Through agricultural education, a father and son have made a big impact on a small community that won’t soon be forgotten.
Oliver Rendell ‘O.R.’ Wille (also known as ‘Bud’) began teaching ag education classes at Little Snake River High School (LSRHS) in Baggs, Wy., in 1959, taking over the ag program chartered in 1949. He helped grow the Little Snake River FFA, which his son, Dale (pictured above), was part of during his high school career. And that’s who O.R. handed the reins to once he was ready to retire in 1987.
Dale held onto those reins for more than three decades, making the Wille men the only two ag teachers at LSRHS in the past 61 years.
“It was my privilege to continue building what my father helped create in my hometown, and I feel fortunate to have been part of this school and FFA chapter, and to have taught some of the grandchildren of the students my father had in class,” Dale says. “At first, I thought I’d just try out teaching ag. I’d say it stuck, because it’s taken me 33 years to hang up my hat.”
When Dale, who retired from LSRHS at the end of the 2019-20 school year, looks back at his favorite moments in his career, he points to his shop classes where he helped students learn about woodworking, welding and metal fabrication, and where he watched them grow as individuals and as a group.
“Many of my students came to ag education specifically to take shop classes, but they often got more than they bargained for by becoming part of the greater ag community at our school, and that was really special to witness,” Dale says.
Dale also has fond memories of his shop class’s auction and pancake supper, which took place at the end of each school year. The fundraiser for the Little Snake River FFA auctioned off students’ projects. According to Wyoming FFA State Advisor Stacy Broda, the annual auction was a highly anticipated event that drew the community together while also celebrating students’ talents and accomplishments – and that’s just one example of the legacy Dale leaves behind.
“It’s obvious that students respect Mr. Dale Wille and enjoy his classes, as most years he had 100 percent enrollment of total students in the high school,” Broda says. “The quality of projects that students build in both the wood and metal shop is impressive, and his project auction at the end of the school year is looked forward to by many in the community. His program focus has always been to give students hands-on skills but with a foundation of being leaders and giving back to the community.”