Thomas E. Berry Professorship
The Thomas E. Berry Professorship in Integrated Water Research and Management was created by Malinda Berry Fischer and Dick Fischer, Thomas E. Berry’s daughter and son-in-law to honor the water conservation efforts and water interests of Mr. Berry. This endowed professorship in the Oklahoma Water Resources Center will focus on sustaining Oklahoma’s water supply by helping producers, landowners, and the public make informed and beneficial decisions about water use and management.
Thomas E. Berry, a native of Ripley, Oklahoma, was known as “Wildcatter” Berry because he drilled for oil where the big companies would not. But his vision extended beyond the oil fields to the crop fields. He was a pioneer in using municipal wastewater treatment effluent to water crop fields, buying rights to treated wastewater from the Stillwater water treatment facility. Mr. Berry believed treated wastewater could be good for crops, and he was right. He had some of the thickest grass in Payne County and prolific vegetable gardens in an experiment called the “Honey Hole,” which consisted of collecting, transporting, and storing the effluent in 3 ponds before irrigating crops with it. Well before “conservation” was a trendy term, Thomas E. Berry was practicing just that—water conservation.
From 2015-2018, this professorship supported the Thomas E. Berry Faculty Fellows Program in Integrated Water Research and Management, recognizing Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources (DASNR) faculty, Extension educators, and district specialists making outstanding contributions in water research, Extension, and/or education.
Today, this professorship is supporting research to better understand Oklahomans’ attitudes, perceptions, and learning preferences regarding water issues. This research is assisting the Water Center with prioritizing outreach and education programs and assessing changes over time.
Recently, this professorship began supporting research was initiated to evaluate how different land uses and land management practices impact bacteria, sediment and nutrient runoff. This will provide needed information on the effectiveness of management practices for water quality restoration efforts.