Agricultural museum namesake and associate dean emeritus dies at 97

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Jerome K. Pasto, associate dean emeritus in the College of Agricultural Sciences and founder and namesake of the Pasto Agricultural Museum, died March 17 at the age of 97.

Born June 21, 1915, in Monessen, he was raised on a farm in New York State. He earned his bachelor's degree in agronomy from Cornell University in 1938, following which he was employed with the Soil Conservation Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

After the Pearl Harbor attack, Pasto volunteered in the U.S. Navy. He served with distinction aboard two aircraft carriers in the Pacific. Following the war, he earned his master's degree in agriculture and his doctorate in agricultural economics at Cornell University, where he also served as extension specialist.

In 1950, Pasto joined the Department of Agricultural Economics and Rural Sociology at the Pennsylvania State College, where he authored many publications and articles on his research. In the late 1950s, while on leave, he served as a specialist with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations at its headquarters in Rome.

He traveled widely in Asia and the Far East, conducting seminars on farm production constrained by limited agricultural resources.

In 1968, Pasto was appointed associate dean of resident education in the College of Agricultural Sciences. In 1971, he was named among the Outstanding Educators of America and served as president of the National Association of Colleges and Teachers of Agriculture.

Pasto's interest in collecting antique farm and home equipment resulted in an agricultural museum, which originally featured largely his personal collection. The College of Agricultural Sciences Alumni Society raised funds for the construction of a building at the Ag Progress Days site at Rock Springs and recommended that the collection be named the Pasto Agricultural Museum.

After Pasto retired in 1980 as associate dean emeritus and professor emeritus of agricultural economics, he continued as volunteer curator of the museum until 1999. In 1991, he and his wife, the late Frances Pasto, who passed away in 2000, initiated an endowment for the museum. In 1996, they established the Heritage Trust for the Pasto Agricultural Museum.

In 1993, he was named by Penn State as an Honorary Alumnus for having made significant contributions to the University's welfare and prestige. He was also named a member of the Mount Nittany Society, the George W. Atherton Honor Society and the President's Club. 

In 2001, Pasto, though not an alumnus of Penn State, was recognized with the Philip Philip Mitchell Award for significant volunteer service to the University and its alumni association. In 2002, he became charter member of the Armsby Honor Society for distinguished service to the College of Agricultural Sciences.

Curators of the Pasto Museum, who worked closely with Pasto, have fond memories of him.

"Jerry Pasto was an uncommon man who had a passion for the past and its technological ingenuity," said Darwin Braund, a Penn State alumnus who was Pasto's successor for 10 years (1992-2008) as volunteer curator. "He was a joy to work with and provided a grand learning experience, and he had a commitment to the museum that was extraordinary."

Daryl Heasley, professor emeritus of rural sociology who succeeded Braund as volunteer curator of the museum, will always remember Pasto as a friend and a gentleman. "He was a colleague of mine in agricultural economics and rural sociology, as he performed the duties of senior associate dean in the College of Agricultural Sciences," he said.

"The man will be remembered for playing a giant role in preserving the heritage of agriculture."

Current curator Rita Graef noted that the information and artifacts featured in the museum -- thanks to Pasto's vision and determination to sustain the history of agriculture -- represent a huge contribution to our culture.

"As founder and namesake of the Pasto Agricultural Museum, Pasto left a legacy of visible and tangible evidence about the history of the creation of food, fuel, feed and fiber that will educate and enlighten generations to come," she said.

The Pasto Agricultural Museum will open for friends and family from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday, April 13. An obituary will be published April 7 on the Koch Funeral Home website.

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Last Updated April 05, 2013