W. Travis Loften
Known for many years as “Mr. Agricultural Education in Florida,” Travis Loften left a distinguished legacy of achievement and service which continues to this day in the lives of those he taught and inspired. Travis was born in Andalusia, Alabama in 1903 and moved with his family to a 300-acre farm in Summerfield, Florida when he was twelve years old. He worked after school with his family gaining firsthand knowledge about growing corn, tomatoes, and other crops. At Summerfield High School Travis enrolled in the vocational agriculture program and was an active member of FFA and 4-H.
After graduating from high school in 1925, Travis intended to farm full-time, but the family farm had a bad year, and his father encouraged him to earn a college degree in agriculture. Following his father’s advice, Travis received his degree in 1931 and was one of only two graduates to find a job in his field during the tough years of the Great Depression.
Travis taught vocational agriculture in Alachua for two years and married Mildred Tomkies of Gainesville in 1932. Travis and Mildred had three daughters, Louise, Christine, and Janice, and now there are five grandchildren and 13 great grandchildren. In 1933 Travis accepted the agriculture teaching position at Largo High School. Under his leadership the Largo FFA Chapter produced Florida’s first National FFA President. Two years later, the chapter had the state’s first National FFA Public Speaking Champion. Travis pursued his master’s degree while teaching and received his degree in 1936. A year later he was offered the position of assistant state supervisor of agricultural education. He traveled the state in this position for the next 10 years while maintaining his home in Gainesville.
In 1947 Travis turned his focus to higher education and became a faculty member in UF’s Department of Agricultural and Extension Education. Travis mentored and inspired many students during his tenure at UF, including Doyle Conner, Bill Gunter, and Marshall Watkins. Travis was named department chair in 1960 and later led the transfer of the agricultural education program from the College of Education to the College of Agriculture in 1973. He retired in 1975 but stayed very busy with community work and volunteering at the vocational high school in Alachua County, which was named in his honor – the W. Travis Loften Education Center. He received the Service Above Self award from the Gainesville Rotary and was recognized as a Paul Harris Fellow by Rotary International.
Travis provided outstanding leadership during his distinguished career in agricultural education. He was President of the Florida Vocational Association in 1939-40 and Vice President of the American Association of Teacher Educators in Agriculture. Travis received the Distinguished Service Award from each of these organizations. He was inducted into the Florida Vocational Association Hall of Fame in 1989 and the Florida Agricultural Hall of Fame in 1993. He received the Teacher of Teachers Gold Award from the National Vocational Agriculture Teachers Association. Travis passed away in 2003, shortly after celebrating his 100th birthday.
W. Travis Loften was inducted into the Florida FFA Hall of Fame October 13, 2007.