New agricultural dean will hold three positions

by Erin Ghere

Charles Muscoplat will become dean of the College of Agricultural, Food, and Environmental Sciences on Tuesday, after decades of University support, volunteer work and education.
Muscoplat, vice president for medical affairs at Minneapolis-based MGI Pharma Inc., will fill a position vacated by former Dean Michael Martin. Martin left the University in October 1998 for a position at the University of Florida, one of the largest agricultural schools in the country.
Along with his duties as dean of the college, Muscoplat will have other responsibilities as well. As of Tuesday, he will also take over the positions of University vice president for agricultural policy and director of the University’s Agricultural Experimentation Station.
All three are equal-sized positions, Muscoplat said, noting that he will have to spread his time to cover all of them.
As dean, Muscoplat will be in charge of the school’s curriculum. Under his other two positions, Muscoplat will report to University President Mark Yudof on agricultural issues and allocate legislative funds given to the Agricultural Experimentation Station.
His heavy load will be eased with the help of assistant deans and other college officials, he said.
History of University involvement
Muscoplat had a long history of University involvement before he was hired for his new positions, he said. He earned his bachelor’s degree from the University in 1970 and his doctorate in veterinary microbiology in 1975.
Then Muscoplat left Minnesota for two years to do post-doctorate work at the Sloan Ketterling Institute for Cancer Research in New York City. He did basic research there on the developmental immune response of pigs.
Upon finishing his research in 1976, Muscoplat returned to the University as a College of Veterinary Medicine professor, where he remained until 1983.
Private aspirations
With several other professors, Muscoplat then left the University to open an agriculture and biotechnology company, he said.
“The science (agriculture and biotechnology) was very exciting at the time,” he said of the early 1980s.
He said he and six or seven other faculty members started the company together as the funds were available for that “exciting new area of study.” Muscoplat said the company was the first of its kind in the country.
Originally, the company’s focus was on agricultural products. The company’s first product was a monoclonal antibody for prevention of diarrhea in newborn calves. The product was launched in the United States in 1984.
From there, the company continued to develop products for animal treatment. In the early 1990s, it released a vaccine for Lyme disease in dogs and in 1994 released the first herbicide-tolerant corn plant, Muscoplat said.
The company shifted its original focus slightly in the past 10 years and released two pharmaceutical products. The first, released in 1994, helps cancer patients, and the second, released in 1998, helps arthritis patients, Muscoplat added.
The company is still doing well, he said, but as of Tuesday, he will no longer be involved in their activities.
Returning to his roots
“I really like the University and had been looking for a position to come back to the University,” Muscoplat said.
Throughout his time working with his private company, Muscoplat said he did not forget about the University. He participated as a volunteer, including holding positions on advisory boards and being a guest lecturer at the Carlson School of Management.
Muscoplat said he has many goals for his position as dean, including increasing the college’s enrollment, creating biotechnology products for use throughout the country and preparing students for careers on the international stage.
Of those goals, Muscoplat emphasized advances in bio-technology products. He would like to see the University produce safe and effective products so the country can compete in the world market, he said.
He said there is an emphasis on safe products as segments of the country’s general population are growing weary of pharmaceutical drugs.
“The University of Minnesota needs to be at the forefront of emphasizing these are safe for consumption,” he said.
In addition, one of Muscoplat’s main objectives is dealing with the country’s agricultural crises through the University’s resources. He said he would help students interested in agriculture find careers available in that field.
To further pursue these goals, Muscoplat will spend the second week of his new job visiting the University Extension Service stations around the state to find out what out-state residents need from the University in the way of education.
Service-oriented family
Muscoplat said he comes from a service-oriented family, which is why his connection to the University stayed so strong during his years working at a private company.
His wife, Susan, is a United Way campaign fundraiser and has worked in social work with the elderly in the past. His oldest daughter, Amy, works as a health educator in the Peace Corps and will return from the South Pacific in January to become a teacher. His youngest daughter, Marnie, is an acute-care social worker in a nursing home in New York City, he said.
Muscoplat has lived in Minnesota nearly his whole life and is a “true-blue” Minnesotan and a “lifelong supporter of the University of Minnesota,” he said.

Erin Ghere covers faculty and welcomes comments at [email protected]. She can also be reached at (612) 627-4070 x3217.