. "Curtis Mast throughout his career served as a model for Extension livestock specialists throughout the Southeast and, indeed, the country."
Mast joined Virginia Cooperative Extension as an assistant county agricultural agent in Bland County in 1936. He became agricultural agent in Floyd County before being called to military service in World War II. After serving in the South Pacific, he returned to the Extension service as agricultural agent in Henrico County.
In 1948, Mast became an associate professor of animal science at Virginia Tech and an Extension beef cattle specialist. Five years later he was named a full professor and Extension beef-cattle specialist and project leader.
Mast retired from Virginia Tech in 1976, but he stayed active, serving a director of the Virginia Polled Hereford Association, and on the board of directors for the Virginia State Fair. In fact, when he was an Extension agent in Henrico County, Mast was instrumental in helping organize the Atlantic Rural Exposition, which later became the State Fair of Virginia and one of the major livestock shows on the East Coast.
His influence over agricultural issues extended to the state capitol. He served as a member of the Governor's Commission on Industry of Agriculture during the 1960s, and he delivered state-wide lecture reports on opportunities for Virginia agriculture for the commission.
Mast helped establish a bull-testing-station program and sale in the state; the Virginia wool-marketing program; a ram-performance-testing program; a boar-testing station; and a beef-cattle self-help program through the check-off system.
Mast represented the Cooperative Extension services of all states on a National Beef Records Committee, which developed national standards of terminology and methods for beef cattle performance testing. He was also instrumental in the development of the polled Dorset breed of sheep in the United States.