Former associate dean remembered for his international accomplishments
Len Siemens, retired agronomy professor and former associate dean in the Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences, died on April 25, 2019. He was 93. Siemens taught many students and served as a capable administrator over his 31-year career at the University of Manitoba. His passion was in international development and he received honourary doctorates from the King of Thailand and the University of Zambia for his contributions to agricultural education in those countries.
Siemens was born in Horndean, MB, and grew up on the family farm. He graduated with his Bachelor of Science in Agriculture from the University of Manitoba (1948) and following graduation, landed his first job as fieldman at the Manitoba Sugar Company. In 1955, Leonard began working for the Manitoba government as special crops agronomist. At a time when farmers were mostly producing wheat, oats, and barley, Leonard advised farmers on specialty crops, such as rapeseed, soybeans, corn, and sunflowers.
Siemens joined the University of Manitoba in 1956 as an assistant professor with the Department of Plant Science, and achieved his M.Sc. in Plant Science (1960) and his M.A. in Sociology (1965). His experiences as the department’s extension agronomist and his unique educational background resulted in full professorship and tenure. He was appointed associate dean in 1975, a post he held until his retirement in 1989.
During this time, the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) had contracted with the faculties of Agriculture and Engineering at the University of Manitoba to assist in the development of a new university in north-east Thailand. In 1965, Leonard, his wife Olive and their four daughters moved to Thailand for two years where he led the Manitoba team in establishing Khon Kaen University. Over the course of his career, Siemens continued his international work in South America, Asia and Africa, and following retirement from the University, continued to consult with CIDA and the Mennonite Central Committee.
Siemens was deeply involved in the community, and was one of the founding members of the Canadian Foodgrains Bank. He and Olive were charter members of the Fort Garry Mennonite Brethren Church, and Siemens served in many capacities with the Mennonite Brethren Church.
The flag at the U of M’s administration building will be lowered in honour of Len Siemens on May 3, 2019.