Longtime irrigation engineering professor Watts dies

Longtime irrigation engineering professor Watts dies

Calendar Icon Jan 17, 2017          RSS Feed RSS

Darrell Watts, a former professor and member of the Biological Systems Engineering Hall of Fame at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, died Tuesday, Jan. 10.
Darrell Watts, a former professor and member of the Biological Systems Engineering Hall of Fame at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, died Tuesday, Jan. 10.

Darrell Watts, a former professor of Biological Systems Engineering at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, died Tuesday, Jan. 10 in Lincoln. He was 80.

A celebration of life service will be held at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 22 at the UNL East Campus Union. The interment of ashes will take place at 11 a.m. Monday, Jan. 23 at Wyuka Cemetery.  Family and friends will meet at Wyuka Funeral Home before the service.

Watts was born on a farm near Martha, Oklahoma in 1936 and received a bachelor’s degree in agricultural engineering from Oklahoma State University in 1960 and a master’s in irrigation engineering from the University of California-Davis in 1962.

After four years as an assistant professor of agricultural engineering at Oregon State, Watts returned to Oklahoma State to help with the building of a College of Agriculture at Hailie Selassie University in Ethiopia.

In 1972, he became an irrigation development specialist for Nebraska at the North Platte extension station. While there, Watts earned a Ph.D. in agricultural engineering from Utah State University with a dissertation on the modeling of nitrate leaching in the Nebraska Sandhills.

Watts came to Lincoln in 1977 and began teaching, advising students and conducting irrigation projects at Rogers Memorial Farm on East Campus.

During 24 years as a professor of irrigation engineering at UNL, he led numerous consulting trips on water management that took him to 37 countries.

Throughout his career, Watts served the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and beginning in 1982 was program leader for Agricultural Engineering for a program in Morocco. There, he managed a project to develop a dryland research center on a three million-acre plot, turning a failing project into a successful one in five years. For that, Watts earned a UNL Distinguished Service Award in 1988.

After retiring in 2001, Watts continued working in many capacities at the university and did consulting work internationally. In 2009, he was inducted into the UNL Biological Systems Engineering Hall of Fame.

Watts is survived by his wife, Lois, and children, Sylvia and Joel. A private family burial will take place at Wyuka Cemetery in Lincoln. A celebration of life service will be held later.

Memorials may be directed to the Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation, University of Nebraska Foundation or Region V services for the handicapped.